Friday, October 21, 2005

The visitors

A most extraordinary sight occurred near the house last night. At dusk, I was taking our doggie out to pee and I heard an enormous crashing in the tree canopy and looked up to see about ten turkey vultures descending into the woods. One even looked like a black-feathered Holy Ghost as it landed with wings uplifted in the cleft of an ash. As I peered into the nooks and fissures created by the tree branches, I saw there were about a hundred or more of the birds already roosting there. I stood utterly amazed. And as I watched, another flight arrived and negotiated paths through the trees, their huge wing spans beating against the trees extremities which in turn sent a rain of turning leaves spinning to the ground. It was at once beautifully primal and beautifully eerie, the silence of the great birds and the approaching darkness broken only by turbulence of wings beating against limbs.

The sight also made me laugh. Prior to our friends moving from Bucks to New Orleans, ten turkey vultures landed on the roof of their bank barn. As both of them are elderly, they got very spooked and went out and threw stones at the unwelcome visitors until they had no choice but to leave. I also recalled my mother doing the same years ago in Ireland when doves landed on our home, though in that case she was such a lousy shot she broke two panes of glass--much to my father's annoyance.

A few years ago, a flock of turkey vultures had done the same thing for a couple of weeks in the trees surrounding a nearby village. There were hundreds of them. It caused a sensation and TV stations from Philly came out to film the sight for the evening news. It turns out that turkey vultures congregate in this manner for a brief period during the fall. And the village was advised not to shoo them away because the birds, if frightened, would expel the carrion they'd eaten that day.

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Daphnewood said...

I am obsessed with the chipmunk that lives under my house. I feed it peanuts everyday but that is all the wildlife I have seen in KC so far. No, I did see a blue jay too. Not as exciting as your Holy Ghost vultures but a new experience for me just the same. Do you think they will return?

Dorothea said...

When I lived near your area, I happened to look out the window one day, and there were 5-6 turkey vultures surrounding our cat. She was lying low on the ground in total shock, not knowing what to do. Luckily , I came to her rescue. To this day , I wonder what those birds were up to.
Be careful with your dog, little Spice. You never know!

Damian McNicholl said...

Daphnewood, they were back last night. I'm not very fond of bluejays (although they are pretty) because they steal baby birds from nests. We have bluebirds here in the summer and they are stunning.

Dorothea, I think they might have thought your cat was dead when it was lying down. Luckily you did come along.

Carol Gee said...

Damian, I had a shivver when I read your vignette, as if I had visited a timeless place signifying the dying of summer. Seasonal changes hit us at very deep places in our collective memory genes, I think.

Georganna Hancock said...

Good God, man! There must be something really, really dead in your woods--or something really huge and dead. Yes, do take care for doggie.

Damian McNicholl said...

Georganna, maybe it's the manuscript I'm working on....hahahahaha