Monday, April 2, 2012

They're Back...

Though this may seem odd to many, I was so happy this morning to see that the Turkey Vultures have returned from their Winter vacation in the southern climes.  I always miss them when they leave in the Fall; the skies become dull and boring with their absence.

I frankly love these birds.  They are second only to eagles and condors in size, and watching them ride the thermals is just plain mesmerizing: with just the slightest dip of a wing, they can circle in a seemingly endless spiral without once having to flap.  I watched one last Summer circle for over 15 minutes with no exertion at all.  Their wingspan can reach up to six feet, and with their very bright red heads and white hooked beak, well, to me they are just one of the coolest birds out there.  Plus they provide an invaluable service by ridding the world of carrion that would otherwise putrefy and spread disease.

After many long days of rain and really high winds, it was nice to be outside in the sunshine this morning even though I was cleaning up the debris in the aftermath, and spraying the deer deterrent.  (Apparently the word has spread throughout the herd that the party platter of hor d'oeuvres--otherwise known as my newly blooming flowers and shrubs--are now being served.) 

So, I get done with the basic gardening stuff and whilst surveying the work yet to do, a big shadow flies over my head.  Looking up, I see my first Vulture of the season.  I ran for my camera.  (Click on each photo for a larger view).

Not just one, but four were circling over the ridge.  I know it's kind of hard to see them, even as large as these birds are.  This was a straight candid shot, no telephoto, just point and shoot as they spiraled halfway across the Valley.

In one of those weird flukes in the space/time continuum...I turned to take this shot of my flowering cherry tree, and the White Oaks, next to the driveway, for no reason other than I liked the pink against the greens...

...and before I had barely dropped the camera from my eye, this guy landed in the biggest Oak tree...

They do this thing where they spread their wings to dry them, especially after a rain.  It is also a technique to warm their bodies if it's been cold and the sun is shining.  I watched the Herons do this too, along the waterfront in Edinburgh many times.

Honestly, isn't this just beautiful?  Look at the grace and elegance of those feathers; that majestic and weird featherless head and that almost alien beak.  What an amazing creature...

He kept moving around on the tree limb, so I kept taking pictures as he basked in the sun...

And then--I could only cross my fingers that what I was seeing through the camera lens would actually turn out in a photo. that a wingspan, or what?

He did a perfect turn on the branch, then without warning, pushed off, soaring over the Valley and away, so fast I had no hope of getting a shot.

I'm so glad they're back.  Up here on the mountain my driveway is the opening in the trees between two valleys, so they often fly right past the windows, using the drive as their shortcut.  I'm looking forward to once again watching them soar and glide, so effortless and dazzling, as they fill me with a deep longing to join them--well, in the flying, not the eating dead stuff part...


  1. What a handsome fellow. Great shots.

    1. Thanks, and yes, truly handsome. I'd go on a date with long as I could pick the restaurant.