Feb 27 2008
In the past six days I’ve been in Florida – looking at birds of course.
Every winter by the end of February I can’t take the relentless gray and ice in Pittsburgh so I visit my friends Chuck and Joan Tague who spend the winter near Daytona. Birds and friends and warm weather are such a welcome break!
We humans aren’t the only ones who escape to Florida. There are a heck of a lot of birds there right now, the most noticable being the vultures.
Florida has two species: turkey vultures and black vultures.
Turkey vultures are common in western Pennsylvania from March to November but they spend the winter in the south because they can’t eat frozen food. Vultures eat rotting dead things, the more rotten the better. Freezing weather preserves the meat – therefore no rotting – and vultures’ beaks are not strong enough to break apart tough substances, so they go south.
But if it’s possible to have favorites among such ugly birds, my favorites are the black vultures. They are less shy than turkey vultures, they have timid-looking faces and they are rare in western Pennsylvania. I suppose absence makes my heart grow fonder. I don’t have to deal with them all the time.
Near Daytona there are two places where I’m guaranteed to see lots of black vultures: Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge and at my hotel’s parking lot. This has nothing to do with the hotel and everything to do with the fast food restaurants nearby. The black vultures roost overnight on cell towers and pines and coast down to the restaurant dumpsters in the morning. Sweet and shy as they look, I don’t get too close because they projectile-vomit when scared and I don’t want to be on the receiving end of that!
At Lake Woodruff I can get a little closer. The vultures sit in flocks on the dikes and as we approach they hop away, sometimes holding their wings open and skipping ahead of us. They look so silly that I had to imitate them and Chuck snapped my picture.
Yes, I look silly too. Oh well. You’re never too old to have fun.