Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Changes in a new year
Black vultures, as you may know, are really a southern vulture. Until perhaps 20 years ago, I’d never seen one in Pennsylvania. For the past 10 years, they’ve been rather common around here during migration and in summer. But not in winter. I could hope to find one on the first warm, sunny day starting around mid-February, but anything before then was out of the question.
This year, I have already seen 10, spaced one or two at a time on different days, often with 3-4 turkey vultures. Several are likely the same birds. This morning I saw one on the drive to work, in roughly the same area where I saw one late last week. On Monday, I saw two near Pinchot State Park with what was probably the same group of Turkey Vultures that I saw the week before.
Still, in previous years finding black vultures on January 1, no matter if that day was a warm and sunny one, simply wasn’t going to happen. This year, finding the birds in January wasn’t a fluke. I’m seeing them regularly.
And perhaps even this wouldn’t feel so unusual to me if January 2010 had turned out to be unseasonably warm. Oh, the past few days have been unseasonably warm, but the vultures were also seen on days when it was anything but warm. Even more interesting, the three to four weeks leading up to now were unseasonably cold, and I still saw black vultures.
It makes me wonder what will happen in the next 20 years. Will black vultures become the dominant local vulture? Will turkey vultures become the minority? All this drama, and the year is just 20 days old.