Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In the Shadow of Vultures...and Ultrarunning

Sometimes I must remind myself that the ostensible basis for this blog is the sport of Ultrarunning.  I tend to get caught up with outrage about political stuff (to wit, come back for Wednesday's post about Condoleeza Rice).
So, back to Ultrarunning, which, if you need a primer, is running distances beyond the standard 26.2 mile marathon.
Turkey Vulture, image credit Gary

"In the Shadow of Vultures": this is a phenomenon that I hope many of you have experienced: being outside, running on an open trail in the sunshine, and having a noticeable shadow sweep over you.

Momentarily startled, you look up, instinctively towards the sun (might that be a built-in survival reflex to be able to trace a shadow back?), and spot the culprit: a turkey vulture that managed to insert itself directly on the straight line drawn between you and the sun.

Seems an unlikely occurrence, yet it happens to me several times a year.  In fact, it just happened to me in my own front yard, smack dab in the middle of the Cumberland Valley, a dozen miles from any ridge.

Either there are a sh**load of turkey vultures around, or the ones that exist do a lot of flying.  Probably both.  In any case, I've experienced this many times. And each and every time a turkey vulture shadow gets cast upon me, it's cool.  In part, because among my peers, it's an experience that almost nobody else ever has.

I think, here's a scavenger that exists by feasting upon dead critters.  When they are soaring overhead along the ridgetops--as in my photo above--their chance of spotting a carcass is pretty much zero.  I like to think that they just like to fly, so sail, to soar.  Maybe later they'll look for food closer to the ground.  But for now, the flying is the thing.

So, far from turkey vultures being a disgusting scavenger feasting upon dead stuff, I now see them primarily as lazy adventurers, whose primary activity is mostly sailing about. 

Which would kinda be a pretty good life, right?

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