Invasion of the Turkey Vultures

Spring is here, although it’s been a bit of a stuttering start so far. We had sleet and snow Wednesday and Thursday, but today is a beautiful, sunny day and the the new accumulations are nearly gone. What was really interesting this week was a sudden influx of birds, which unfortunately coincided with the brief winter-like storm. There were white-throated sparrows everywhere, scrabbling around on the ice trying to find food. I put out some bird seed and they devoured it like a starving mob. Along with the several dozen sparrows, I also saw what I think was a rose finch sneaking in to grab some seeds. There was also a fat robin walking very close to the cabin — apparently too cold to fly, just sort of stumbling around, who didn’t even have enough energy to go after the seeds. If a robin can shiver, that’s what he was doing. I could just imagine him saying, “What the #$%^^&, they told me it was springtime up here!”

Toward evening on Thursday, we started to notice some eagle-sized birds soaring around the place. I got out the binoculars and looked at one perched in a tree nearby, and it looked just like this, complete with the bald, red, wrinkled-up beak-face:

turkey vulture

 

I looked in our bird book and concluded that it was a turkey vulture. (My phone isn’t good enough to get a close-up so I copied that picture off the internet.) He flew off to the west and settled in another tree, and I then noticed that there were several of them gathered in the general vicinity.

20170428_183942

You can see six of them in the picture above, but there were probably twice that many. They weren’t making any sounds at all, just sitting in the trees looking things over. They kept that up for ten or twenty minutes, and then they all flew off together toward the west and I didn’t see a single one again that day. I’ve seen a couple since, but not the big group. They fly very quietly and are graceful in an odd sort of way, kind of bobbing along on the air currents while barely moving their wings at all. The bird book says they are the champions of the bird world in terms of soaring ability. It also says that the bald beak-face is an adaptation for scavenging, since they are scavengers only and do not eat anything live.

So, it wasn’t actually an invasion, and I’m relieved to know that they won’t be attacking us up here as long as we remain alive and kicking. (I just called it an invasion to make the article seem more interesting. Sorry for the fake news — I must have been infected by our Tweeter-in-Chief.)

Anyway, I just though this sudden profusion of birds was interesting, especially the turkey vultures, which I don’t recall seeing before. Maybe they only hang around here in the early spring on their way to someplace else. In the past, we wouldn’t be up here this early, so this was just one more delight from our first full winter season on Lake Superior.

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