Monday, June 02, 2008

Another Pair of Sightings

Over Memorial Day weekend, I drove down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Cherokee, N.C. I entered the Blue Ridge at the crafts center near Asheville and came out at Oconaluftee Road at the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Spring was in full bloom along the parkway and in fact, in places, a little behind Johnson City and upper east Tennessee. Of all the nature to observe, to hear, to catch of glimpse of, along the parkway I saw my first turkey of the year. A hen, grazing on the shoulder and I noticed just how many people seem to be zooming by both of us without noticing her. And it was just her. No flock. No Tom.

With my luck, of course, folks on the parkway probably had just seen a flock and so a lone hen was nothing to appreciate. Nor would they appreciate this old guy in a red pickup slowing downing for just a hen.

Later that weekend, at Winged Deer Park in Johnson City, I spied my first Black Vulture of the year. Blacks are some times easy to distinguish in a kettle of Turkey Vulture. They're both larger than hawks. Basically black, although the Turkey Vulture (TV) is two tone in the wing, and the Black has wingtips dipped in white paint. The Black has a quicker wing beat than the TV and the Black has a stiffer look to its stroke. The TV wings tips almost touch over head and underneath when it strokes. The Black works his wingtips really hard and quick. The TV has more of the V-shaped wing positioning (dihedral) than a Black. Watch the kettle without binoculars and you can spot the Blacks fairly easily.

I also like to look up higher in the sky above the kettle because if the kettle is at all successful on the hunt, hawks (Buteo) will be above the kettle, also on the prowl. They have a quick wingbeat that is also stiff looking. Buteo also glides with a flat wing position. There's nothing quite so exciting as watching a hawk dive to the ground from a thousand feet. You'll be lucky to see this once or twice in your lifetime and it is quite something to watch.