Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vultures & Death

Vulture sculpture by Santa Cruz Mountains metalsmith, Bill Sorich

This post is about vultures and death as part of my continuing exploration of why the turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) are suddenly hanging out on the Dipper Ranch barn.  In Vultures and Migration, I pretty much concluded that the local vultures of the central California coast do not migrate in the winter, so that leads me back to death.

In the last few weeks, I found part of a carcass on the road near the corral watering trough that the vultures visit every day.
That is, the vultures visit the trough every day.  I never saw them on the carcass although the eyeballs were gone and the skin partially flaked off as if stripped by beaks.  

[Please note:  this posting includes photos of dead animals.  No animals were harmed in creating of this post.  Proceed at your own educational risk by pressing Read More.]

Saturday, September 18, 2010

International Rock Flippin' Day

International Rock Flipping Day is today (September 12).  Go ahead,  flip a rock, record what you observe, and send info including photos, sketches, notes, sound effects to link at end of this post.  Make sure you are careful with the critters that live under rocks and put the rock back gently where you find it.  Good tips at link above.  I'll post whatever I find under rocks at the Dipper Ranch.
And here is what I found.  Mid-September in summer-dry California requires strategic thinking for rock flipping day.

Black Florida Vulture Adventure

Black vultures fluffing their neck ruffs against Florida's amazing and constant clouds.
On Wednesday, I was driving up Page Mill Road and saw a group of turkey vultures flying high in the late summer sky.  I wanted to stop and watch them but I had 40 people waiting for me to make a presentation.  Durn!  Don't these people have better things to do, like watch vultures fly?  Obviously, I am still obsessed with TVs.  Last summer, I was obsessed with deer.  The natural world keeps giving me new things to discover, kinda like those constantly changing Happy Meal toys.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vultures and Migration

The horaltic pose - sitting with wings widespread - perhaps to gather the sun's warmth.
In August, the turkey vultures (Cathartes auracontinued to land on the barn every few days for short periods of time.  Often I noticed them at midday, and several times it was exactly 11:00 when they circled the farmyard.  One day as I leaned back to watch the vultures chase their loops directly overhead, I heard loud whooshing sounds.  Whenever the vultures approached the side of the spiral closest to the barn, they tucked in their wings and suddenly raced through that part of the turn with loud wing turbulence.  Coming out of the bank, they pointed skywards and slowed down to their typical dihedral and wobbly flight above the orchard.  The red-tailed hawks were also circling, and the vultures would dive bomb any hawk below them on the fast side of the thermal.  Eventually, the red-tails pulled out and flew to Mindego Hill to claim their own breeze.