What’s the best part of road kill?

My husband and I set out on a quest last week. We have what we consider a prime view here in the midwest. A city with a million or two, and we’re way out on the western fringe, also possibly the eastern fringe of the Ozarks. And way, way off on the horizon (we never knew the mileage), suddenly there’s a water tower one month and a ginormous fake tree shortly thereafter. I wouldn’t have noticed the water tower except for the crane towering over it. Out came the telescope! As for the fake tree, my daughter walked in and knew what it was immediately–a cell tower. I’d feel bad about not “keeping up” but none of my girlfriends knew either. :-p

hawk and vultures 4With the aid of google earth, we finally tracked down some data. My husband calculated the two legs between which we’d find our goals. I was able to determine a longitude and latitude on the two structures, eliminating other towers because they were outside his parameters. This also revealed that the horizon is about four miles out. I would have bet on more, but I defer to technology. Next step–see if we can find them on a drive. We’d looked before, but we’d made a wrong turn early on. Now, with longitude and latitude known and GPS in the car, we went the right way.

So we’re in a isolated subdivision, most of the time the road is one lane only. I crossed my fingers that no one else was going the other way, and I lucked out. Our eyes were not on the houses, barely on the road, as we saw glimpses of the cell tree and tried to get closer. It got bigger and bigger, but there were a couple more wrong turns. A right turn brought up the above view. Two large birds winged away. My mouth dropped open, and I slowed to a stop, watching these four awesome avians. One red-tailed hawk; three turkey vultures. I see these birds soaring in the same sky quite often. I’ve never seen them on the ground together. See the hawk–second bird from the left? He’s not part of a parade–he has a bloody tidbit on the ground. Now, my husband has watched me watch animals for over 40 years. This day, he was as in awe as I. Fortunately, he thought to reach for the camera and get some shots.

hawk and vultures 3

Hm, the vulture on the left isn’t going to let our presence deter him from getting a little closer to lunch. There were no squabbles while we were there, just the hawk pulling off a bite or two while the vultures slowly jogged position for a better look.

hawk and vultures 5

Notice the vulture on the right moving into the dry grass. It started pulling at a branch. My husband totally missed the next photo op as we both said, “I thought he was pulling on a branch!” Eww. That branch turned out to be the tip of a very long, very dead animal that we could not identify as the bird took flight, the corpse floating behind it like a banner. The other two vultures quickly followed. And in the blink of an eye, the hawk grabbed its tasty morsel and pursued. The first two birds who’d taken off when we arrived–another vulture and another hawk, I think–joined them. But it was the last we saw of them.

We still wonder what that dead animal was. And why the vultures were watching the hawk eat a teensy bit (the best part?) while the bounty lay in the weeds.

Yes, we found the cell tree. And while the water tower looked to be in someone’s back yard, it is actually quite a distance away. We drove miles to circle around and approach it from a closer vantage point in St. Albans. Google earth, however, shows “invisible” (grayed out) roads going to it. And I’m not very good at following invisible roads. I have this thing about not trespassing.

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