Sometimes, you'll be driving along thinking about whether you have enough money to pay the utility bill or if there's some way you can dissuade your friends from New Jersey from coming and staying a whole month, when you'll see something amazing. Yesterday I came upon a venue of turkey vultures. There they were, a whole bunch of them -- dancing in the middle of the road, perching on the fence and soaring over the pasture.
I got out of the car to take their pictures, and the ones sitting nearest me tried to stare me down. I guessed they were the welcoming committee, and I really didn't measure up. Luckily, I didn't rate the full rejection treatment (regurgitation on the unwanted guest). When I didn't get the hint, however, a few of them huffily flew off to join the others in their kettle (a group of turkey buzzards in flight) over the pasture. A few of the others stoically held their ground, and one old bird even casually displayed her wings. I reckoned she was the nonconformist of her venue.
I was still so excited about seeing such a huge number of turkey vultures all in one place, so near Longmont, that I called Ron Harden when I got home. Ron Harden is a past president of the Foothills Audubon Club, and their current Legislative Conservation and Field Trip chair. Ron told me that seeing such a large number of turkey vultures in and around a city wasn't all that unusual.
"What is unusual about them," he said, "is their 6-foot wing span and their dihedral formation in flight. This v-shaped wing formation gives them an ability to maneuver and make quick turns that most large birds don't have."
"Some people," Ron continued, "don't like turkey vultures because they eat carrion. But I think they're unique. Did you know that they can spot their food by smelling it from a long ways away?"
I looked up turkey vultures on the web and learned that the oldest known turkey vulture is 38. His name is Toulouse and he lives in a zoo in San Francisco. From the web, I also learned that turkey vultures grunt and hiss in order to vocalize, and that, for courtship, a group of them will get together and kind of dance in a circle. I tried to imagine that.
Even though they are considered common and some people eschew them, I've decided that I quite like the turkey vultures that I met upon the road. After all, they do keep us tidy, and they are beautiful in flight. Contact the Foothills Audubon Club at http://foothillsaudubon.weebly.com/contact-us.html.