Friday, September 11, 2015

A Vast Venue of Vultures

For some strange reason Marshall has attracted a huge population of black vultures.They're often seen perched on a chimney of an abandoned house, hovering over Main Street and even atop the roof of Meadow House. I first took a real interest in them last autumn when I noticed that they were meeting regularly on the town cell phone tower. They start grouping here to roost around the beginning of August and are usually mostly gone by October. It was then I discovered through researching that they can migrate to the lower warmer states or even Mexico but most prefer to stay in one area. But it seems that our Marshall flock do actually leave us for a while. I'll keep an eye on them in the next couple of months, they may be an indicator of a harsh or temperate winter, depending if they leave or stay.
They are one of the few animals that mate for life, even attacking the adulterers in their flock. They live for about 10 years in the wild and follow the turkey vultures to animal carcasses because they have a poor sense of smell unlike their red headed compatriots who can sniff out rotting flesh more easily.
It was a heavily overcast evening as I approached Marshall yesterday from work and the flock were all there, sitting peacefully on their metal perch. I quietly and slowly approached them, camera ready, but had barely advanced before a large number of them silently took off and started circling. They actually lack a voice box and so only grunt or hiss, and it was a little eerie and intimidating as their huge wingspans slowly flapped above me with no screeches to ward me off.
 I walked closer to the fence noticing the multitude of feathers on the ground. This spot has definitely home for these guys for quite a while. As I walked around the tower, following the fence line, I was suddenly hit by an overpowering stench of rotting flesh. As I'd walked to the back a breeze was blowing across the compound right at me, and the fetid fumes were blowing straight into my face.It was horrible and I moved a little quicker so I could move away from being downwind.
 I looked up and the remaining birds were all looking down at me, still silent. Even though I love these birds, at this moment the situation was a little daunting and I really felt like I was trespassing on their space. Their silence was coming across as formidable and I felt it was time to leave.
I walked back to the car and drove home. A large number of them were still flying over the town and I felt guilty at having invaded their personal space. It was a little unnerving when I left the town and driving down the country lane towards Meadow House, four of them flew low across the road, just skimming over the tree tops, and I could have sworn one of them looked straight down at me as I peered up through my wind screen. It seemed as though they were saying to each other, "There she goes, follow her!" I'll be looking upwards whenever I leave the house for the next few days!

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