August 26, 2005

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

I love wildlife. Especially predators, as readers of my earlier posts have discovered (Furball is still missing, by the way---big surprise---according to some newly-updated posters all over town).

But there's wildlife and there's wildlife, ya know?

Some wildlife is best observed from afar.

In the spring, all sorts of critters emerge from their winter naps and come into my house in droves. I don't know how they get in; is there some giant crack somewhere that I don't know about?

This past May, my roommate A. (A for Anyhoo) and I battled: Wasps, Carpenter Bees, Millipedes, and Spiders. I like the hymenopterae from a distance (not so much when their stingers are engrafted in my foot), but millipedes creep me out (have you noticed that they smell?) and spiders haunt my darkest night-time imaginings.

I broke my own Cardinal Rule yesterday and killed a spider. I know, I know, it's a predator, never kill a predator... but this one was huge (it was one of those big hairy brown ones like
the one I saw on my house in July) and fast-moving. It was flitting all around my wall and the adjoining exposed beam, then finally slipped into a crack. I sprayed it with poison, and it emerged, feebly, to fall from the beam directly onto my paper shredder, where it crawled into the infeed opening. I'm not going to tell you what happened later...when I had a stack of old bills to destroy... let's just say that Little Miss Muffet has nothing left to worry about.

My best wildlife encounter story (to date) involves a Turkey Vulture.

Cathartis aura

I love birds of prey; particularly hawks, owls, eagles, and osprey. I am always on the lookout for birds in flight, and I can be seen craning my neck to gaze skyward as I drive (other motorists love me). Now, technically, the Turkey Vulture is a raptor, even though strictly a carrion-eater.

In the summer of 2002, as I was driving along at a good clip (55 or so on a back country road) and saw a T.V. circling low to the road, I was excited to watch it land on its meal. Usually, I just see them overhead or already on the ground (looking like turkeys...heyyyyyyyyyyyy, is that how they get their name?!?!?).

I watched the vulture dive across the road directly in front of me, maybe 30 feet away.

My last though before impact was, "Wow! Turkey Vulture -- up close!"

In the next instant, the T.V. made a last-minute 180-degree turn, heading directly towards my (open) driver's-side window. I had no time to do anything but brake a bit, and I hit him with the top left corner of my windshield and driver's-side doorjamb. One wing came sweeping into the window and hit me in the cheek and mouth; the bird flipped up & over the hood of my car and was left, flapping one wing (and hopefully dying a quick death) on the road behind me. Later, he would most likely be consumed by his brethren.

The smell that came in with that wing, and the taste that was left in my mouth, can only be described as maggot-infested rendering plant. It was a stench unlike anything I have ever experienced before or since.

Since this incident, I never drive with my window all the way down. A split second later and this gigantic, panicked, rotten-carcass-eating bird would have been in my ear, then my lap.

My run-ins with Mother Nature haven't deterred me from seeking out opportunities to discover her hidden beauty; only in her embrace (swarm of gnats, webs across my porch, a slick of goose shit) do I feel completely alive and utterly whole.


Bobby said...

The worst insect infection I have ever had was....ladybugs.

Yes, ladybugs. They seem like they would be the least worrisome of insects, and are supposed to be lucky.

How lucky is it when you have 5,000 of them coming into your house and dying, smelling, breaking into light fixtures, crawling on you during the night, etc.

Anyway, glad you survived, and keep that window up.

Spinning Girl said...

Oohhhh, I know those bugs. Those aren't ladybugs (though they look like it); they're an Asian, non-native beetle. They smell too. They seek warm shelter for the winter, and will make a giant bug-ball of bodies, huddled together, in your attic. Yeah, I love those.

Bobby gets the prize for quickest new-post reader. You read this while I was still finding mistakes, editing & re-publishing.

Your prize is on its way by snail mail.

LBseahag said...

Do the Chickens have large talons?

Spinning Girl said...

yes...and the defect in this milk is bleach.

shipkicker said...

you know a lot about wildlife. i feel like an ignorant couch potato. is there an e on the end of that? i think i can learn a lot here...

Shirazi said...

Cool, every thing.

Kris said...

I'm still shuddering from the spider . . . my hair is standing on end.

I was once attacked by fire ants while I slept.

That was probably worse than the ladybugs.

Heather said...

LOL that is too funny.. I cant say that Ive ever seen a t.v.. let alone hit one with my car. I have however had a regular bird fly into my open window and freak the hell out of my kids before exiting thru a different window.. Good times.


Hollywood Phony said...

You're lying, that never happened. That's too crazy. OK, sorry I called you a liar. When I went school in Boston, the whole city was infested with roaches and one night as I was half-asleep, one crawled over my mouth. I jumped out of bed and started screaming like a little girl. Luckily, little girl screams coming from my room are nothing new to my neighbors so nobody investigated further. I hate bugs.

Doublebogie said...

Birds of prey are so cool! I have a family of red tailed hawks living on my property. Every day when I come home from work, the one is sitting on top of the telephone pole stalking mice, rabbits and moles. I've stopped a million times and watched him. So big, so strong. One day He/she, (don't know it's gender) was too close to the barn swallow's domain and about 10 of them were swarming and dive bombing the hawk. When the hawk was fed up with the attack, it dropped it's wings fell a few feet and SNATCHED one of them and took off back to it's nest as if to say, "Go ahead!, Fuck with me"! "Look at you now"!!! It was the coolest thing.

Love your blog and I'll look forward to more entries.

Amy said...

Awesome! LOL! Oh the joys of wildlife. :)

Danius Maximus said...

waaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!! turkey vulture!!!!

Monkey said...

I can vouch for the suicidal tendencies of vultures. I was driving on the Florida turnpike in a convertible. Vulture swooped into my windshield, smashed it and then flipped into the back seat. Mortally injured, but not dead.

I pulled over at the next exit and called the police. Hey... what's a monkey to do?

(I love spiders, but the thought of one that size scuttling across my forehead in the night... yikes.)

Gareth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gareth said...

Hi Spinning Girl, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Your comments are always very welcome.
I love wildlife too.
You have a good blog, keep blogging. I will look at it from now on, so no pressure, lol.

Josué said...

Great story. I don't know why I am actually glad that you hit one of these things. You would think it would be smarter than to fly into a car, since it should be well aquainted with highways and how they convert animals into turkey vulture food.

Around here (Utah), turkey vultures like to perch on and hover around the tops of smaller mountain peaks. Whenever I'm hiking and they are close by circling round my head, they kind of make me feel wary, like I'm invading their space, or like they are waiting for me to die.

"Leave me alone. I'm not dead, yet!" I always say. I say that when flies buzz around me too.