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Spring Favorites & Turkey Vultures
April 11, 2011
Welcome new readers, please stick around, as you will find we cover a variety of topics.
You will learn a thing or two about me (my love for nature, gardens, family and the Lord), and possibly be entertained along the way as well.
A nice rebound in temperatures after a very slow start last week here in my part of Michigan.
From the 30's and low 40's with heavy cloud cover and some snow, to the 60's,
I finally heard my first Peepers (small tree frogs) of the season this past week.
It sure is nice to have some windows open as well as stick my seedlings outside for some fresh air and filtered sun.
The rain is welcome, as it replenishes the water tables and lake levels.
Not to mention, spring rains continue to wash away the crud that accumulates over winter.
April showers do green things up.
Great timing too, rain at night and dry during he day :-)
Length of day dictates so many things, but the warmer temperatures sure make things pop out and green things up a lot quicker.
Sunshine makes everyone feel (emotionally) better too.
Now if the ground dries up enough, I can get dirty and have some fun.
You may notice a different bird from time to time.
Summer visitors return, or you may see a few interlopers that are simply passing through.
Female robins and Red-winged blackbirds have arrived in numbers.
Usually there is a two week difference between male arrivals and female, but this year there was a four to five week difference (males were early).
Now the action really begins, as territorial rights are challenged (for these species of birds) and females pick and choose.
The year round or resident birds are also sparing, but much of that has been settled already.
I still have a nice variety of birds, just fewer in numbers.
Male Goldies continue to change into their summer brilliance (shown below).
Do you notice how change differs from bird to bird?
We have a couple that are as bright as can be, while a few are just beginning to change over.
Hummingbirds continue to make their way north ( a few weeks till they get to me).
I don't know of a single person that doesn't stop to watch a hummingbird.
To learn more on these winged wonders, click here.
Well, there is a lot to cover today so onward we go.
You came through big time with 'Spring Favorites' this past week and I want to say thank you and you will enjoy hearing from one side of the United States to the other (where are you Canada?).
There is also this week's topic is on Turkey vultures.
Joe Wilson, Inman, SC (Upstate of SC, NW corner) :
Spring is the most wonderful time of the year for me. I simply love to open the house door and feel the FRESH warmth of spring. I love all the blooming trees, the beauty, and glorious looks of my yard and elsewhere. (Like all the Cherry Trees and Bradford Pears blooming throughout our corner of the world) The blooming plants/trees are just absolutely gorgeous! God's creation coming alive once again. I just love it. As springs continues, the warmth is unbeatable, especially after a harsh winter.
Enjoy your spring Joe and Rita and thanks for pouring a little salt on the wounds. Only now does spring seem to be knocking on our door here in the North Country.
Thanks for sharing.
Jan in central Mississippi:
My favorite things of Spring are, seeing the look on my Grandsons face as we look for Roley Polys, Butterflies, Frogs and just about any other kind of creature you can find ..... He loves helping me plant the veggies and flowers and will check every 10 minutes to see if there are any Tomatoes yet! Spring feels like a new beginning!
Thank You Jan...............
Any time spent with a child are precious moments to cherish. When we can teach a child and learn from then as well.................... life is good.
Love and learn.
Sandy of Albion, New York:
Spring means a lot to me, as the earth is waking up from along winters nap. We get to go outside and enjoy seeing and hearing the birds and finding our special one. Watching plants and trees bud and bloom. And just enjoying the great outdoors.
Thank you Sandy.
It is a special time for us Northern folk after being cooped up much of winter.
Marti of Lake Milton, Ohio:
I really look forward to spring after being inside for so many months of winter! Hearing the birds the last few days has been awesome. To me it is a wonderful sign of life. Seeing my hyacinths blooming make me smile! To see some color other than white (snow) is a real treat!!
Knowing that going out and blowing bubbles, watching my 3 yr. old gr-daughter run, ride her bike and looking for airplanes, which she loves to do, is something I will really look forward to. So will she.
No more starting up fires in the wood burner, adding logs all day will be nice too. There will be raking to do, picking up tons of sticks-lot of trees around here and many more things, but at least I will be outside, not in! Kicking off the shoes and socks, getting my flip flops out are a treat too!
You said a mouth full Marti, Thank You.
Again, there is the theme of children (grand children) at play. sharing and loving. The senses of smell, hearing, and seeing., and touching are all revived by spring.
Karen in Tucson, Arizona:
Of course, Spring comes early in Arizona compared to the rest of the country but I love to go out and see the flowers starting to bloom, hummingbirds coming back, and although I don't have leaf litter here, I do like to trim my oleanders of dead tops and start feeding my roses. This winter was a severe one for AZ and I'm hoping and waiting to see if I've lost my acacia trees, which I depend on for shade. My honeysuckle and salvia are all coming back but so far, nothing new on the trees. It was 17 degrees here Christmas weekend and everything took a beating. OH, and I'm lucky in that I hang my sheets out all year long since it rarely rains here. That "Spring" smell is something I wish someone could bottle.
Thank You Karen.
Some people would trade places for you kind of winter.
Again, the smell of Spring.
Did you know that Acacia wood was used by Moses and the Israelites in building the 'Tabernacle'?
Dale in Vermont:
I love anything spring. Yesterday was 50s and no coat, today I get up to an inch of snow, still snowing and then cold rain. Yuk. But one of my very favorite signs of spring is the sound of Red-winged blackbirds. I wait for a month to hear that. Enjoy your spring. Thanks for the wonderful newsletters.
Thank you Dale.
As yes, living in the north country definitely means going through some transition periods.
Again, sight, sounds and smell we crave and look forward to.
There Is More............
Denise of Big Bend, Wisconsin:.
My favorite thing about spring is hearing the birds when they start to sing. The return of our summer birds, or the ones that are just migrating through. It's also a thrill to see a rare bird that may be passing through.
It's like another world is opening up to us, at least for a little while. Everything starts coming to life again only to change to another whole new world in just a few months. How could we ask for anything more beautiful?
Thank You Denise.
Yes, God's world and timing has no rival.
Trish Q of Central Illinois :
I love watching our woodland garden come to life. The first brave blossoms on hepatica, bloodroot, spring beauties and toothwort--much more to come! It's been a cool Spring so far...the Bluebirds are back but they've been slow to nest. Love hearing Meadowlarks again--we're leaving grassy areas to grow and hope they choose our fields to build their nests!
Thank you Trish, I too love woodland walks, as there is so much too see and hear.
I haven't heard a Meadowlark for the past several years. Not since mom passed over five years ago (home was in the country). Watch as the male Meadowlark faces south to show off its brilliant yellow breast.
Here is an interesting tip for all, any plant or flower has a common name that ends in 'wort', it was once used as a remedy for that particular name (most of the time) ...... "Toothwort"...... toothaches. "Lungwort"........... breathing issues. "Spiderwort"............. spider bites. "Baronwort"............... for women who had a difficult time getting pregnant, and so on.Robert in Neosho, Missouri:
I think my favorite thing about spring is watching for things to come back to life, the trees, shrubbery, the birds building their nests, and the smell of new mowed grass, and of course, the end of winter. Robert, a man after my own heart.
Yes, new life and the smell of a fresh cut lawn are for sure signs of spring.
Judy in Clio, Michigan:
My favorite things about spring are: checking the migratory bird maps to watch the hummers, orioles, and rose breasted grosbeaks making their way to Michigan. Digging in my outdoor accumulation in the shed for the feeders and cleaning tools. Seeing a crocus in a yard as I drive by, watching the grass slowly turn green, watching the sun move towards us, giving us longer and sunnier days.
Eying the backyard swing sitting under a tarp. Waiting for THE day when it is time to uncover it and move it to our swing deck. The anticipation of visiting greenhouses in search of a "gotta have" perennial as I anticipate planting a new flower bed.
I also am excited about the day I can contact folks on yahoo's freecycle.com to tell them they can come claim the divisions I promised them last fall when I didn't feel well enough to deal with gardening. My goldies are fast turning their brilliant yellow, the birds are selecting their mates and courting. Babies will be at the feeders. Oh yes, Spring, spring, spring, spring!!!
Thanks Judy, you about covered it all.
We have till the end of the month for Orioles (usually) and early May for hummers.
I think every gardener has that "Gotta Have" on their list.
Sue Ankenbrant in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania:
A few of my favorite things of spring: I, too, love the smell of laundry on the line in the spring. There is nothing better. I love seeing the robins everywhere. But my favorite thing is to look at my flower beds everyday, checking to see what's coming up. I know spring is here when my bleeding heart starts to pop out of the ground. The crocuses & hyacinths peak through first but it's the bleeding heart that gets me happy. Spring surely has hit my area when I see that!
Thank You Sue.
Again, sights, sounds and smells of spring.
Just like a true gardener Sue, ......................... having to check on the the gardens daily (just like a child at Christmas time).Wow, you guys are terrific, and boy did you come through with some wonderful favorites. Participation is good and others always enjoy reading about other people. I would like to do this through April if the rest of you have something to share. Simply return this with your Favorites and: First name (last optional) Region or location you are near: State or Province you are in Thank you. Say, Q&A is off to a slow start............... If you have a question, submit with the above vitals. Thanks a bunch.
Okay, Let's get to the topic at hand. Not a popular bird, but a necessary one. 'Turkey Vultures' Enjoy.
During late winter (in one of our thaw periods), I spotted this well preserved opossum near the mystery hole in a tree I showed earlier in the winter.
We never did reach any stretch of warm weather, so the opossum just laid there, well preserved.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a Turkey vulture fly up into a tree in the same location as the dead opossum.
I figured this would be as good as time as any to share about these necessary birds.
Turkey Vulture - (Cathartes aura):
The Turkey Vulture is not one of my favorite birds and I'm sure it isn't high on your list either.
Still, it plays a needed roll.
Like most people, I prefer the cuteness and friendliness of the chickadee or titmouse
The comic antics of the nuthatch, the beauty and songs of cardinals and orioles, and the courage and parenting skills of American robins. (not to mention their song).
And who doesn't enjoy the majesty and beauty of the Bald eagle, or the hunting skills of a Red-tailed hawk, or the the power of the stooping Peregrine falcon.
Nevertheless, the Turkey Vulture is a much maligned bird, and the victim of what can only be called ignorant and irrational prejudice.
Much of the prejudice toward the Turkey Vulture is attributable to its diet (it feeds on carrion).
Its diet is often referred to by such terms as filthy, foul, or malodorous.
It is a scavenger, gathering where animal waste, scraps and garbage have been discarded.
Yes, vultures are one of nature's Garbage disposals.
(Nothing goes to waste in the natural world.)
But why should that be a cause for prejudice and distaste?
Lots of birds do the same.
You've seen crows feeding on a road killed squirrel, raccoon, or opossum?
Gulls are notorious scavengers.
Even the mighty eagles of our land will scavenge, yet we stop to watch these birds.
Have Turkey vultures been given a bum steer?
We grow up watching 'Western Movies' where Vultures circle the wounded.
Just waiting for them to die.
In reality this doesn't happen.
Has Hollywood given these birds a bad rap too?
Measuring in at 25 to 32 inches long, with a wingspan around 6 feet.
Healthy adult turkey vultures weigh approximately 4 to 6 pounds.
The Turkey vulture is one of the only birds in North America with a highly developed sense of smell.
This vulture relies both on its keen eyesight and powerful nose to search out food.
Contrary to popular belief, circling vultures do not necessarily indicate the presence of a dead animal.
Circling vultures may be gaining altitude for long flights, searching for food, or playing.
You've never watched bird play in the wind?
Turkey Vultures fly with their wings in a dihedral ( shallow V-shape), and can often by identified by this dihedral as well as by their characteristic "wobbly" rocking motion in flight.
They are very graceful, many even say beautiful, in flight, and can soar for hours without flapping their wings.
Their flapping, when it occurs, appears laborious and is usually used on take-offs and before landings.
These birds soar on thermals of warm, rising air.
Soaring flight is much more energetically efficient than powered, flapping flight.
After rising on the thermal, they glide as far as possible before they need to gain altitude again.
They also rely on thermals of warm air, as well as air currents that are deflected upwards off hills, to remain aloft while scanning the ground for food.
You will certainly see vultures in the air over a carcass, and they may remain in the air until they feel the situation is safe enough for them to land and begin feeding.
The Vulture's Bald Head:
This Vulture received its common name from the resemblance of the adult's bald red head and its dark plumage to that of the male Wild Turkey,
There is an important purpose to the vulture's bald head.
When the vulture is eating carrion, it must often stick its head inside the carcass to reach the meat.
A feathery head would capture unwanted pieces of the vulture's meal (just like food can stick in men's beards), along with all the bacteria such pieces would host.
The bald head, ultimately, is a matter of hygiene for vultures.
It is also believed that they urinate on their legs and feet to kill off bacteria as well.
Okay, not the cleanest of birds, but not so dumb either.
Once again we see 'Nature' at work.
Not only as a garbage disposal, but one that has ways of maintaining health.
The turkey vulture, contrary to popular belief, does not feed strictly on carrion (though carrion forms the bulk of its calories).
Research shows this species eating a wide variety of food, including wild and domestic carrion, stranded mussels, shrimp, grasshoppers, mayflies washed onto shore, rotten pumpkins, palm fruit, grapes, juniper berries, and feces of coyote and sea lion.
Pictured to your right is the remains of the well preserved winter opossum in the picture above.
This is what the Turkey vulture was feeding on when I disrupted its meal.
Nesting begins in the spring right after courtship.
Turkey vultures nest in old and abandon buildings like barns and shed. They also nest on rock outcroppings and also in old holes in the ground.
1 to 3 eggs are laid and incubation can take from 38 to 41 days.
Both parents take responsibility for incubation.
Hatchlings are white with a black face.
Babies are fed a nice meal of that day's special in the form of vomit.
Young fledge 70 to 80 days after hatching.
Newly fledged vultures (out of the nest and flying for the first time) have gray heads (instead of red), and can be confused with the black vulture, from a distance.
By the time a turkey vulture is one year old their head has become mostly red.
Here is something of interest...
Experts believe there may be a symbiotic relationship between turkey vultures and coyotes.
Turkey vultures fly many miles and find animal carcasses with their excellent eyes and sense of smell but are not able tear open the tough skin.
Coyotes see the turkey vultures circling their find and tear open up the carcass as they feed on it.
After the coyotes are full the turkey vultures are able to feed.
Just another one of our 'Creator's' ways of making every thing work.
Another look at the circle of life.
Vultures may look ugly and dumb. but they aren't
Yes, they have a face only a mother can love (blind love for adults).
But they are far from being dumb birds.
One last thing...........................
They have a discriminating pallet too.
Why do Turkey vultures urinate on themselves?
You can read sbout this that and other interesting things about Turkey vultures and you can find a few more at
Well, it is time to fly for now.
Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.
Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time... It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other.
Dr.Leo F Buscaglia (1924-1998
Dr. Buscaglia died too young. He did however have a profound impact on many.
I do encourage you to read some of his books, you will walk away with a warm heart and a smile.
ďA new command I give you:
John 13:34-35 (NIV)
"Treat the earth well:
It was not given to you by your parents,
It was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our
Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
Ancient Indian Proverb
Your friend indeed,
Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.
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