Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Duck, Duck, Vulture!

I was driving down the quiet country highway toward town to pick my daughter up from daycare.

I may or may not have been dancing and singing.

I was several car lengths behind the vehicle in front of me when out of the blue a large bird soared over that vehicle down to the pavement, and the up over my vehicle.

I did that standard wince/cringe/duck/jerk/lurch that anyone would do when a bird with a six foot wing span comes within inches of your face at 55 mph. I saw individual toes, people!

He soared over my vehicle’s windstream in that “oh, yeah, I totally meant to do that” sorta way.

Turkey vultures are like that. They’re the crazy, daredevil cousins in the bird family. They play on thermal airwaves drifting up from the earth’s warm crust in the summer. Spiraling upward and diving down on a whim. They eat the dead – no real rush in that, man.

This isn’t my first encounter of the vulturian kind.

Nine years ago, I was driving my old beater pickup truck down another quiet country highway (you see a pattern here? Country=Wildlife, Highway=Cars, Country Highway = Vulture Supper) when I noticed three vultures munching on a deer that had been hit the day before. They all noticed my truck approaching at once. One flew up and to the right over the field. One flew up and parallel to the road. The third flew up and to the left into the grill of my truck.

A huge puff of black feathers was all I could see in the rearview mirror. The bastard left a dent in the front of my truck and I couldn’t get the hood to open easily ever again.

I had always admired the grace with which turkey vultures soared, and assumed that the grace was just a trait of all individuals of that species. I know understood that it would be like saying that all humans must be fantastic runners because one observes the New York marathon.

The next afternoon, I passed the same location.

Two vultures were eating…the third.

Natural selection, baby.