Welcome to November everyone! Every day I wake up, do a mental check of all the things on the to-do list and then look over at the calendar for a cold shot of reality – where in the hell has this year gone!?! Already checked that I didn’t get shorted calendar pages – yep, 12 pages, each full of squares representing a timespan of life you will never get back. . Minute after minute of lost opportunity (mostly to that ultimate waste of productivity – sleep). It doesn’t help that we already had snow on the ground and my list is full of outside work earmarked to get done BEFORE the white stuff invades. Add to that a back that is still mending and you have a recipe for the blahs. Seems like a perfect time to feature the color black.
How’s that for some bleak? The black robed ministry of the dead. In my parts, we are subject to their more flashy kin, the Turkey Vulture (link here). Essentially the same profile – long black bodied, purpose designed bill and featherless head, however, the Turkey was given a decorative red head (not to be too harsh, but seems like lipstick on a pig if you ask me). The Black Vulture is .. wait for it … wait for it… all black. Kudos to the individual responsible for naming this creature for choosing a moniker you can associate in the field with very little effort.
Caution – some scenes after the jump will not be appetizing.
Not to digress, but since I brought up the whole naming thingy – I noticed that the latest issue of BirdWatching Magazine listed the Ring-Necked Duck as one of the worst named birds. Apparently they read my blog ha! (link here). Sorry, back on topic. This series of Black Vultures comes to you courtesy of our birding trip down the Texas Gulf Coast back in December 2016. Something tells me I am not going to get through all the spoils of that trip (or the 2017 trek) down there before we make our way there again. Found some free time last night so dug into the image backlog and discovered even more blog worthy specimens from those trips. Long live Texas when it comes to birding.
My apologies for anyone that might be reading this post over their morning coffee. Unfortunately, these creatures are the hoover vacuum for the dead and decaying. See a bunch of them hanging out in a specific area, chances are there’s something smelly nearby. This particular specimen was busy ripping the rotting flesh off what appeared to be a Canada Goose carcass. Admittedly, there were no thoughts of getting any closer to verity the ID of the unfortunate. Getting this close with the big glass was already enough to put a lump in the throat. Up to this point, assumed these very large birds were content to let the others deal the death blow. From a quick read of Cornell’s website, learned they will occasionally put on the black mask and gloves to dispense their own form of predator justice … nice way of saying m u r d e r. Get this, they even claim they will take down “young pigs, lambs and calves”. Hmmm they are definitely framed for larger challenges, but that seems a tall order (me thinks the Coyote lobby has something to do with deflecting blame)
On a personal front, it always gives me a moment of concern when distracted by large shadows passing over me during a run. More than once I’ve looked towards the sky to see a flock of Vultures circling in the thermals triggering thoughts of how my running addiction has managed to barely cheat death more than once – much to the confirmation of my 0.0 friends and family out there. Probably should not have read that Cornell passage as now I know they can become the aggressor when fate doesn’t swing their way – shudder.
Unlike the Turkey variety which blankets the entirety of the US and Central America, the Black Vulture is content with hanging out in the southeastern part of the continent (also down into Central America). Makes for easy ID’ing if you are in my parts as any outstretched bird gently wobbling in broad circles is 99.5% certain to be a Turkey Vulture. It could get a bit tricky where their regions overlap as the backlight from the sun will often make Turkey heads appear dark. Luckily, there is one key indicator that will allow you to distinguish the two with ease. Focus on the underwing and look for the white feathering. White coloring that extends the length of the back edge of the wings is a check for the Turkey. If you notice that white only at the outer tips of the wings, then check Mr. Black.
Leaving you with my signature pose as it is time to wrap it up. Legs screaming from the short 5.5 mile run in the cold, windy, dark night (curse you daylight savings) – To the foam roller for relief. Before I forget, let’s all extend our best wishes to CJ who is currently battling the ghost in the machine – a victim of the dark web, the ever present nemesis in my day job.