About Me

My photo
Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of four. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A vulture day at Chimineas

They arrived shortly after dawn for a cold breakfast.

As the ranch house came into view we noticed the vultures in the cottonwoods. 

We unpacked and checked the first camera trap on a hill not far from the house.

That's when we found the dead cow. 

The Chimineas Ranch is in condor country. . . the inner coast range of San Luis Obispo County. 

California condors are coming back to the region, but the vultures never left. 

So we set a couple of cameras at the dead cow.  

It's something you do after your own meal has settled.

Two days and 985 pictures later we knew who visits the Carrion Cafe.

Common vultures (81% of the pictures), yellow-billed magpies (55%), ravens (36%), starlings (15%), coyotes (14%).

Magpies arrived for a cold breakfast (5:15:23AM) as soon as the coyotes left (5:15:13AM).

Then came 2 to 3 ravens and the vultures -- young and old, no more than 6 at a time. 

One starling watched from the sidelines and got bold when the big boys were scarce. 

Later in the morning there was a lull.

The vultures stretched their wings in the sun and preened.  

But they came and went all day long.  

Whether the meals were hot or cold, the Carrion Cafe was a busy place. 


Chas S. Clifton said...

Some of those look like "surgical incisions."


Anonymous said...

Those are Turkey Vultures.

That's interesting that the Yellow-billed Magpies had such a presence. It brings me to further consider that the extirpation of keystone predators, such as grizzly bear and gray wolves, must have had a big impact on their population. This absence having altered the quantity and timing of available carrion.

Not to mention the loss of vast herds of ungulates such as tule elk and pronghorn.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Yes they ARE turkey vultures and the incisions do look surgical even if the knife was a Bowie. Don't ask me how I came up with common vulture when I pecked turkey vulture in as a keyword. Happy Vulture Day.

Anne Johnson said...

Some of those birds aren't turkey vultures. Are they condors? They don't look like black vultures to me.

At any rate, my idea of a good time is to watch a bunch of vultures decimate a carcass. Don't ask me how I came to be this way ... I've been like this all my life.

Owlman said...

The individuals with dark (black) heads are immature Turkey Vultures.
Nothing wrong with having a good time watching the dynamics of nature live. Take lot's of photos.

brdpics said...

Cool to see you camera trapping for birds, too, Codger!!

Saw my first free-flying condor this summer on Mt. Pinos- so inspirational to see one where the last wild population remained before they were all brought in for the captive breeding program.

Anne Johnson said...

I'm embarrassed that I didn't think of immature turkey vultures. Silly me. I rarely see one, that's why.

Wow Gold said...

wow ! what a blog

Wow Gold said...

fantastic blog.