28 October 2015

Details of Autumn Turkey Vulture Season at Valentine

There are no more Turkey Vultures floating above the ridge of Minnechaduza Creek. After a season of presence, these birds have flown south. During their time in the area, they could be easily seen floating upon air currents, especially north of the creek valley during their daily search for sustenance.

First noted during late August this year, there were a few seen, usually coursing westward in the morning. Counts were in the single digits unless some time was taken to watch them float amidst the skies.

Early in September, a fine number – 16 – were seen at the Bluebird Shack north of Valentine.

By the end of the month, there were 40 counted going to the westward along the creek valley. It is always a mystery how they find the carrion needed to survive! Their majesty of floating is supreme, as they are only occasionally seen actually flapping their wings rather than soaring along.

Three days later, on October 1st, there were 48 noted during a focused watch. After this interlude, an additional ten birds were soaring to the east at the Water Tower Ridge. The entire group of 58 certainly included migratory vultures that had arrived.

Notes were kept on their transition on this cloudy morning. The first vulture was seen at 7 a.m., even before the sun was above the eastern horizon. Thirty minutes later there were five more of these buzzards in the sky northward of the shack.

What followed was an indication of these birds’ flight from one vantage point:

* 12 at 7:50 a.m.
* then 2, plus 3 more to the west
* five east at 8:05
* 21 west at 8:15
* some going east and some west during the interlude
* a dozen floating westward about 8:40
* then another number, most going westerly, until at 8:50 a.m. there was another dozen making their way to elsewhere along the Minnechaduza

On the first day of October, besides the transitional birds, another ten were seen near the water tanks of Valentine. With three Red-tailed Hawks also present, some time watching these birds float on unseen currents was a time of appreciation of flight and how these feathery birds are masters of the air. They are masters of the air, with their wings going to and fro in flight.

No vultures were seen during a two hour watch on Monday, October 5th.

These masters of floating in the sky were seen prominently on October 6th, when 16 were amidst the skyscape of Water Tower Ridge.

During the evening on the 9th, there were nine towards the southern ridge, that being above the fresh waters of the Valentine Mill Pond.

There was an apparent tragedy apparent mid-morning on the 15th. A juvenile was running along the north side of Lake Shore Drive, which is along the north side of the Mill Pond, on the northern side of Valentine. Its right wing was broken, and flight was not possible. The bird was beneath the utility line which is along the thoroughfare. It ran away, going uphill, after first hiding among the shrubbery to avoid what it perceived as a predator. There can be an obvious connection between the lines and a broken wing, the context being an inflight collision.

The last significant number of vultures was on the 13th, when there were still 16 lingering above the trees at the Ward Place, Valentine.

On the 16th was when the last soaring Turkey Vulture was seen, once again floating along the pine-clad ridge of Minnechaduza Creek. It was distinctive against a cerulean blue.

Their seasonal arrival in the spring 2016 will be indicative, and appreciated as a significant aspect of the yearly chronology of avifauna at the river city vicinity.