North & South Chalone Peaks
This image was taken on our way back from a short holiday in Nipomo California. Along the way we pass through the fertile agricultural area of Salinas Valley. This shot was taken off of highway 101 looking across agricultural land at the peaks of Mount Chalone located in Piinnacles National Monument. They are significant to me as North Chalone peak was the first choice for the California condor reintroduction in 2001. I was the sole photographer for this project which lasted over a year. The project was to create a photo-chronology of the entire event, from building the aviary to releasing the first condor.
I earned my ability to do the job by hiking the 5 plus miles up the back of North Chalone peak to observe the site before work started. There's an abandoned fire lookout station at the top. North Chalone peak rises through amazing geological formations to a height of 2657 feet or 810 meters. The hike is on a maintained trail, but it's very steep in many places and the views are tremendous.
The agencies in charge of the project changed the designated site for the condor aviary to another peak several miles behind this after they were refused access to private land. Of course, this happened after they had already started to haul materials to the top by helicopter for the aviary which would include an 80 x 40 x 40 netted flight enclosure and individual living spaces for 6 condors. The materials were moved to the secondary location and after a year and a half, the first condor was released at Pinnacles. To date there are 14 condors that have been released at Pinnacles N.M. adding to the overall total of condors released into the wild from 5 different sites in Western North America to over 300. The number of near extinct condors before the capture and release program started in 1987 was 24.
Fly condors, fly!
PS - The condor is the largest bird in North America with a wingspan up to 10' (3 meters), and an average weight of over 30 pounds (approximately 14 kilos).