From the archives...
My Thoughts on International Vulture Awareness Day
In December 2011, Oscar (the dog) and I took the Sportsmobile to Florida to see my brother and his wife. I spent several days at a campground in Big Cypress Nature Preserve. The winter crowds hadn’t arrived yet and the campground was almost empty. During the night, there were no lights – not even on the rest room building. It was wonderful.
Campground at Big Cypress National Preserve - December 3, 2011
Each year I make about 25 calendars for friends and family using photos I have taken. Several years ago I started adding a page of "calendar notes" with a description of each month's picture - time, place, what was going on at the time, etc. Many of these notes are a few lines, but some of them get rather long-winded. This is a long-winded one.
From the 2013 Calendar Notes - October
Black Vultures – (Grab a cup of coffee… This one is a little long.)
When I came back to the Campground at Big Cypress after a day of taking pictures, the camp host came out and waved me to stop as I was passing his RV near the entrance. He said they’d had some excitement that afternoon. Some hunters had shot a deer and pulled it in a boat down the waterway at the edge of the Campground. They brought it up to the campsite next to mine to clean it. (They weren’t camped there.) All of this was illegal so the camp host called the sheriff. He took care of the legal stuff and the hunters were supposed to clean up the campsite. Evidently they didn’t do a very thorough job. The camp host said he finished the clean-up. He said I could move to another site if I the smell bothered me. When I went back to my site, there was a slight smell, but not bad and I decided to stay there. Oscar was very interested in the site where the deer had been! End of story. (I thought.)
Early the next morning I woke up to the sounds of a dozen black vultures in the trees around the neighboring campsite. Photo op! The early hour and the clouds made it seem a little eerie and I thought, “These buzzards might make a good October/Halloween picture” (for the calendar). I had the stereotypical notion of a black vulture/buzzard: a less-than-attractive (ugly?) nuisance bird, a scavenger who was the first on the scene for road kill, a bird considered by some to be a bad omen.
Campground at Big Cypress National Preserve - December 4, 2011
Fast forward to the winter of 2012 when I started to become aware of Buttercup, a human-imprinted Black Vulture, who is one of the “education animal ambassadors” at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. She has become a big hit on the Wildlife Center open house tours, interacting with the visitors, playing with her tennis ball and generally being “Miss Personality.” (The Wildlife Center refers to her as "charismatic" - and she is.) And everyone thinks she’s beautiful. Including me. I’m now one of Buttercup’s sponsors. And I don’t look at vultures/buzzards the same way I did when I took this picture. I guess Buttercup, the education ambassador, has done her job well.
Addendum: from the Wildlife Center of Virginia website
In February 2013, the Wildlife Center tested Buttercup's DNA to determine the bird's gender; it had been assumed that this Black Vulture was a female, but that had never been confirmed. The results: Buttercup is a male!
Here are a few screen captures of the handsome Buttercup as seen on the WCV Critter Cam. All screen captures are the property of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
And here is my all-time favorite photo of Buttercup.
Photo by Richard Naylor/Wildlife Center of Virginia
You can read more about Buttercup, learn more about the Wildlife Center of Virginia and access the Critter Cams here: http://wildlifecenter.org/ The search box at the top of each page is very helpful.