7th & 8th October 2015. Burlington and Cootes Paradise Hamilton, ON. Turkey Vultures entertained me at both ends of the day. Yesterday I spent the morning doing a very rewarding, but generally unremarkable, census. Highlights I suppose, were a single Hermit Thrush and Rusty Blackbird, three Eastern Phoebes, Black-throated Green and Magnolia Warblers and a surprise Eastern Towhee. That’s not to detract from the other pleasures of the census; two of us spent an enjoyable bird-rich three hours soaking up the fine weather and non-stop variety of birds. We tallied thirty-seven species.
Back at home, late in the afternoon while doing some garden tidying, I looked up at the cloud-dotted sky to see a fairly low Sharp-shinned Hawk zip overhead. It was moving steadily southwest, keeping the north shore of Lake Ontario to its left and on its way to spend the winter who knows where. As I inwardly savoured the small pleasure of that sighting, I noticed a couple of Turkey Vultures much higher and gliding south-westward along the same track. And close behind them was another drift, about twenty more, moving effortlessly as if sliding down an invisible glass highway.
Seen like this, I find it difficult to estimate their height; large, black and a yard across, they were barely visible with the naked eye against a blue sky. Does that make them five hundred feet up – or a thousand? More, or less? And how does our world below look to them? All conjecture.
Then this morning, with another beautiful autumnal day is store, I went to walk the shores of a nearby estuary and marsh. As soon as I arrived I noticed a large group of Turkey Vultures circling low; I counted thirty-six. Could it be that yesterday afternoon’s birds had settled for the night and were just getting airborne to continue the journey. Well, probably not my birds of yesterday in this morning’s group, but I do think they were migrants getting started for the day, circling and looking for the first thermals to carry them up and onwards.
I binocular-searched the group looking for any oddities ( hoping for a Black Vulture for example) and found a young Bald Eagle, a Sharp-shinned Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk sharing the vultures’ search for rising air.
There are more goodies to come; in the days and weeks ahead there will be many more vultures, hawks, falcons and eagles sliding down that invisible glass highway.