February 10, 2013

A White weekend: Looking up at vultures and back over three years of song

Spent this weekend celebrating the third anniversary of my White weekend.  Drove many, many roads in between West Va and Baltimore. Listened to many, many glorious songs.  In between those, spent some time in woods and fields and saw many wondrous things.  

Picked up a cardinal's feather and marveled at how it shifted from rust to scarlet depending on how the sunlight hit it.   

Saw a lady bug crawling sluggishly in the leaf duff on the trail, surprising on such a cold day. 

A crow flew overhead and muttered a "grokgrokgrok" at me around an unidentifiable object clamped in its beak. 

Was startled by a trio of grey-headed black vultures that swooped up from a ditch not ten yards away and soared in loops above me for a minute or so, one seemingly harassing another and the third just along for the ride. 

Stopped on the way home for something I've never seen the like of before-- Dozens of turkey vultures- hell, it had to have been at least a hundred or more- lazily wheeling and whirling over a Victorian-era train station.  I've seen those giant flocks of small birds that resemble clouds rising and shifting in the air in perfect sync, but I've never seen anywhere near so many vultures in one spot.  The sight forced me to stop, get out, and lie back against the hood of the car to watch.  When the huge birds were angled just right in flight, the 5:00pm sun shining up from below turned the white undersides of their wings golden and they looked just like late autumn maple seedpods, those winged whirlygigs that spin to the ground like helicopters.  Then, ever so gradually, the vultures just... dispersed, and were gone. 

Drove past one of the best street names ever--  Trackless Sea Court.  Would be a wonderful thing to live in a place that was a constant reminder of the seemingly infinite expanse of the ocean.

Yesterday, despite such arresting sights and experiences, the music was foremost in my perceptions.  Today, frustration interfered and kept distracting me from the songs I was trying to celebrate.  Just couldn't get a particularly troubling idea out of my head--  When is indifference truly indifferent, and when it is a mask for uglier things?  And in the latter situation, is it actually a mask... or is it a defense mechanism?  

People make me sad as often as they make me happy, but there is one thing that I don't think will ever, ever fail to make me glad--

Here's to many more years, Jack. Thank you for everything.


The Crow said...

Thank you for this celebration of wonderous things, KD - especially Jack.

KaliDurga said...

Thank you, Martha, I'm very glad you enjoyed it.

Lou said...

Loved reading about vultures and everything else. And the video is gorgeous, both the visuals and the amazing performance. Made me glad too! Thank you for that.

KaliDurga said...

You're welcome, I'm always happy to spread the joy!

lostgander said...

There's a house along either Route 50 or 404 on the way to the Eastern Shore that I call 'the vulture house' because every time I drive by there are always large numbers of vultures either circling around it or perched on the roof. What time of day did you see them? If it was approaching evening they were probably gathering for their night roost. Vultures are clannish birds and, like crows, tend to roost in large numbers.

I wonder if your crow was perhaps a raven...grokgrokgrok sounds more like raven talk to me. And they have been sighted with growing frequency in Maryland.

Thanks for the imagery! Sounds like a wonderful day.

KaliDurga said...

Y'know, I've been beginning to wonder if raven populations had begun expanding southward into this area. I've been seeing some huge crows lately and hearing much more grokking. Need to look up how to easily distinguish between them. The one I saw was up in West VA, outside of Harper's Ferry.

The hundredfold vulture kettle was around 5:oo in the evening in Brunswick, MD along the Potomac. Most of them seemed to disperse NW in the direction of Harper's Ferry. As stunning as it was to see them all in the air like that, I can only imagine what it'd be like to find that gigantic a roost somewhere.

lostgander said...

Yeah, I think they are around Harper's Ferry. It's great that they are expanding. I have a hard time distinguishing them, too...as you know some crows are huge, almost as big as ravens. The scruffy neck feathers and wedge-shaped tail in flight are the classic markers, crows show a more narrow tail in flight. But voice I think is probably best. Unfortunately they're not always talking.

One time in South Carolina I saw a big vulture roost at a quarry, but it wasn't near as big as the group you saw. I don't know that I've seen that many at one time, except maybe in flight during migration. Maybe you can track the roost down and get a picture sometime...

KaliDurga said...

It is very exciting that they're expanding. I've been happy enough that crow populations have rebounded after the West Nile devastation, to know that ravens are also in the area now is wonderful.

And, haha, I've been kicking myself since that day over the fact that my camera was sitting right there in the car the whole time I was standing next to it watching the vultures...