Posts Tagged ‘turkey vultures’

Aerial Combat in Cambridge

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Turkey vultures are extremely common in Wisconsin, but it’s rare to see them flying directly overhead in my yard.  Our wooded property is the main residence of an extended family of crows that controls the neighborhood skies.  The crows never allow vultures, owls, hawks or other larger birds to secure the local airspace or even intrude into it for very long.

This afternoon there must have been  a major road kill on US Highway 18 which is the north border of our four acres.  I was working in the garden when at least a dozen vultures began circling overhead.  They were so close and so low to the ground my first thought was, “they’re coming after me”.  Since I’m not dead yet, I knew that was probably not true.  It was the best look I’ve ever had of these wonderful flyers.  Hang gliding humans pale in comparison to the vultures’ ability to effortlessly ride the air currents.

More vultures showed up.  There were now at least twenty circling directly overhead.  I was wondering where the crows were when I heard a few caws.  It wasn’t the raucous cacophony I expected, just a continuous back and forth of their familiar signaling.

Then I saw the crow formation.  At first I thought it was another group of vultures, but they were way more organized.  The crows had scrambled, like Spitfires in the Battle of Britain.  There were about fifteen birds,  grouped tightly, and while they didn’t attack the vultures directly, they took control of their airspace.  The vultures climbed to a higher elevation and headed west.

I really missed having my camera by my side.  I went to the house to get it, but the action was over by the time I returned.  I took a picture of a solitary vulture hanging around to check things out but it was already at an altitude out of range for my camera to get a good shot.  A few minutes later only a couple crow sentries remained in the mulberry tree at the south end of the garden cawing the all clear to the rest of their family.