Saturday, October 6, 2012

With Map and Compass

Had an exciting phone call from greysquirl late this afternoon. She reported seeing turkey vultures roosting along Highway 240 northeast of town. I grabbed keys and camera and headed for the car with Lloyd following close behind. We must have been a sight. L had put on his heavy bathrobe over his clothes to keep warm and didn't bother to swap it for a jacket. (He's from New Orleans and looks for heavy jackets and scarves if the temp drops below 65 F.)

There was a solid overcast, so although it was only 6:15 pm, dusk was settling. We got to the designated spot in time to see a dozen or so birds soaring and swooping above the tree line but did not see any roosting in a tree. We continued along 240 to its junction with Eastwood to come back west. When we got to the spot where we'd seen the massing of turkey vultures a few days ago, we saw several coming in from the area we'd just left.

One of the neighbors told me that there is a big poplar tree on the south side of Eastwood where he has seen about 75 birds roosting. He says it can be seen from the road when the trees lose some of their leaves.

There were no good photo opportunities, but when we came home, I fired up Google Earth, snipped a couple maps of the area and labeled them. (Click on the maps to enlarge.)

The first map is the general area showing the east side of Marshall. The main traffic way for the turkey vultures seems to be along the railroad and Salt Fork Creek. We see them to the east and west, over town and farmland, but they seem to use the rr/creek corridor as a home base.

The next map is a closeup of the sighting areas. #1 marks where greysquirl stood and the direction she was looking when she saw the birds soaring and roosting in the area of the small oval. #2 marks the spot where the poplar tree roost is located. The large circle around it marks the rough outline of where L and I saw the large gathering a few days ago. It also shows the small railroad yard where backen and I saw the turkey vultures sunning themselves one morning. (Photos here)

It's obvious that a hint of frost isn't enough to drive the birds to warmer climes, as they're still here. We're heading southward ourselves soon and will have to rely on greysquirl and backen to report when (if?) the vultures leave.