Recently I visited the graveyard in Spencer, WV, in which are buried many of my fathers relatives.
But what is in that tree?
Oh. Those are vultures. I've seen the movies, but, seriously, what are vultures doing here?
We drove around the cemetery, past those who were once Dodsons but now lie "sleeping" or perhaps they have moved on. Do they have any consciousness other than that which they passed to me? Knowing what I do about them and their descendants -called names like "cousin," "nephew," "brother," or "sister" - I think they wouldn't mind that there are vultures overhead. Nor would they be surprised that I want a closer look.
Wait a moment, these aren't the expected Turkey Vultures, (Carthartes aura). No, these are Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus), the most abundant vulture on the western hemisphere, according to Cornel's All About Birds website. Also, according to Cornell, Spencer is out of their range, though not too far out.
It was their gray faces that gave it away. Turkey vulture faces are show red, making them actually look more like turkeys.
Other differences exist, too.
Black vultures have white wing tips, easily seen when they fly.
We left the Spencer cemetery without visiting the graves, just a quick wave as we drove by and a thank-you to the vultures for letting us visit.