Friday, April 13, 2012

Nature's Black Knight ~ Raptor of the Dead

Dark as a moonless night, this new world vulture . . .  nature's silent black knight Cathartes aura, emanates mystery, while evoking macabre images from the minds of many that view him. 
Turkey Vultures are truly remarkable diurnal creatures, preferring carrion to fresh meat and purifying our world as they dine. If you were to change the 'C' in its scientific name for a 'K' you would have the Greek derivative Kathartes meaning cleansing or purifier. Carthartes aura means purifying breeze. 
It is hard to imagine our world without Turkey Vultures or vultures of any kind.

I feel the intent, glaring stare upon me here, but do not fear for I know that these dark lords of the sky do not attack the living. Perhaps it is only a curious stare after all. 

Spring is a time of song but not for this magnificent being, who makes only sibilant sounds . . . a sibilance of hisses . . . air streams emerging from deep within. 
This Turkey Vulture is letting me know he or she is annoyed with my approaching too closely in the south field. The sinister sound is meant to frighten me away and the Turkey Vulture seems piqued by my persistence. 
They are known to grunt, cough, rattle and if really upset, vomit might spill down upon me. 
Singing is out, for they are not endowed with adequate vocal organs. 
Smelling is keen however, for unlike other raptors, vultures have super sophisticated olfactory organs. Note the rather large nostrils. 

A rapacious raptor . . . perhaps when feeding, but otherwise they get on quite well with one another and can migrate in flocks of up to a thousand individuals. Turkey Vulture roosts are sometimes as large as one hundred. 
What a sight that must be and to hear that many hisses at once . . . creepy yet thrilling.

Vulture comes from the latin vellere, to tear, and this princely bird of prey comes equipped with a sharp hooked ivory beak. 
I find it very impressive especially as it is not built to kill.

Misunderstood and even mistreated vultures are revered in some cultures where 'sky burials' are favored and vultures play a key role in their beliefs for releasing the spirit or soul of the dead. 

If hisses do not frighten you away . . . here is another way to let you know that I am big and fierce. 
This is a WOW experience. 
It must be a challenge to keeps ones balance with wings spread up to six feet. 
A first fauna encounter after being off the farm for a week and it being suggested that I do not use enough black and gray in my paintings. 
I have read that the TurkeyVulture is really more black-brown but being this close up it appears black enough to me. 
Never having encountered a perched Turkey vulture before, I feel very lucky to have eyed its large form in a young oak along the south field. 
Luckier still that the vulture allows me to approach so closely and take over three hundred photographs. 

Are you not frightened yet??

Oh Well. 

I will be off then . . . to heights you cannot but dream to reach!
Even though I speak kindly and with great admiration for the majestic grace of this Turkey Vulture, he finally spreads his wings for flight . . .  instead of fright . . . and soon was soaring out of sight. 

Vultures die when they eat the remains of poisoned critters. Yet another good reason to never . . .  ever use poisons. 
All vultures are actually aseptic animals and do not spread disease. 
I should love to have an immune system such as theirs . . . these cleaners of our dead keep our world safer and sweeter. 

Hellebores are poisonous but used to cure madness. 

Spring is a sweet time of year and buds are beginning to burst here at Flower Hill Farm. 

Dark apple trunks dancing in the mist . . . contrasting gray birch.

There is ever mystery in the process. 

The Turkey Vulture would not have been moved by flattery from a fox as was a fabled crow, but perhaps you might enjoy my latest installment to my bestiary over at Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. 

Update: April 15, 2012
Another very valuable black/brown creature has returned to Flower Hill Farm . . . I sighted my first bat last night!! Finally the fungus that is killing our bats has been marked as the real killer and hopefully now a cure can be found . . . before it is too late. You can call congress and the white house and demand funding for this important research. I have called and I hope you will too. We do not want to have a world without bats.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Carol:
Far from being frightened(!!), we are rather in thrall of this most splendid and handsome of birds which, like so much of what you write of in and around Flower Hill Farm, we have never experienced for ourselves.

As your amazing images show, there is a majesty about the Turkey Vulture which cannot, we feel, fail to impress and how wonderful it looks in flight. That you have been able to get so close, and remain, despite the hissings, to take the pictures, is most likely more than we should be prepared to do for we suspect that in reality these birds can appear somewhat daunting.

Whatever, we do feel that on this occasion we are on safe ground and have not, or so we hope, mistaken a Turkey Vulture for a moth or a butterfly!!!

Kellemes hétvégét!

Carol said...

Oh, Thanks so for that hearty laugh Jane and Lance! Indeed you are on very stable ground! Have a lovely weekend to you too! It sounds much more beautiful in Hungarian.

ruma said...

Hello, CAROL.

  The brave figure which was wrapped in the setting sun.
  It is noble.
  Lovely your works, full of JOY!

  Thank you World-wide LOVE, and, your Support.

  The prayer for all peace.
  I wish You all the best.

Have a good weekend. from Japan ruma ❀

Bridget said...

It is an attention grabber, that bird. All these have their own place in the scheme of things. Amazing really!

Country Gal said...

A face only a mother could love lol ! We also have these birds here soaring high over our house and fields looking for food ! Awesome post and photos ! Have a good day !

Rebecca @ In The Garden said...

Beautiful pictures of a mysterious and somewhat ominous creature.

sandy said...

Carol, I hope you were zooming, and not as close as it looked. Vultures are even scarier close up than I thought.

Thanks for the info. It always surprises me how much I learn in a day of blogging.

The flowers as lovely as the vulture isn't.

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Beautiful photographs Carol. The only time I've been very close to turkey vultures was in South America, with a group of them feasting on a carcass. They are quite fascinating creatures to watch, both on the ground, and in flight.

Gillian Olson said...

Amazing creatures, your photographs show their amazing colours, the head is mask like. The pictures of the bird flying off into the light are beautiful too.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Hi Carol. It's been too long since I've stopped by to say hello. I love this post. One to also admire turkey vultures I'm stunned by their beauty in your photos. Never seen one up close, especially their remarkable faces. This is a very poignant, thoughtful post - makes me consider many things in nature. I'll be back - XO

Wenche said...

WOW, how wonderful!

Maureen said...

Beautiful and awesome pictures We should all take time to look at the wonderful world around us

Anja said...

Kära Carol!
What incredibly mighty sight! The fauna in your neighborhood is quite amazing! You also have a wonderful ability to document it.
May these natural scavengers live long on our Earth!
I understand that it was a 'WOW' !

Kram, Anja

Eva said...

Amazing how quickly one forgets. I'm speaking of your post on 11/2/11. Thank you for including that reference. As for the current post—"up close and personal," I'd say. You do know how to invite me to be more open to otherwise frightening subjects. A charming telling of the visitation.

Ah, Springtime . . . . I feel as if I am living in a time-lapse film. Blossoms are unfolding as I gaze.

Les said...

Though they do not have a sweet song, are not the most colorful bird, and their diet is suspect - God has endowed them the ability to soar.

Indie said...

What great photos! Vultures are such an important part of our ecosystem, preventing the spread of disease and cleaning up the earth. I know they are having such problems over in India and Pakistan where most of the vultures have been wiped out from medicine given to cattle that is poisonous to the vultures. The Parsi community, who leaves their dead out for vultures, is forced to change.

I had no idea about bats, though - I hope they can do something about this fungus!

Maureen said...

Hi Carol
Thank you for your nice comments about my blog - I am in England - Woking in Surrey which is about 30 miles south of London. I dont know New England at all. My elder daughter lives in Wisconsin so I know that part of the US quite well
Best wishes

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Our turkey vultures visit us with a fly over every spring...they are amazing as are your pics of glad to hear of the bat you spotted...our bat house remains empty still.

debsgarden said...

I think the turkey vulture is magnificent! How fortunate you were to have this encounter! I really like that his name means purifying breeze! Great photos and very informative post!

BTW, we finally saw our first bat of the year this past week. We also are missing these creatures who once were a common site in our garden.

chris m. said...

We have buzzards living in our chicken while we were sitting out a group landed on the maple above us...that's as close as they've come. Are they the same as these turkey vultures?
I have not gotten a close look but they have a similar look as they glide over our meadow and land on the roof of the barn.

Nice photos.

Carol said...

Thank you everyone for visiting and sharing your thoughts with me. I was allowed to get very close to this lordly beast, but Sandy . . . I had nothing to fear even though I was given quite the display intended to frighten me away. Chris, Buzzard is another word used for vultures but not sure where you are . . . so cannot say if you have turkey vultures or black vultures. It must interesting to have them living so close. I take your chickens are not cohabiting with them. ;>) Thanks for sharing.

Tammie Lee said...

oh my!! I would never have guessed that it would let you be there and take so many photos without flying off. Such a fabulous post you are sharing with us! wow.

the Calif. tribe the Chumash, i am told they consider the T. Vulture the bird of peace because it does not kill for food.

i remember after a rain storm a large eucalyptus tree grove and in the high branches were 8 or 10 vultures sitting with their wings spread, they were drying out. i did not have a camera. but what a sight!

thank you Carol~
and lovely evening to you~

Sharon Lovejoy said...


When I got to the flight photos I clicked through quickly and it looked like true flight.



Rob (ourfrenchgarden) said...

We have bats here too. They sleep sometimes behind the shutters and always under the eaves in unfeasibly small situations. The fungus sounds terrible and research needs to be funded.

That Vulture makes me glad I'm somewhere near the top of the food chain!!!


Titania said...

Carol, I am thrilled and amazed reading about this wonderful bird. You do it so well, with knowledge and humor. I am sorry that you are not feeling so well, hope very much that all goes well for you and your health is restored. With Love T♥

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