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Posts Tagged ‘Cathartes aura’

I wouldn’t exactly say that this Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) was handsome, but you have to admit that it has an impressive wingspan display. I spotted this vulture earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Its spread wing position reminded me of a cormorant, which pens its wings like that to dry them out. I have no idea why the vulture felt the need to do so, but it held its wings open for an extended period of time.turkey vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Several years ago, I received some advice that I continue to follow to this day. I was told that if a vulture is circling overhead, as this one was doing earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, make sure you move from time to time.

When I first spotted this vulture, I was a little confused. It looked like a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), but the bird lacked the distinctive red head that I am used to seeing on a Turkey Vulture. After doing a little research I learned that juvenile Turkey Vultures have an ashy-gray head that transitions to red as they mature.

juvenile Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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From a distance, the large bird perched on a broken-off tree looked majestic and I assumed that it was a hawk or an eagle. Zooming in with my telephoto lens, I realized that it was “only” a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).  It got me thinking about the fact that vultures have a bad reputation—many people are creeped out by the way that vultures circle overhead and eat dead things. For them, the words “majestic” and “vulture” just don’t go together. If you suspend all preconceived notions and examine the bird in this photo (or watch a vulture effortlessly soaring overhead), perhaps you too will find a bit of majesty there.

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was dark and overcast yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park and became more eerie when a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) started to circle lower and lower around me. Eventually it landed on the broken tip of a nearby tree.

After closing its wings initially, the vulture suddenly opened them wide and left them open for an extended period of time, perhaps to let them dry—it had been raining earlier in the morning. The wing position reminded me of the Double-crested Cormorants that I occasionally see with wings extended to dry them after an underwater dive.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The early morning light was soft and beautiful, allowing me to capture these images of a young Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) on Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I am not sure I have ever seen a vulture look so handsome (and maybe even a little cute in the second photo).

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was watching a Turkey Vulture high in a tree at Huntley Meadows Park this past weekend, when all at once it seemed to get tense and agitated. Suddenly a flash of black crossed my field of view as I gazed through my camera’s viewfinder.

I had no idea what had happened until I saw this photo–an aggressive crow appeared to be attempting to get the vulture to move. What was unusual was that the attack was not preceded by the loud calls of a crow, nor did there appear to be a group of crows, as is often the case when crows harass larger birds.

The vulture stayed put and eventually lowered its wings. (The second shot shows the vulture seconds before the attack, when it had raised its wings and appeared to be ready to take action if required.)

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As this Turkey Vulture circled overhead, I couldn’t help but notice the large gap in its wing feathers. Some birds seem to fight with each other, which cold account for the missing feathers, but I don’t recall ever seeing a Turkey Vulture squabbling with another bird. What would they fight about? Territory? Food?

Despite the gap, the vulture seemed to have no trouble flying and its wingspan was still pretty impressive.

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Whenever a vulture is circling overhead, I like to make sure I move about from time to time. This Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) at Huntley Meadows Park didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to me, but you can never be too cautious, especially if you have not taken a shower that morning.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) will never look as fierce as a hawk or an eagle and I am pretty sure that “Eye of the Vulture” won’t ever be a featured song in a Rocky movie, but there is still something disconcerting when a vulture circles close overhead, staring down in your direction.

In most of my previous shots of a Turkey Vulture, the eyes have not been visible, but on a recent sunny day, the light was good enough and the vulture came close enough for me to see the eyes, which look a little creepy. Click on the photo to see a higher resolution view of this big bird, with an impressive wingspan.

vulture_look_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) was circling around me last week, so I followed the advice given to me by one of my fellow photographers—I made sure that I moved periodically as I captured shots of this large bird with an impressive wingspan.

I will be away from home on a business trip starting tomorrow and I am not sure how often I will be able to update my blog. I wanted to alert readers in case they are concerned if they don’t see any movement for me for a number of days—the vultures probably have not made a meal of me yet. turkey_vulture6_blogturkey_vulture5_blogturkey_vulture4_blogturkey_vulture3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When they were soaring through the sky, the vultures were beautiful, even majestic, but when they started to swoop down toward a nearby location, I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy.

This past weekend, I was walking along the C&O Canal path, approaching Washington D.C., when a number of large black birds started swooping down in my direction. I could tell immediately that they were Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura), because of their red heads and distinctive feather pattern.  As they got closer, they veered off toward the road that parallels the path—perhaps there was a recent bit of road kill that attracted their attention.

I don’t know why, but everywhere that I go, I seem to see vultures. In this case it was an urban setting, but I see them often when I am in the wild too. I’m trying not to develop a complex about this, but I do make sure that I take a shower before I go shooting.

vulture5_blogvulture3_blogvulture4_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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My curiosity turned to discomfort yesterday when I realized that the large bird diving in my direction was a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).

In the past, the only Turkey Vultures that I had seen were soaring high in the sky, but this one got close enough for me to see his red head. As he got a bit closer, I realized that his angle of flight would take him farther away from me than I had initially thought. Just to be sure that he did alter his course and head toward me, however, I moved around vigorously to let him know that I was still alive.

You can never be too cautious when it comes to vultures.

vulture1_blog vulture2_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Looking for subjects to shoot this morning, I happened to look up and saw a large bird soaring on the wind, headed in my direction. My heart raced a little as I made a quick setting adjustment on my camera, because I figured the bird with the impressive wingspan was perhaps an eagle or at least some kind of hawk.

I was a little disappointed initially when I discovered later that the bird was “only” a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). After a while, though, the wings and feathers and the coloration started to grow on me and I realized that the turkey vulture has a beauty all its own. (In some ways I might compare it to some of the wild turkeys that some of my fellow bloggers have featured recently in their postings—suffice it to say the turkeys are not traditionally beautiful.)

I’m still working on photographing birds in flight, but it sure is a lot easier when a bird is soaring like this one, not flying at full speed.

Turkey vulture in the fall

Turkey vulture at Huntley Meadows Park

Turkey vulture soaring on the wind

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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