The job of cleaning up carrion is one of nature’s most important and useful. I read somewhere that in the absence of carrion eaters, the earth would be covered in dead animals three feet thick. Phew! Here in Cesar Chavez Park, as elsewhere, animals die. In a couple of previous posts, here and here, I noticed that the job of cleaning up dead water birds had gone mostly to the gulls. As for land animals, I saw a crow taking on a dead ground squirrel.
Normally this kind of work falls to the Turkey Vulture, but they’ve been exceedingly rare in the park, as far as my own observations go. But in the last few days, I saw a Turkey Vulture circling off in the distance, too far to get a good picture. This afternoon this bird came close — very close! It flew in and sat on the rocks directly in front of me, looking this way and that.
After a short rest, it took off, made a circle, and flew back so close that I could have touched it with a broomstick. Then it turned around and did it again. This bird evidently knew that no human would want to eat it, and it showed no fear. It scanned the entire eastern edge of the park, flying sometimes below ground level.
I don’t know if it found anything of interest. I, on the other hand, got the nearest video of a large flying bird that I will probably ever get. Check it out, below. And then read up on these useful birds on the Cornell bird lab website and on audubon.org. Also check out the article that explains how come the birds don’t get sick from eating all that rotting meat. We should have such an ironclad immune system!