Monday, August 13, 2007

Return Of The Black Vultures


"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?

18 comments:

mon@rch said...

I so love seeing black-vultures compared to the turkeys! I have only seen them down in PA but it's only a matter of time once they make it into my area!

Dana said...

We saw a bunch of black vultures in Indiana last November. They were hanging out near the fish cleaning station, I presume waiting for the scraps to be thrown out. We tried to make a cast of their prints all over the sand, but it didn't work.

I had never seen them before. It was sort of eerie standing there with the trees alive with these great birds all watching eagerly.

Jayne said...

Cool vultures!!

Body Soul Spirit said...

I looked up black vultures in my Birds of Ontario book. They are rare visitors here and do not breed in this province. I see turkey vultures all the time at the river, sometimes in groups of 10 or 12.
ruth

KGMom said...

Even though it was not the primary focus of your post, I loved the link on shade grown coffee--thanks for expanding my knowledge. And I do love coffee!

Quintus Joubert said...

Black vultures are becoming more coming in our area (Hunterdon County, NW New Jersey). I love them because they have a very similar wing pattern (white windows) to the Black Eagle found in South Africa.

Mary said...

We have loads of black vultures here and the turkeys seem to be less common. They're amazing to watch in take-off.

"Maybe I shouldn't have worn my tap-dancing shoes." You're a scream.

Larry said...

Tom-They seem to be doing very well.-The firs confirmed nesting pair in Connecticut was in 2002.-They are still uncommon but becoming much less so.

Dana-They are eerie to look at-That is how they have come to have that sinister reputation.

Jayne-Would you like a pet Vulture?

Quintus-Interesting comments.-I se you have a bird blog started but I can't find any posts. Are you going to be posting on your blog soon?

Mary-So you're the one hoarding all the Black Vultures.-We'll trade you a few TV's for some BV's. What's so funny about the tap shoes?-I usually where them while birding.

Ruth-Go find those Black Vultures!

KgMom-I've been learning about Shade grown Coffee all this week.-Hope you make the switch!

Cathy said...

Excellent! Great Hill sounds like a 'great' place to bird. I understand your sense of getting 'above' things. I feel that way when I'm in a plane.

And - I'm so glad you didn't test the speed at which cameras fall with your own :0)

RuthieJ said...

Cool pictures of the vultures, Larry. One man's trash is truly another man's treasure--especially when the treasure you're looking for is a vulture!
I see turkey vultures all summer, but don't think I've ever seen a black vulture (nope--checked my field guide and they never come anywhere near Minnesota)

Larry said...

Cathy-The only kind of planes I've been on are float planes and cropdusters.-You've never had a scary plane ride until you've had a cropduster fly you upside down sideways and two feet from the ground.

Larry said...

Ruthiej-I love Vulture Culture!

Cathy said...

No way. Who the heck got you into a crop duster?! And 'no' that wouldn't engender a sense of serenity :0D

Larry said...

Cathy-The cropduster provided us with a plane ride to a remote fishing location.

cherbear said...

I saw 2 or 3 black headed vultures on the side of the road with a dead animal a couple of years ago. It's been nagging me as to what type of bird it was. The side of the face looked like they were made of smooth plastic. Would this be a black vulture or an immature turkey vulture? Cherbear

Anonymous said...

Stonington, CT 2/3/11 I believe I have photos of 3 Black Vultures eating compost out of my vegetable beds. They must have had 4' wing spans and they were holding them out at full length for the sun's rays? They have the shorter tail feathers. I took the photo from my 2nd story bedroom so could not see the white on their feathers in flight. Head certainly looked like the Black Vulture. Chris Wright

Anonymous said...

Sharon from CT, April 19, 2015-- I've been seeing a pair of Black Vultures here in Madison the last two weeks. Definitely not Turkey Vultures, they have the light-colored wingtips and no red heads, eating roadkill and hanging out at trash bins.

Larry said...

I didn't realize there was more comments here but all 3 of these sound like descriptions Black Vultures.