Friday, September 24, 2010
I've been waiting and watching for the past week, but still I nearly missed it. The blinds have been drawn against the summer sun, but late yesterday afternoon I raised them to get the full benefit of the large window in the living room...and there they were! It is the annual September migration of vultures, and it is a truly awesome sight. These huge, silent birds come winging in from the corners of the earth and begin to circle, and it happens right over this house. There are eventually vultures in the hundreds, although the numbers have dwindled over the years. As they gather, they form a vortex, a funnel cloud of dark birds whirling up high to the sky, and like a tornado, they drift to the north and back, waiting for the last arrivals. Seeing so many birds, absolutely silent, is eerie. When the complement is reached (and how do they know?), they swirl en masse over the hill to the east and are gone, as quietly as they came. It's so easy to miss this one-day, once-a-year event, but it's breathtaking to behold. I've discovered that these birds travel down the Owens river to winter in the Owens desert in the Mojave. A few vultures evidently draw the short straw and are left behind in the area as the maintenance crew, and aren't we glad of that. I've tried many times to photograph this event, but my rinkydink camera cannot capture it. A wide-angle, telephoto lens is needed to do it justice. I'm so glad to catch it again by sight.