LOS ANGELES – A 5-year-old boy has taken a photograph of what experts say may be the first California condor to fly in Topanga Canyon's skies in more than a century.
Gabriel Gottfried spied the hulking bird outside his home about a month ago after coming home from kindergarten.
He dashed to a hallway shelf where he keeps a digital point-and-shoot camera his mother gave him and clicked just as the bird took off.
"I'd never seen that kind of bird before," Gabriel said. "I tried to take it on the tree, but it moved. I followed it by accident and got it in midair. My dad helped me get the picture out of the camera and into the printer."
Wildlife experts say the last condor was probably seen in Topanga's skies around 1898.
They say the bird photographed by Gabriel may have been taking temporary refuge from the Day fire, which roared through parts of the nearby Los Padres National Forest in September and October.
Captive-bred condors have been released in the forest's Sespe Condor Sanctuary and adjoining Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in an attempt to reintroduce them to the wilds.
Topanga Canyon, which is between Woodland Hills and Malibu, is within soaring range of the condor preserves.
Denise Stockton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said condors dispersed from the Day fire approached their sanctuary areas, but all have since returned.
She studied Gabriel's picture in hopes of identifying the bird, but the image was too dark to show identifying features.
"It's amazing," she said of the photograph, which depicts the bird with its head hunkered down and wings — whose span can reach 10 feet — flexing.
Gabriel's dad, Rick Gottfried, said he was surprised when he downloaded the image.
"I didn't know what it was," Gottfried said. "I've lived in the canyon 20 years and I've never seen a condor here."