(Originally Published Wednesday, June 20, 2007)
Across the street, sitting on the old fashioned TV antenna high above the house, four vultures are waiting for the elevator. There are two cross pieces and on the end of each piece sits an enormous bird. The “catbird seat”, so to speak, is the vane with a vertical extension on which the luckiest (meanest?) bird sits occasionally stretching his wings to test the breeze. Then he folds up again and waits. These wings are much wider than the front door of the house! The door is pretty standard– probably 36″ wide. So I am guessing the wingspread is 45″ or more.
Like four weather vanes, the birds turn toward this side, and then that side– I am guessing they are sniffing for aromas that waft upward. They are not very energetic sorts, these predators. And now that two of them have just tried to launch themselves and found the upward energy not enough to carry them (they awkwardly and begrudgingly had to flap away, low to the ground) the remaining two birds are being much more discerning. One flap in a morning is quite enough, perhaps. The flap that gets them to the top of the antenna.
The trees are very quiet this morning, after nighttime thunder storms with teeming rain. The ceiling is low overhead and no sun is stirring the status quo. So Big Bird on the vertical extension is still stretching his wings. Maybe his friend is actually his mate– looking to him to signal take-off.
Even the two of them are an amazing sight– like big black apparitions caught in the antenna structure.
We see the four vultures every day riding the thermals over the little patch of tall trees that is our town. They laze around up there, never lifting a wing, sniffing the odors of nooks and crannies below, hoping for a dead thing to tear apart.
I have never seen them dive down for a meal, but then again I have never seen them sitting on the antenna, either! They know, with their supersensitive senses of smell and sight all kinds of things that are happening around our neighborhood. They know that something dies quite often in our woods.
At this moment, there is a very tiny bird perched on one delicate bit of the antenna opposite the vultures. The big birds are like statues– not even turning their heads. The little bird knows they won’t bother– too much effort, and besides that, the little bird is much quicker and not lazy.
They all sit there, sniffing for death– not really looking at each other– just gazing up at whatever. And peering down, of course, in case some small morsel should wobble into the open. Like people in an office corridor, they are silently waiting for the elevator. (The little bird just took the stairs.)
Take a look at the image on this blog from the Blue Ridge Mountains. What a photo!