Saturday, July 10, 2010

Turkey Vulture Drama outside my Den Window


Turkey vulture flying overhead 7-9-10 Nikon D80 70–300 mm lens

DSC_0149It is Friday morning, hot and sunny with a strong easterly wind. When I go outside to fill one of my bird feeders I spot a poor dead rabbit in the road. Perhaps it is one that eats my purslane and I should not be sad, but I am.  I hate to see any creature killed by man’s vehicles. I am wondering how long it will take the vultures to find it as I go back in the house.

I am sitting inside the den writing and looking out the window when one shows up. I grab my camera and take this photo from inside the house through the den window and the fence, then I creep quietly out the front door and sneak down the side of the garage, across the front of it, and around Gus’ truck which I intend to use as a blind.  I do not want to disturb the bird or spook it off its prize.  I want it to clean it up from out of the road. However, before I can even get into position I see the vulture flying up right over my head.  I thought I had spooked it as I start taking pictures. Then, as I whirl around and snap away I see a couple walking up the sidewalk right past where the bird had been. They ask me if it is a hawk but I tell them no, it is a turkey vulture, which is nature’s version of the clean-up crew.

DSC_0150 The vulture circles several times then tries to land again but a car comes by and scares it off. It lifts off into an azure sky on wonderful and powerful dark wings.

DSC_0153I wonder how it must be to soar over rooftops and circle in the clouds.

DSC_0154 DSC_0155 DSC_0158 DSC_0159 I then decide to take matters into my own hands.

DSC_0160 I walk over to the poor dead rabbit, pick it up by the end of its foot, and throw it over the fence into the wash! It must have been newly killed this morning for its body is still somewhat supple and the blood still looks red instead of black. Its death does not scare me or gross me out, I only feel sorry for its untimely death in such an unnatural manner. But this is natures way of providing for the others.

DSC_0162I call this giving it back to nature. I figure this way nature can take its course but if the vulture comes back it won’t be in danger from the cars and trucks anymore.  And if it doesn’t, I would rather see it decay and become part of the earth again than to get run over and mashed by car after car. The carcass settles with a soft thud into the dry desert grasses. The dark eye stares blankly into this void. The rabbit’s soul is gone. A few minutes later I am not surprised when a raven lands on the carcass instead. I had seen them hovering around the area also.

DSC_0163 I grab the camera once again and this time creep out the back door to see if I can snap a photo but the wary raven hears me and takes off like a shot!

So, I go back inside and wait. The turkey vulture comes back but he lands in the road where the dead rabbit had been.  He stands there looking around and looking confused even though the rabbit is only 20 feet away from him over the fence in the wash. Then a jeep comes by and the vulture flies off.  It  does not return and neither does the raven.

Meanwhile, at my nearby bird feeders the rest of the birds feed as if nothing has happened at all.

I keep track of the rabbit in the wash all day long and though I remain inside so as not to disturb the birds the vulture and the raven never return. Just before sunset I check once again and its limp body still lies in the grass. One question remains: Will it still be there in the morning? You never know what happens in a desert night!


denapple said...

I love to watch Turkey Vultures fly! Wonder why we don't see them as roadkill themselves when they try to eat the roadkill... Guess they must excel at the fast getaway.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Oooh- I love these photos of the Turkey Vulture. I would be a puddle if I saw one out me window so close.

Elizabeth said...

It's amazing how blue your skies are. I love your pictures. I grew up in New England, but now we're living in Utah and I find these desert climates fascinating.

Carol said...

Beautiful flight shots. They are not the prettiest bird but they sure can soar...I'm glad you moved the rabbit. We see many dead vultures they get hit by cars. I'll bet they find it in the morning ...if the coyotes don't find it tonight.

desertsandbeyond said...

We saw so many vultures on our trip to northern California. While we didn't see any on "road kills", we did see plenty of crows scavenging. I often see them up in the mountains. I'll try to follow one someday! Excellent photos!

Arija said...

Plese post the sequel to this fascinating story Kathie. I too am wondering for whom God intended this meal.
At least the rabbit's death was quick and unexpected.

Gaelyn said...

Oh but to soar like the turkey vulture or raven. Imagine the sights you'd see. I'm sure something will find the rabbit meal by morning. But wonder what. Such a wonderful example of the circle of life.

Crafty Green Poet said...

poor bunny! Always sad to see them killed but as you say it is part of the cycles of nature.

Your photos of the turkey vulture are spectacular, very impressive indeed.

DeniseinVA said...

Nothing like seeing a bird soar in flight, so beautiful, even the much maligned turkey vulture. Quite a dramatic day you had there Kathie. You gave the poor rabbit a good resting place. When someone explained to me years ago that vultures were as you say, nature's clean-up crew, and I realized that they prevented the spreading of disease, I saw them in a whole new light.

Thanks for stopping by and wishing me a happy birthday the other day.

An English Girl Rambles

Anonymous said...

Good photos, Kathie. The only time I ever got that close to a vulture, I didn't have my camera. It was sitting along side of the road. My friend and I were even able to get out of the car and walk closer.

By the way, when you lived in Maine, did you ever see rabbits? We rarely do down here in Scarborough.

Candice Suter.....Sweetstuff said...

Terrific shots of the turkey vulture. Yes I bet a coyote or tv will find it at night. I too am glad you took the rabbit out of the road. We don't want two wild creatures killed by our cars! Great story, I can see you sneaking around trying to get shots! LOL

Kathie Brown said...

Denapple, they do seem to know when to get out of the way but sometimes they are not quick enough.

Well Lynne, I hope one does come to visit you soon. Stand by with the mops!

Elizabeth, I also grew up in New England but fell in love with the west when I first moved to Idaho over 20 years ago now. Since then we have moved around quite a bit. I have also lived in Utah and I love it there. Now we reside in Arizona and this place is the most exotic of all! It is nothing like New England!

Carol, it took a few days but something finally got it. (see story above)

Desertandbeyond, their ability to glide is truly amazing, isn't it. Glad you got to see some.

Arija, I agree, it was over fast. Now I "am wondering for whom God meant this meal." I like the way you said that!

Gaelyn, well, I had to wait longer than a day and I still don't know for sure. all I can do is speculate. And yes, I can't imagine what it would be like to have their view of the world. I think a hot air ballon ride would be the closest one could get to the experience.

Crafty Green Poet, thank you!

Denise, you are so welcome and you are so right. If we did not have Vultures to clean up the carrion we would have a disease-filled world for sure! (and it wouldn't smell very pleasant either!)

Gardenpath, you make me wonder. I am trying to remember. I don't think I had them in my yard very often but I saw them other places.

Candy, I must be a sight but it doesn't always work. I have been able to get close to a couple of Cooper's hawks this way but sometimes they spook and take flight.

Kathryn said...

So what does happen in the desert night?

Kathie Brown said...

Katnell, use your imagination!

Deborah said...

OMGoodness what fantastical shots! Well, er, poor little bunny though. When does your Alex deploy again? My boy deploys for the second time in February. This was my year to breathe. Now he also has a wife who will be holding her breath. Good Bless our soldier boys! **kisses** Deb