Passing

In previous posts, I have called attention to particular words that are relevant to the California condor. This post is about magazine and newspaper articles that include “passing” in their titles.

The March 17, 1900 issue of Scientific American published “The Passing Show”. The article’s author, Charles Holder, began:

No more interesting study, for the laymen or man of science, can be found than the effect of civilization upon the fauna of a continent. In America … some types of animals … constitute a passing show, and without the most stringent rules and regulations they will soon disappear.

Holder’s first example of a species putting on a passing show is the California vulture.

The Los Angeles Herald newspaper for August 1, 1904 includes a 2-sentence item titled “Passing of the Condor”. Here’s the full text:

The latest bird to become extinct is the Californian condor, the spread of whose wings was twelve feet. Two thousand dollars is offered for an egg, but none has been found for seventeen years.

Fortunately, this article was wrong in declaring the condor extinct (and in exaggerating the wingspan and price of an egg).

01 Finley & Finley 1926

The August 1926 issue of Nature Magazine presents “The Passing of the California Condor” by William L. and Irene Finley. This article includes 2 full-page photos and some smaller photos by the authors. This remarkable study of a condor about to land caught my attention:

02 Finley & Finley 1926

The head, neck, legs, tail, and wings are all positioned so the great bird can bring itself to a gentle stop on the ledge of a cliff. The text describes a just-landed condor as having “tobogganed out of the sky”.

But the tone of this article is not positive. Here are excerpts that justify the inclusion of “passing” in the title:

The existence of the species is now at stake.

The California condor now has a range more restricted than any other bird of prey.

And the last paragraph:

The old pine where the condors perched has now fallen to decay. The condor cave in a cliff of the mountain is empty. The pair of condors pictured in these pages have taken their place with their ancestors of Pleistocene times. Their epitaph is written. Will this be the epitaph of the species?

Loye Miller’s “The Passing of Coragyps shastensis Miller”, published in the May-June 1941 issue of The Condor, applies “passing” in a different way. In 1909, Miller announced his discovery of the extinct vulture Coragyps occidentalis. Just 2 years later, he announced his discovery of another extinct species, Coragyps shastensis. Both these birds were recognized as being closely related to the California condor.

By 1941, however, new fossil discoveries led Miller to conclude that his Shasta vulture was actually the same species as his Occidental vulture. In other words, he had discovered just one species and so Coragyps shastensis must “pass”; a vulture that never was.

Setting aside extinction entirely, “Passing the Time of Dog Days” is a book review by Robert Kirsch that appeared in the Los Angeles Times of June 21, 1977. The book reviewed is The Sierra Club Summer Book, a collection of summer activities for children and adults. One group of projects was “things to send away for”, which invited readers to write

the National Wildlife Service, which sends free of charge sets of nature notes on birds of the city, tree squirrels and endangered species from whales to the California condor ….

I suppose that sending away for such information will only seem like an “activity” to those old enough to remember the days before the web made such information immediately available to anyone with a computer.

Finally, under the heading “Passings”, in the December 17, 1979 issue of the Los Angeles Times, is a single-paragraph obituary for Carl B. Koford. This notice begins:

Koford was probably best known for his studies of the California condor.

Indeed, Koford conducted the first intensive research on the condor, for which he received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1950. All who care about the California condor owe a great debt to Carl Koford.

Other posts on this blog that concern words like “passing” are Last, Return, and Vanishing birds.