Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stalking the Black Vulture

Last weekend, May 16th and 17th was the Queen City Birding Festival at Hueston Woods near Oxford, OH. A great event with lots of fun for families and lots of new birders getting out and enjoying the great outdoors.

I was headed toward Hueston Woods to help with the festival Sunday morning and noticed on the corner of one of the intersections a couple of Black Vultures on a kill. Since I don't see too many of them in Indianapolis, I stopped along the side of the road to see if I could get a few pictures. They didn't seem too bothered by my presence.

I slowly crept along the side of the road, edging closer and closer to get a few pics. A Red-winged Blackbird came along and disturbed the vultures, so one flew away. This one didn't seem to mind, but was very aware of me. It seemed more curious, if anything.

Black Vultures are usually found more in the south in Ohio and Indiana, so we don't see as many here in Indy. They differ from Turkey Vultures with a gray head instead of the red head in Turkey Vultures. Black vultures have black instead of brown plumage and a shorter tail. Black Vultures also have white wing patches that are evident when they soar.

I kept creeping, stopping and clicking. It kept watching me. It probably thought I wanted its breakfast. I must say dead, bloated raccoon is a delicacy, but I had already eaten that morning. :)

Well, as I was stalking the vulture, I felt just like Bear Grylls. Well, not exactly. I wasn't sweaty, dirty or eating some gosh-awful thang. But I will admit, the raccoon was tempting. Then around the corner pulled an SUV. It slowed down. It stopped. It backed up and parked behind my car.

My instant thought was "Oh, no. They think I am probably in need of help and when I tell them what I am up to, they will think I am totally crazy. I will be carted off to the funny farm." But instead, out popped my friend Tim Tolford, bird bander and photographer extraordinaire, wondering if I would like him to take some pics with his camera. Why, yes, I would! Nothing better than TWO crazy people in a field chasing around a black vulture.

Tim got very close to the vulture, within 10 feet. It would occasionally grab a cornstalk and shake it at him as if to say, "Hey, buddy, I am watching you! I have a weapon!"

Tim has much better equipment and much more experience than I. Nice capture, Tim!

Tim took a great face shot. So ugly it is cute!

Eventually, the vulture decided it had had enough and off it flew. You can see the diagnostic white wing patches. Yep, what fun a couple of nutty nature lovers can have of a morning!