Monday, September 10, 2012

Operation Black Vulture-Epic Fail!!

After striking out again on the Black Vultures in Millbury Sunday morning, I felt defeated (despite picking up 3 FOY's including 2 lifers the 3 days prior), do decided to head home and chill in my fleece sweats as it was cool enough to do so and just curl up in bed with a book and spend the day doing nothing which I find hard to do sometimes.  So I cozied up with a cup of tea and decided to check out one of the issues of the Bird Observer Alan let me borrow to do some light, relaxing reading.  I'd see the first story was one by Mark where he gave an overview of how to bird the Worcester Airport which would bring back fond memories of the American Golden-Plover and Buff-breasted Sandpipers recently found and make me get up to check Rick's site to make sure there were no reportings of an Upland Sandpiper since last time I checked a half hour ago just to be on the safe side.

The next chapter immediately caught my attention as how could it not with a title "Invasion of the Berry Snatchers:  The Waxwing Irruption of 2007-2008.  This would be all about the year the Bohemian Waxwings were seen in vast numbers in many parts of Massachusetts and I'd be captivated reading it given my obsession (or rather interest) of boreal birds).  Suddenly relaxing in my sweats seemed unproductive and I'd toy with the idea of heading up to Barre for the Black Vultures but change my mind given my success thus far and it would be a long drive to strike out yet again and decided to take a nap instead

I'd wake up refreshed and realize reading about all of the "flock birding" made me yearn for my own flock birding for dozens of Turkey Vultures and a couple of Black Vultures thrown in for good measure so off I went!

I'd first head to the tree the Black Vultures are known to loaf around in and see the bird above who at quick glance made me think BV, but then realized I was most likely looking at a juve TV considering the bird was brown (not black) and didn't have the square tail the BV's are known for.

And since it's plumage was so new and lovely the bird decided to flash me so I could admire it some more!

It would still be quiet as I got there a little before 4:30 so decided to do some hawk watching and be very happy to see an accipiter cruising high in the sky.  After the quick look with the bins, I'd ID it as a Sharpie given they are migrating now and he was going fast so whipped out the camera in hopes for a record shot. I'd come home and this is what I'd see.  A rather long, lanky accipiter with a rounded tail, protruding head but with a definitive S curve to the wings.   Hmmmmmmmmm.......

So then I'd look at my next lousy shot where the tail looks more squared, the S curve less pronounced but the bulging head remains.  I'd stare at the photo more and knew the hawk looked tiny but it could be due to how high it was but based on what my camera tells me I'm leaning more with a Cooper's even though it never gave me that feeling when I saw it with the bins.   Or it could also be a male Cooper's and I'd kick myself for not giving it more time with the bins but what else is new.  So for the first time in 2 years I'll be putting it into eBird as Accipiter sp which drives me crazy as I hate it when I can't ID a hawk but it does keep me humble which is always a good thing!

And the next migrating bird I'd get would be an Osprey who was cruising right along but did do the honors of sticking around long enough for one of my infamous lousy hawk watch spec photos!

And what are hawk watch photos without the courtesy airplane photo like the one above that was in a cloud so I thought it was a bird at first (some things never change!)

But soon enough the vultures would start flying in so I stopped looking for hawks and started looking for vultures including the very handsome adult above.

Accompanied by this juvenile with that plumage again.  Fascinating to compare the two plumage wise with the molting adult and the crisp photos of the young Turkey Vulture.

Same juve to the left being flashed by an adult!

I would start getting overwhelmed at this point as I had a flock of 20 come in at the same time so was making sure I didn't have a BV and while I had my bins to the sky I could hear the heavy wing beats of vultures I missed closer by who would start landing on telephone poles and trees.

And here would be a juve again who I was convinced was following me as wherever I went it would appear (at least that's what I'd tell myself to keep me motivated considering It would be close to 6PM and no Black Vultures to speak of so had to think something to console myself!!)  Dare I say, so cute!!!!

And dare I say, so handsome!!

While I was very disappointed to not see any Black Vultures, the time that I had with the Turkey Vultures more than made up for it because I was there so long that after a while I could get right underneath them with my camera and they wouldn't fly off, but rather look at me curiously and with caution as I did the same.   Many people associate vultures with bad luck and death but after spending so much time with them I was reminded just how gentle and tame they are so it was quite the treat.

In the end I'd get roughly 36 Turkey Vultures which had me perplexed given numbers reported by others and the only thing I could think of was other kettles of vultures were taking their sweet old time getting back with the decent thermals and nice winds. I'd  throw in the towel at about 6:30 or so as the thought of leftover lasagna and a cold beer  were tempting considering I decided to wear my fleece sweat pants for my birding adventure and I was sweating something fierce and mighty thirsty!

So with that said it turned out to be an epic fail as far as getting my much wanted Black Vulture but I enjoyed myself none the less.  I've decided to stop hunting for this bird and will only stop at the landfill on days I'm headed toward Barre, for birding, hawk watching etc as I'm getting quite the complex and thinking I may have a better chance of getting one if I'm not actively searching.  Kind of like how the Bohemian Waxwings were described in the Bird Observer by Mark Lynch "The Bohemians are notoriously  itinerant and you almost have to have a Zen like approach to finding them.  In other words, not be looking for them and not be thinking about them".  Heck if it works for Bohemian Waxwings, maybe it will work for the Black Vultures too!  ;-)

Take care all.


Larry said...

I feel your pain with trying to catch up with a Black really seems to be a nemisis bird for me this year!

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