Saturday, March 31, 2007

Warmer weather, turkey vultures returning

Summer's coming, I can feel it coming, like a flock of turkey vultures clumsily drifting in the warm updrafts, I go running...

Eastern Kansas loses these scavengers around the end of September each year, as the temperatures begin falling below freezing on a regular basis. The darker months do see a modest increase in the bald eagle population along the Kaw River, but prairie falcon sightings become less frequent (I dread this downturn the most, as there's scarcely anything more exhilirating than catching a glimpse of the world's most dextertous bird as it bobs and weaves between houses and trees and then opens up like lightning over a field before crashes into an unsuspecting songbird just mere feet above the ground).

The buzzards showed up a bit earlier than usual this year. It must have something to do with climate change. Like many other creatures in the ornithological world that aren't particularly specialized, a milder climate bodes well for the turkey vulture. Although they provide humans with a service of greater value than anything those cute and cuddly polar bears do, the fact that they shower by defecating on themselves doesn't help endear them to the general public. Well, here's one bird lover who's not so shallow that he's unable to be happy for their good fortune!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Same here in New Jersey. I noticed quite a few more turkey vultures than usual when I was at my parent's place, they were just circling, must have been a roadkill or carcass somewhere. In fact, the wildlife population in New Jersey seems to be doing very, very well in NJ, especially the birds. Within my parent's yard, who live in Mercer County (hardly the sticks) last week was a cardinal mated pair, 3 woodpeckers, a pack of wild turkeys, a coopers or chicken hawk, goldfinch, at least 2 owls and of course the goddamn Canada geese that come up from the pond. When I drove back to my place up by Newark, NJ, there were at least 3 or 4 hawks along the turnpike waiting in trees, no doubt for roadkill or stuff that tries to cross the highway. Waterbirds everywhere too in the Meadowlands by me as well.
Other animals have been very successful. The deer of course are everywhere, the pests (more than in 1680 apparently), the beavers up the street flooded the road for the 2nd time, red and grey foxes have been inside the pool fencing again and somebody's dog got in a nasty altercation with a bobcat last month across town. There are also more bears about and a hunt is planned to cull them. There are also mountain lions/cougars/pumas or whatever you want to call them in NJ, but the DEP won't admit it. Just another headache for them I guess. And if you believe it, there have been a spate of Bigfoot reports here in the past few years as well. All in the most densly populated state in the nation. If this is a result of global warming, then fine by me too.

crush41 said...

Anon,

Red-tailed hawks are everywhere year-round here. Signposts along the highways are a choice location.

Are there really mountain lions in New Jersey? We've had a couple of isolated reports of them, but I'm skeptical. They'd have to be either escaped pets or nomads from the Rockies--we're nowhere near the 4000 feet above sealevel they generally require.

Of course climate changes mean changes in wildlife, but for every loser there's another winner. And even the polar bears have been around when it was a lot warmer!

Anonymous said...

Cougars/mountain lions/pumas or catamounts or whatever local name you want to call them, tradationally had a natural distibution over all 50 states. The Penn State Nittany Lions are named after the big cats. I think one of the "last" ones was killed in Centre County PA in the late 1800's but I'd have to check. (There are places in PA where you might as well be on the moon. There is even a "Grand Canyon" of PA and a Black Forest too. Plenty of space for all kinds of stuff). The Florida panther is really a mountain lion as well, although the population now seems to be pretty isolated. Many of the big cats were shot, trapped or poisoned in the 1800's because it was felt that they preyed on livestock. Now in the NE they are starting to make a comeback. I have heard one screaming at night while camping a few years ago. The only way I can describe it is sounds like a woman being murdered. I guess the real question is whether they are the relict, original population that has made a comeback or if these are animals that have been expanding from the Rockies a little more each year as the population grew and the younger ones needed new territory.

crush41 said...

Anon,

I'm guilty of holding in my head the misconception that the NE has nothing feral about it, but if there are mountain lions, it certainly has a rugged element.

I was in Colorado about a little over a year ago, and as I'm an avid bike rider, rented one day and rode up one of various narrow two-lane roads hugging the side of a Rockies' crag. During the three hours of constant incline, at the steady pace of eight miles an hour or so, anxiety was with me the whole time--would I run into a cougar? Didn't, but it would be something else. I bet the screeching was a little spooky too.

Anonymous said...

Actually, you're not to far off being afraid of running into a mountain lion. Not to freak you out and keep you from enjoying the outdoors, but mountain lion attacks on people have been up. More people are spending more outdoors and there are more lions. The younger ones get pushed into substandard territory (for a cougar, which is basically closer to people and where people go). They are not all that afraid of people and will stalk and occasionaly attack solitary individuals. You can se the same behavior in a domestic cat. Of course, falling of your bike and cracking your skull, breaking a leg, etc... is a much more likely injury. But if attacked, punch them in the nose. Not the most heartening advice, but its the best I've got.