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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Graveyard Visit

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.


Andrea said...

Those are very good captures of how the vultures look! I don't think we have these birds here, but we have eagles, hawks and crows. I thought vultures stay in places where there are food for them, aren't they eating dead animals. I smiled, as a morbid thought entered my mind, that maybe they can dig a hole on the graves and eat the newly buried bodies. Maybe they can smell the contents.

TexWisGirl said...

i think these birds (and their turkey cousins) are fascinating. :)

Beyond My Garden said...

Tex, I like studying them, too. We have a pair in the summer that comes in just barely clearing the treetops each evening at dusk. I would love to know where their roosting site is.
Andrea, funny. I couldn't help thinking about them waiting for a new body to come in but just over the hill, off the road was a dear carcass and some garbage. It looked like some thoughtless person dumped their refuse over the hill. It worked out well for the Black vultures.I took a photo but it wasn't very nice.

Sharkbytes said...

Very interesting birds. I don't think I know them. Weird that you were talking about Spencer WV, while I posted about Spencer NY

Beyond My Garden said...

Joan. They are usually a more southern vulture but they have been enlarging their territory the last few years.
I'll have to look at your post. My pastor is from Spencer NY.

Out on the prairie said...

A unique bird to see. I have turkey vultures here in the warm months.They trade off with the eagles for roosting rights and keeping the road kill clean.

Rose said...

I don't think I have seen the black vultures...saw one that was a possibility but think it was a young turkey vulture..

ShySongbird said...

Cemeteries can be such havens for wildlife. We don't have Vultures here so it is fascinating to see them there.

Great captures of the Hawk on the previous post also.