Thursday, June 17, 2010

“I eat like a vulture. Unfortunately the resemblance doesn't end there.” ~ Groucho Marx


I spent a rather Edgar Allan Poe-esque Saturday gardening with a vulture. Even for a lover of birds, gardening while a turkey vulture sits above and watches you is a little creepy. As he sat on my barn roof looking at me, lines from Poe's poem 'The Raven' kept running thru my head.

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! - Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore...

Apart from the ugly head--which does look like a turkey's, I think they're very handsome birds. Their wingspan is six feet or more. I often see them gliding over the house and fields and they look magnificent. I believe they nest nearby, probably in an outbuilding or barn loft.

(Apologies for the extremely poor photo quality.)

After eating, vultures rest in the sun. My new friend must have just dined because he sat there on the barn roof, shaking his head. This is to rid his face of pieces of his lunch which contain bacteria. The sun's heat helps kill the bacteria. I could hear a large flock (or do they call it a murder?) of crows in the field so there must have been a dead animal there and the smaller crows were finishing what the vultures had left.

Things I learned about vultures: Vultures are not buzzards. Buzzards are European birds related to the hawk family. Vultures are new world birds related to storks and ibises. They don't kill their food, they eat only dead things they find with their excellent sense of smell. They cannot carry their food away and must eat it where ever it was found. In addition to meat, they will eat pumpkins and other vegetables.

Turkey vultures are masters of the air. They can glide for six hours without ever flapping their wings. They venture out as the day warms, quickly finding pockets of rising warm air, or thermals. Once they find a thermal they are uplifted and circle finding other rising warm air currents to sweep them across the skies at speeds of up to 60 mph. What a truly great engineering accomplishment this bird is. Nature never makes mistakes.

Later in the day a small blackbird, probably a redwing came and attempted to drive the vulture off. I think the vulture was willing to make an exception and eat this live pest but the blackbird was too quick. When the vulture finally flew away, I could see the blackbird pecking at his back and head.




From vultures to roses. Bloggers don't have to follow the 'rules' other writers are bound by. We can veer off course and combine any number of odd things in one post.

My English roses are blooming now. These are elegant roses having the look and often the scent of the old heirloom roses. The advantage of these modern Austin English varieties is that they bloom all season and not just once in the spring.

Abraham Darby


Charles Austin

Pat Austin always looking downward.




38 comments:

Louise said...

Your roses are beautiful. It almost makes me want to try and grow some. Almost, because there are just too many deer around here. I have a hard enough time keeping them away from the day lilies.

I didn't know that turkey vultures and buzzards were different species. What I find amazing is that, in different parts of the world, completely different animals have evolved to look and function similarly to others in far away. Something evolves to fill a specific niche, no matter what the species is.

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

The vulture is an amazing animal. You had a lot of quality time with one.
Beautiful roses!

Heather said...

Egads on the vultures Marnie! We don't have those here. Our biggest birds are the Great Blue Herons which look like pterodactyls flying around. Oh, your roses look fabulous too!

NellJean said...

Your roses are lovely; your vulture, not so very.

My vulture experience was watching a vulture raise and close his wings, waiting for a squirrel to expire who had just been run over on the highway. Other birds began screeching. Suddenly a hawk swooped down and picked up the little creature who was still moving. They disappeared over the tree tops into the woods while the vulture stood on the ground, helpless, as his prey went elsewhere. I thought there was some kind of 'Death Angel' allegory there.

sophie said...

I hope my little world of beaches and gardens brings back fond memories as you metionned...
Now turkey vultures and roses...pleas...creepy is one way of putting it....ugh!!
Just a quick note...I happened upon a 'bat' crawling across my basement screen and shivers went up and down my spine...

tina said...

You are so right about bloggers being able to veer off the subject-and what a veer from a turkey vulture to roses. The facts you found are most interesting. It is really too bad they can't carry their food off. To see them in the road while driving is a scary thing for both the bird and driver.

Kay said...

Oh wow. I see these big old ugly birds when I go hiking. We call them "turkey buzzards".

Darla said...

Yuck! I see them all too often, having one watch me garden would freak me out a little too. So glad we bloggers can write about as many or as little topics as we want..makes for interesting/entertaining reading. What delish roses you have featured today.

JC said...

The black birds in my woods are always yelling at and attacking our owls. (we have three) So, I know what you mean ...

Your roses look so nice. I can smell them from here. Mine are not opening yet ... probably due to all our rain.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

That's what I love about blogging. It's like a conversation that can take an unexpected turn at any moment!

I did not know that vultures ate their veggies! I thought they were strictly carnivores. It is amazing to watch them soar on the air currents. I become mesmerized...almost like I am there with him.

Love those roses. The two Austins are especially lovely. So full and healthy looking.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

I think the veering here and there is what makes blogs so interesting. When you can go from vultures to roses it is quite an interesing post to me.

Southern Lady said...

Thanks for the lesson on vultures. I have learned something new. I love how you switched gears from the not so pretty, to the beautiful. Love the roses. Carla

Cameron said...

We call the vultures our "Chatham County Eagles" here in the Chatham countryside!

The blackbirds chase the hawks. I can always tell when a hawk is around because of the big noise from the blackbirds.

Your roses are so beautiful! The blooms are such lovely colors. You are fortunate to not have Japanese Beetles.

walk2write said...

I love variety in a blog. From vultures to roses makes perfect sense to me, and even Groucho Marx and Poe go together. It's a mixed-up world, and if blogs are about real life, then they deserve to reflect the craziness now and then.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

That's alot of info on Vultures which I wasn't aware of.... Didn't know the difference between them and Buzzards.... Hmmm---I learn so much from blogging.

Love your little roses... How pretty.
Hugs,
Betsy

Phillip said...

Great information on vultures. I think we have mainly buzzards here. I always thought they were the same until now. Your roses are beautiful!

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I must admit, turkey vultures are best admired from a long distance. I love to see them riding the thermals. I just love the Austin Roses, thanks for sharing!

BeadedTail said...

That vulture is sort of creepy up there watching over you. I realize they have a job to do in this world but maybe they could take their break elsewhere!

Your roses are certaily beautiful! Our rose bushes just tend to grow and grow these days but produce very few if any roses. I think they are too old and we need new ones but yet I'm just guessing.

Susie said...

That's interesting info about the vultures Marnie. We see them all the time around here. I love their magnificent bodies but their heads/faces really aren't too pretty.

Phyllis said...

It's nice that you appreciate the vulture for what it is...and does. While they certainly are not pretty to look at, they are wonderful to watch gliding. There are tons of them around here.

Your English roses are gorgeous - especially the yellow one!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

This was such an interesting post! I don't think I knew any of these things about turkey vultures. It would be a little creepy having one watch you while you garden.
I just love your English roses, they've really become my favorites. I've never seen 'Charles Austin', love those petals!

Kerri said...

From fascinatingly ugly to glorious! I love your vulture and roses post, Marnie :)
It always makes me chuckle to see the little birds chasing off the bigger varieties.
You had a great opportunity to observe the turkey vulture up close.
Your roses are breathtaking.

I was nodding my head while reading your previous post...there's never enough time to get everything done.
your irises and peonies were glorious!

Dawn said...

First time I saw these I was almost 30 and I was agast! Never thought there was such a thing.
Your roses are beautiful, I can only hope to have such lovely ones.

Jann said...

The turkey vultures seem really abundant this year! I had one flying overhead while I was doing my photo thing out in the woods recently, and it seemed to be following me...very unnerving!! Your rose photos are gorgeous!!

Tammy said...

Very interesting garden companion! I did learn something new in regards that they will also eat pumpkins and veggies! We call them buzzards around here as well. When I was a kid, my cousin, Dad and I got to see an amazing sight. We came up out of the river valley, because a storm was rolling in. Just as we reached the ridge, there were hundreds and hundreds of vultures flying up from the bluffs/trees around the river. My Dad and sister went back another morning to try and get pix if it happened again, but it didn't. However, this past Easter, we were on the bluff during sunrise service and about midway through you could see way off in the distance (at about the same area as before) many vultures spiraling up out of the valley. Very cool.
Tammy

donna said...

Poe, vultures and roses....all tied in nicely for a beautiful post...

Randy and Jamie said...

Those are the ugliest things! I don't like them. But the roses are gorgeous!

BTW I want you to enter everytime I do one if it's something you want. If by chance you win 2, 3, or 4 times in a row it was obviously meant to be. :-)--Randy

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

I think your pictures of the birds are pretty good. I love the first one especially. It looks like it watches someone. Could it be you? Creepy, indeed! Your roses are out of this world! Love them all, especially with these water drops. Thank you!!!

Racquel said...

What a post, birds of prey followed by the most gorgeous English Roses! :) I love the pretty yellow one, 'Charles Austin'. Such a prolific bloomer and great color.

Meadowview Thymes said...

I don't believe I have ever seen prettier roses! Wow!!!

Dirty Girl Gardening said...

Those birds are fantastic... very cool.

troutbirder said...

How sweet! Always for those misunderstod birds low in the public opinion polls. Good job in helping to redress the balance, Marnie!
I'm not sure about this but the Austin roses must be Zone 5. I do remember thinking they were something I wanted but then decided against.

Sherri said...

What a contrast vultures to roses-I love it!! Vultures creepy me out so I can understand why you would have the Edgar Allen Poe-esque feeling! I love your roses-they are absolutely beautiful and I'm writing down Pat Austin on my wish list! Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend!

Rosey said...

I haven't ever seen one that close-up before. He is hideous, poor thing.

ShySongbird said...

Goodness! I can't even imagine seeing a Vulture... and on your barn roof!! An incredible looking creature and I had no idea they eat vegetables.

From the not so pretty to the beautiful :) Your roses really are lovely and I'm sure they smell wonderful. It reminds me of making rose petal scent as a child :)

Rose said...

Fascinating info on the turkey vultures, Marnie. I always assumed that buzzards and vultures were the same bird; now I know differently! We've had turkey vultures roost on top of our barn occasionally; they're not very handsome creatures, but they are interesting to watch.

Your roses, on the other hand, are beautiful!

oldcrow61 said...

A marvelous bird. Love the Roses as well.

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I'm glad I chose to read down my blog roll while eating lunch. What another fun and informative post! Yes, it is cool to have control and veer to whatever we want to write about.

I need to read your next post, then go work on cleaning out my pantry, like I told myself I need to do. I did get to garden some this morning. I didn't think I was going to, because it was still raining when I woke up this morning. We've had over 2.5 inches in the last couple days.