September 05, 2007

SG Deep Cuts: Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

Original post date: 8/26/05

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.


J said...

Wow. I've never met anyone who had a turkey vulture in her mouth before.

jamwall said...

I was once attacked by a slab of turkey bacon. I smelled smokey and lean!

jiggs said...

new product idea: turkey vulture flavored mouth wash!

Think Frustrated said...

Yeah. Mmmm-kay.

I, too, never kill spiders. They eat everything else. My wife disagrees with this strategy because spiders are "creepy." If we killed everything that we thought was creepy, Dick Cheney would have been executed long ago.