Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August 3: Kettle

Hiking down the ridge of Ragged Mountain this afternoon, just below the communications tower, I looked out to see a kettle of about a dozen turkey vultures soaring on a thermal. The combination of billowing clouds and hot sun must have produced the perfect ride for these big raptors. They circled higher and higher as I watched, until the birds at the top of the swirling column began to drift off, one by one, and head toward the mountain, toward me. Because I was so close to the summit at that point, they were almost at eye-level. There are few birds that make me wish more fervently for the gift of flight.

The couple I was hiking with had gone on safari in Botswana last year, and they told me how soaring vultures are a sign there of lions on prey. When you see the vultures start to drop down and land, that's a sign that the lions have gone; the vultures are moving in to pick at what's left of the carcass. As we watched the vultures in their glorious group flight, we couldn't help but joke that perhaps there were lions somewhere below them.

No lions' prey here.
Heat rising off the mountain
brings vultures this joy.

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