"Return Of The Black Vultures"-sounds like the sinister title of a 1940's radio program, or maybe a 1950's sci-fi movie doesn't it? Last August, I encountered two Black Vultures, but failed to identify them at the time. Here it is a year later, August of 2007. It was time to make a return visit to our beloved temple of trash-The Portland Transfer Station. Birds do have a tendency to return to certain areas at certain times of the year. I figured it was worth a shot.
Sunday morning is the best time to search for Vultures at the dump. Since it is closed, the Turkey Vultures are roosting, flying and sunning their wings like the one in the top photo. I tried to sneak up on them, but I guess they saw me because they flew off in a hurry. Maybe I shouldn't have worn my tap-dancing shoes. Anyway, there was plenty of Turkey Vultures, like the ones shown above. However, there was no sign of the much less common Black Vulture.
I switched gears, and decided to take a hike up to the top of Great Hill. I don't climb Great Hill expecting to see a lot of birds. It is the highest point in Portland, and offers a beautiful view of the surrounding Connecticut River Valley. I always feel better after taking a short but vigorous hike to the top. Is it the exercise that feels so good, or is the symbolic act of being able to rise above the troubled world that lies below?Whatever the case, I like it-especially after I have a few cups of shade grown coffee.
Although I don't go to this location just to see birds, I usually see something of interest. On this particular day, birds of prey seemed to be the primary attraction. They were taking advantage of the thermals, and surprised me with several stunning views. First I saw this one particular hawk, which was making several tight circles. I thought that I heard it yelp out a keyuur-keyuur call, that would leave me to believe it was a Red-shouldered Hawk. Hawks in flight are another weak point of mine though, so I remain uncertain.
I was also pleased to see a pair of Osprey patrolling the area. One of them plucked a fish out of the nearby pond and flew right by me. They don't usually hang around inland locations all that much in our area. Some of the other birds I encountered included: a Barred Owl calling, a Black & White Warbler, and a Cooper's Hawk.
Just as I was about to leave, I looked to my right and saw a large, dark, bird flying toward me. It actually flew right past me, just 30' above my head. What was it? -silvery wingtips-short tail-darkish head-could it be?-It's a Black Vulture! and what an excellent view!
Unfortunately, I really didn't do a good job getting pictures. They all came out blurry. I even contemplated experimenting to see how long my camera would take to reach the bottom of a 400' hill-but only briefly. I saw the Vulture fly off to the left and it joined up with a second Black Vulture. The fun part was watching them flap their wings somewhat vigorously, which is is something that separates them from Turkey Vultures. Above is a distant side view of one of them. I wouldn't be able to tell this was a Black Vulture unless I had actually been there. It almost looks like a crow or something-only it's not.
Here is a much better photo of the ones that I saw last August. I wonder if they were the same ones? Could they have nested somewhere up on the rocky terrain of the Great Hill area?