Flora/ Fauna, Grand Canyon National Park
At Hopi Point, you can see with binoculars a previous years nest of this 9 foot winged beauty. A volunteer sets up a telescope trained upon the nesting site, to give visitors a chance to learn about these endangered birds. There are about 200, up from the 22 that existed a decade ago. We never saw one of these birds the entire time we were there, but there are 100's of ravens to see. The birds look so majestic flying above the canyon.
Groups of deer are often found around the Grand Canyon Village and you just have to keep your eyes wide open. They often blend with the grass, but sometimes big ones just walk the road in groups or just stand outside the famous El Tovar Hotel. Sometimes, I wonder if the hotel puts them there intentionally to create a wildlife ambiance, hehehe ...
But other than deer, you will also coyotes. They seem to be used to people and just stand there.
But the important thing is DON'T FEED THEM --- it will make them aggressive to people and also I think it is illegal!
While you may not be able to view many animals at the Grand Canyon, you can certainly see plants. They are not only easier to see, but with a little bit of knowledge you will be able to look for the different ecological areas or biotic zones that result from the change in altitude (5, 000 feet). There are at least 3 main habitat areas: The Rim, the Inner Canyon, and the areas along the River.
At the South Rim of Grand Canyon on the edge of a high plateau plants have abundant sunshine, extremes of temperature, and long periods of drought punctuated by torrential downpours in summer and snow in winter. The soil is thin; with bedrock just a few inches below the surface. Above 7,000 feet, ponderosa pine is the most common tree. Below that, you get pinyon pine, Utah juniper, gambel oak and drought-resistant shrubs like cliffrose, fernbush, and serviceberry. Warm, sunny areas along the rim may be home to desert plants like banana yucca and claretcup cactus. Prickly pears and pincushion cacti grow beneath the blue spruce and Douglas fir on the rim.
Below the rim, the temperature can be as much as 30°F higher. Summertime highs along the Colorado River can reach 120°F. Much of the inner canyon is considered desert, excluding the areas along the river and tributary streams and the vegetation is typical of deserts to the south: cacti and drought-resistant shrubs.
The habitat along Colorado River and streams is call Riparian. Riparian plants include thickets of willow and tamarisk. Desert cacti grow at the river level while Delphinium, white thistle, poppy and scarlet bugle grow in the dry regions.
You will most certainly spot mule deer while visiting the Grand Canyon National Park. We came across a large group of them resting under the pinyon pines along the Village Road. They did not appear to be afraid of humans and although you should never approach them, you will have plenty of time to switch to your zoom lens for that close up photo.
We also saw alot of birdlife including the bright blue pinyon jays and the endangered California Condors.
By accident, we happened to catch one of the Ranger Programs offered at the National Park. We listened to a 30 minute talk about the endangered California Condors, and as if on cue, one pair appeared in the sky above our heads during the talk.
These large vulture-like birds have a wing span of 9 feet! In the 1980's there were only 22 California Condors left in the world. They had been dying by feeding on the carcasses of animals that had died from chemical poisoning, and thus in turn the condors were poisoned as well. The remaining birds were captured and reared in captivity and then rereleased into environments where there would be no danger of pesticide use, like at the Grand Canyon National Park.
There are now 47 California Condors at the Grand Canyon alone and happily there have been 3 new condors hatched sucessfully in the park.
See "The Guide" for a list of times and locations for the Ranger Programs.
Historically, small numbers of large, mature Ponderosa Pines dominated the landscape of the Grand Canyon.
Exotic plants, however can be found in these forest that do pose a threat to the natural landscape. The state of Arizona more then ten percent of the current flora is exotic. As travel and development increases. With Grand Canyon's vast landscape but a small revegatation staff, plant management is a challenge. The staff, crew, volunteers, park visitors have dedicated time and energy to exotic plant control and revegetation efforts.
We took the South Kaibab Trail until teh Ooh Aah Point. This is the first view you got to the east. You can continue until the Kaibab supension bridge, but you need more than one day for this.
Unitl the Ooh Aah Point is about 2.4km (1-2hrs). We saw a condor there flying very near to us, which is quite dangerous I heard later on.