Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Kettle Of Vultures

I had a lunch break and I was bored. I had an hour and no idea where to go or what to do...I could walk the waterfront somewhere, at the Bight, or Mallory Square or even Simonton Beach. All of which would take time reach as I'd be navigating downtown traffic in winter. That is always a consideration when you have sixty minutes in hand. 
When I was recovering from my time in the hospital and I needed an elevator as I couldn't climb the 17 stairs into my stilt home on Cudjoe, I lived in an apartment kindly supplied by the police department Love Fund last year. I used to bring Rusty for walks at Little Hamaca as I could let him roam a bit while I struggled to keep control of my legs and my walker. Consequently we got to see a lot of this place all at once. So I had no high hopes of seeing something new but I thought a quiet walk on legs that work more or less properly now might yield a picture or two for my pleasure. 
And I did indeed come across a couple of Birds on Sticks as they are derisively known to some photographers. I saw the familiar winter residents with their wings spread swirling and  circling and I followed them as they spun lower and lower until I came in sight of a whole flock of turkey vultures pondering their next move. A kettle of vultures technically is a group of them spiraling in flight. These are really a committee of vultures which is how they are described as they gather and rest together. I prefer a "kettle" as the all purpose collective noun....
It turns out they like to perch in groups on inadequate mangrove twigs as a result one in each group keeps losing their balance setting off a chain reaction of flapping wings and irritated glances. They had no time to spot me watching them.
Little Hamaca seems much larger than it is so you are actually never far from civilization even when you feel like you are in the middle of the woods. Which made me wonder what masses of carrion they found to feed the entire tribe of twig squatters but they seemed at ease and needing nothing. Therefore I am now exposed as  a know-nothing in the category of turkey vulture observer.
While I know these birds as a sign of winter like so many migrants in the Keys the Audubon Society as all the information you could want about them. A couple of facts I gleaned: they are found all over the US and Mexico and they have the rare attribute among birds of having a sense of smell. They also don't make nests but lay up to three eggs in a space they carve out but don't furnish. There we are... everything you needed to know, and more:
Both parents feed their young by regurgitation. Sounds lovely.
And the trees in Little Hamaca make for an excellent hang out for these birds apparently:
So my decision to wander at random with my camera paid off as it usually does. I was delighted to watch them for a while and take a few photographs. Vultures like sharks and alligators are culturally designated as revolting creatures but to watch them live and not impose cultural values on them makes them quite fascinating.
Huge black Christmas tree ornaments.
Always struggling to keep their balance on the inadequate branches they found. 
And I think I found me a mocking bird on the airport perimeter fence. I got in the car and fled back to work before the little bugger dive bombed me like they do. Vultures leave you alone until you stop showing signs of life.