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Big Things Hatching in NoCo

Executive editor Mateo Hoke celebrates San Diego's newest baby big bird and shares what to expect from our May North County issue
Photo Credit: Mateo Hoke
Brittany Vega and Condor.jpeg

Wildlife specialist Brittany Vega, making a core memory.

Photo Credit: Mateo Hoke

Let’s be honest—all babies are precious, but not all babies are cute. Lucky for us all, though, we happen to have one that’s both in this month’s Sacred Space story: an endangered California Condor, fresh from the shell.

It was 5:31 a.m. on a Monday when the call came through. Baby was hatching, so SDM‘s videographer, Jeremy, and I high-tailed it out to Escondido to be there as the first condor of the year emerged at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Condors are critically endangered. In the ’80s, less than two dozen remained. Two dozen. Those aren’t great odds. It’s taken incredible efforts on the part of indigenous tribes, US Fish and Wildlife, the SD Zoo, and other partners of the California Condor Recovery Program to bring these special birds back from the brink. There are now more than 500. And now, there’s one more.

A handful of us stood half-circled around the incubator. Two were wildlife specialists, including 33-year-old Brittany Vega, working her first day in the bird program. She teared up as she held the baby condor, weighing it and helping ensure it was cleaned properly to avoid infection.

Just imagine.

“It was a core memory. Getting to watch a chick hatch in real time and hold it during its first few breaths of life brought on overwhelming excitement and joy,” she said later. “It was definitely a struggle to hold back tears.”

You weren’t the only one, Brittany. It was incredible.

It’s with similar excitement that we’re exploring North County in this month’s issue of SDM. And we’re not just talking about the coast. North County is so much more than sunsets and surfers. We’re feasting in Escondido and Vista. We’re contemplating the importance of vibrant third places while revisiting the North County Fair and seeing what $2 billion builds in San Marcos.

But don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten the unique culture of the coast. We’re bringing you inside a new, slightly denser mode of building in Encinitas. We’re celebrating NoCo music, biking the 101, exploring what’s new in the food scene, and getting an inside view of O’side. We’ve also put together a funky little lookback of North County ads and coverage from our archives as we continue celebrating 75 years of SDM.

And, as you may have noticed, that condor isn’t the only bird in this issue. Check out the maximalist, wallpaper-worthy watercolor cover our art director Samantha Lacy painted. Sam is from Encinitas and chose to highlight species native to the coasts and marshlands of North County. It’s fun to get lost in.

And so is North County. So off we go.

P.S. Public visits to the condor breeding program facilities are strictly prohibited, but you can peek inside with more photos and a vid of the baby’s momentous birth.

By Mateo Hoke

Mateo Hoke is San Diego Magazine’s executive editor. His books include Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary, and Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation.

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