Friday, June 21, 2013

Vultures In The Tree

The last three years we have been posting stories following the progress of black vultures which nest in a stall in our century old barn.  Perhaps "nest" is too strong a word as they simply lay their two eggs on the bare ground in thickets, rock piles or caves.  In this story, they chose a hollow tree.

Young Vulture- 2012
Last year we were cruising along pond trail when our friend spotted a pair of immature vultures sitting on a broken upright tree trunk.  As we slowly walked closer, they dropped down inside the hollow trunk with a deep "thump."  Over the next few weeks we watched as they shed the few remaining white down feathers from their necks and then they were gone.  The tree was only a thin rim of wood with several holes and I didn't expect it to last the winter.

Yesterday as I drove the pond trail, I stopped to check out the old tree.  The hollow trunk is a little shorter now, just over 6 feet tall, a thin barrel of wood with cracks in the sides.  I tapped it lightly with my knuckle and it resonated with a deep pitch.  Then I heard a soft low-pitched hiss, the distinctive sound of a vulture chick warning me to get away.

Vulture Tree Base
The current digital boom has provided many wonders, such as the pocket camera.  I found a small opening in the base of the tree made by wood slowly being digested into soil.  With my camera in movie mode, I lowered it blindly into the opening to record the sound.  Each light tap on the trunk brought forth another hiss.

Although I couldn't see the screen on my camera, I decided to try taking some pictures blindly.  Each flash of the camera brought on another warning hiss.  To my surprise I managed to get several decent portraits of the chicks.

"HISS- I'm big and I'm BAAD!"
In addition to capturing the sound with the video, I actually got some pictures inside their decaying tree house.  They will be there for several months, fed digested dead flesh by their parents until they are strong enough to go up through the hollow trunk to the top.  Meanwhile, you can get a glimpse of life in a tree trunk with this video.

1 comment:

  1. Bob, this one of the coolest bird bits I have ever seen. Charley B