Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Down on the Farm: Grateful Dead
Cathartes aura, turkey vulture. They soar over our house and around our fields from early spring through the summer. We counted up to nine at one time, balancing on the rising thermals to stay aloft, just lazily circling, circling.
There's something a little bit disturbing about vultures; especially when so many gather on your fence posts, or circle your yard. It almost seems like a bad omen.
Their yearly vigil takes place usually after the mares foal. (The birds like the afterbirth.) We also have quite a number of things get hit down on the highway and a large number of small animals getting caught by the coyotes behind our house.
Although I understand that they have to eat, the manner in which they do so tends to send a shiver up my spine.
Their large wingspan, however makes them almost majestic in the sky. I have always been in awe at large birds and the turkey vulture is no different. It's almost scary how low they will fly, using their sense of smell to find their next decaying meal.
My children also observe this large bird with a kind of awe and alarm, wonder and curiosity. Apparently, this curiosity got the best of them a couple of years ago. We had seen a large number circling for a few days in a row.
I can usually hear my kids through the open windows as the weather warms up. This particular day, the troops went unusually quiet for quite some time. I went to the window, and laying prone in awkward positions all over the back lawn, were five kids surrounded by seemingly "dead" stuffed animals.
It turns out, they wanted to trap a vulture as it swooped down to investigate the supposed "carrion." (I can only imagine their horror if that really did happen.)
I decided I really liked that game and anytime my "tribe" seems a little too rowdy, I suggest they try to catch a vulture!