Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Vultures Are Beautiful--in Their Own Way

 Over the years, Romeo and I have encountered all manner of creatures in the park--many up close and personal, and some like the squirrels and deer on a regular basis. Today's gift was an unusual first look and Vultures! A pair working over the carcass of some small animal right next to the hiking trail. They were nearly completely non-plussed by us--although they excited Romeo in a particularly acute way. I had to reprimand him 3 or 4 times when he no longer gives deer or even squirrels the time of day. I half wondered if they awakened some memory in him from his younger days fending for himself. The smell of bile and shit was strong in the air to further stimulate his senses.

Some people think these birds ugly. But I have to say I found their appearance rather noble--the untouchables of the avian world. When we got at our closest to them, while still remaining on the trail, they stopped their work and turn their attention to us. And not in a way that was threatening, they both began to "bark" at us! I was so surprised. The call they made in little bursts sounded exactly like a low-pitched dog's bark. Who knew? The identity of the carrion was undistinguishable, though it was mammalian from the fur and set of the ribs, hip and femurs.

On the way to the park we passed a young Hispanic man in a hoodie and carrying a skateboard. I didn't give him a close look, something about his stride suggested an anger in him. Long after we'd entered the park, encountered the vultures, walked the trail to the field with the high power eletrical towers, and were half way back to the park again; we met him a second time. As he approached, I could see that he'd been crying. Far from the "angry" 20-something I assumed him to be from my initial casual glance, he was clearly younger, maybe 15 or 16. He said, "Excuse me, sir."

Romeo and I stopped and I said, "Yes?"

He asked, "Have you seen a dog? A Golden Lab? His name is Buddy."

I said, "No. The only two dogs we've encountered today were with people."

He looked dejected, and I added, "But if I do, I will call the Takoma Park Police and let them know. Okay?"

He tried to smile and said, "Thank you."

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