Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WANNABE HERON

The urge to escape, to get away from our life—at least for a little while—is universal. Reasons, both real and imagined, are varied, but might stem from a troublesome relationship, sickness, financial woes, a job that seems to suck our life away one grinding under-paid hour at a time. Wouldn’t it be a relief, we think, to exchange identities with another person who’s richer, younger, more exciting or interesting—perhaps just skinnier or better looking?
That grass on the other side of the fence does, indeed, regularly look greener!
Apparently such fantasy urges aren’t limited to us humans, either. This morning I watched a turkey vulture gamely trying to pass himself off as a great blue heron.
The great black bird came flapping upriver, flying no more than five or six feet above the surface of the water—which, I can assure you, is most un-buzzard-like. While a vulture may fly upstream, he generally does so in a sweeping glide, riding the air instead of flapping for lift, and at least 30–40 feet above the river’s surface.
Herons, on the other hand, do indeed flap along regularly a yard or two above the water.
The odd-behaving vulture then landed on a midstream rock…and immediately stepped into the water—from which he just as quickly stepped back out, to take up a stance on the rock rather than actually in the water.
Blue herons, of course, wade around all day, and don’t mind in the least negotiating water that’s knee deep on their long, spindly legs. They will stand on a rock (or log, or ice-shelf come winter) to fish if the adjacent water is too swift or too deep. And they’re not much inclined to plod around backwater areas where the bottom is comprised of several inches of mucky silt. But mostly they wade.
The turkey vulture, on the other hand, wanted to do his fishing dry-shod. He had heron aspirations—but only to a point. Getting his feet wet was not part of the plan.
Fishing—or trying to fish—was, however. And the would-be-angler vulture really gave it a pretty good shot. Time after time he leaned close and stabbed into the water—shaking himself afterwards like a dog who has just tried drinking from a hose. Stab, shake…stab, shake…stab, shake.
What he lacked was piscatorial prowess and even a smidgen of luck. Not to mention good balance. Try as he might, he never managed to nail a fish. But the bird did repeatedly slip off the rock and into the water—which prompted as hasty a retreat as it had the first time around.
All the while, as the vulture on the rock fished and floundered, several of his buzzard compatriots watched from perches on nearby limbs. These dour peers seemed genuinely puzzled by their comrade’s antics, and perhaps a bit embarrassed.
I was kind of embarrassed, too, especially when the wannabe heron got so frustrated that he flapped around in a quick circle, landed back on the rock, slipped into the shallows again, climbed back onto the rock, and began stabbing and glaring at the water as if the river gods below the shimmering surface might be playing tricks and keeping him from savoring his rightful breakfast.
Just to keep the record straight here—I do see vultures feeding along the river from time to time. Usually they’ll be investigating a dead fish or some other bit of rotting flesh along the bank, or perhaps caught in a logjam or even a bunch of midstream rocks. So seeing a bird very near the water—even slightly in the water—isn’t itself unusual.
What was unusual was this particular vulture’s repeated attempts to catch whatever it was that was still alive and swimming around in the shallows beside the rock upon which he stood. That there was something there—alive—I have no doubt. The bird made too many lunging, often frantic, stabs into the water for it to be otherwise. Fishing behavior for sure, even if it lacked the least degree of success.
Finally, having either tired of making a fool of himself in front of witnesses, or the temporary heron fantasy having run it course, the vulture decided he’d had enough.
With a quick hop—surprisingly light and graceful—the big bird launched himself into the air and executed several powerful flaps that carried him almost to tree-top height. Then the buzzard sailed downward in a fast, steep dive, swooped over the rock, and shot back up like a roller-coaster going down a steep hill and up another one. A flap or two more and he caught a rising current, cleared the tops of the big sycamores, spiraled around, and kept rising and rising and rising, until he was no more than a dihedral speck against a vast swathe of dazzling blue.
That old buzzard might never make a fisherman…but he could soar like an angel. Sometimes reality beats fantasy.

20 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

What a lovely post Scribe - but what jhas happened to your header - it didn't come up at all when I called on you.
I do agree - so many birds are so clumsy on the ground yet so elegant in the air. Similarly seals and penguins, who look so clumsy - are incredible under water.
Sometimes I feel like a sylph and imagine myself tripping along the pavement, whereas in really I am more likely to trip up.
Enjoyed your lovely writing, as usual.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Thank you for stopping by, as always. I'm glad you liked the piece.

I do appreciate you letting me know about the header—although from here, it looks just the same as always.

I know Blogger has been having some serious difficulties with a variety of things over the past couple of days. Last night I lost all updates on the blogs I follow, and was informed that I WAS NOT signed up to follow any blogs! That state continued until perhaps an hour ago when my followed blogs returned.

Also, I couldn't log onto my blog this morning, couldn't even get to Blogger. I finally managed to get to Blogger's help desk via g-mail, and found lots of folks were experiencing the same two problems. So I added my blog and name to the list.

Maybe the loss of header is part of what's going on, maybe it is only causing a problem on certain computers or browsers…and maybe it will be fixed, cured, or worked out somehow quite soon. I hope so.

However, please keep me informed if the problem persists. Don't know what I can do, but I'd at least like to know.

Wanda said...

I've been having the exact same problem with Blogger...missed your post yesterday...

which stated so well how we all might tend to shy away from facing or thinking about hurtful things...and most of the time after doing so we find we can deal with it after all.

Your turkey vulture was either thinking outside of the box or trying to be who he's not. Either way he sounded very entertaining!

Carolyn H said...

Griz: it's a juvenile TV. Either the young one didn't know any better or maybe the adults were playing a joke on the youngster and told it, "sure, you can catch fish. We do it all the time. Go ahead. Give it a try."

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Well, I don't know whether this vulture was thinking outside the box, just a box of rocks—or was having one of those moments of pure escapism. Whichever the case, he went fishless.

Hey, you and I aren't the only ones with these Blogger problems—apparently they've had some real issues recently. Which is good in that better them than me, because they can eventually solve whatever is wrong while I wouldn't have a clue.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

They weren't all adults sitting on the nearby limbs watching that vulture try to fish. It was the funniest thing, though!

Jain said...

Your titles never fail to delight. Priceless photo. Great writeup of the event. I thought "juvie," too.

Bernie said...

I WANNABE Me, honestly Griz, I wouldn't change my life with anyone....it's not perfect but it's who I am and I love the challenges of this wonderful world.
I loved your post on the turkey vulture, I have never seen one personally but you described it so well I now feel I can identify one (the picture does help)
I, too had trouble with my blog yesterday and missed a good friend's post, lets hope they fix it soon. I honestly miss the connection with my blogger friends if I don't hear from them for a while. I will worry about them thinking they may be unwell. Such is world of bloggers. Have a great day on the beautiful river...Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

Yup, it was a younger bird. And like all youth on a mission, full of energy even if woefully short on capability. But funny. What really got me was that frustrated circle flight—once around the rock, just above the water, then back to jabbing and dipping and trying to snatch up breakfast.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

I wouldn't want to be anyone else, either. I could wish for a few more dollars, or a bit better health. But it has taken me a long time to kick and drag and fashion myself into someone I can get up with each morning and face in the mirror while I shave. I still don't like me very much, but I can now at least tolerate me; I sure would want to have to start over.

I hope these Blogger get fixed.

Hey, I'll run more turkey vulture posts, with much, much better photos. I have a couple hundred of them bedding down every night not more than 200 feet from here—so buzzard watching and reporting isn't a problem.

Besides, they know I like them and tend to show off for me every so often.

KGMom said...

How interesting--it must have been a sight to see--and your description helps me envision it.
I wonder if the vulture had seen heron fishing whist he (the vulture) was a chick--are vultures chicks? Anyway, since imprinting is so strong in birds, was the vulture imitating a behavior that would always elude him?
I like Carolyn's suggestion that the vulture was set up by his mates.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

Well, while some of us were indeed led into the fishing life wile young, I doubt this turkey vulture was a victim of such piscatorial corruption.

More likely, I think, seeing as how he was flying low up the river (unusual vulture behavior in itself) he simply landed on the rock for a moment, saw whatever it was he saw in the water beside the rock, and tried his best to catch it. I do think the frustration was just that—frustration. And that when the bird got tired of sticking his head in the river, he flew up, up, up and away, a still hungry but now wiser buzzard.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-

Fascinating telling of life on the river. I think that turkey vulture is courageous and creative and determined - regardless. :-) And I loved his/her soaring, grand exit.

I like to think that inmy worst moments and after I surrendered that when I left my head was high and I soared. And I didn't look back. I learned never look back because if you do, "they gotcha"!!!!

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Well, I'm pretty much inclined toward the "never look back" philosophy…except that's how you keep from getting lost in the woods, plus it's the way to use history to plan for the future and inform the present; on the other hand, they will gain on you if you take time to look back, and looking back was unquestionably a bad idea for Lot's wife. So you can make a rather sound argument for either choice.

Therefore I plays 'em as I sees 'em. However, when making your grand exit—soar with extreme dignity!

Jenn Jilks said...

They are clever birds and this one knew that you needed some fodder for a post!
Never mind those other boring birds. Ravens are interesting and smart enough to suck up to those who will give them some action to write about!

Kelly said...

Oh my goodness...that was a funny post! I can see that heron-wannabe in my mind's eye so clearly. You really were lucky to witness that behavior. How many of us can claim to have seen a TV fishing for live creatures in a river. :-)

NicoleB said...

Thanks for the good morning read.
Amazing tale to tell!
It's wonderful what we get to see sometimes, if we only take the time to look.
I'm still grinning at the thought of this wannabe heron - thanks :)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

You might be right! I'd like to think that turkey vulture was helping me out with story material.

I do wish we had ravens around here. Whenever I'm rattling around the Lake Superior country, I never get tired of watching and listening to ravens.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Kelly…

It was funny, and probably something rarely witnessed judging from the looks given by those buzzards gawking on from their nearby limbs: "Hey, Earl…can you believe the fool kid is trying to fish?"

Glad you got a kick out of the post.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

NicholeB…

Hey, good to hear from you…and I'm glad you had fun reading about my silly turkey vulture. It is, indeed, amazing some of the things you witness when you really look and watch. There's always something going on—from comedy to tragedy, beauty in all forms and places, sights even your friends can scarcely believe even though they know when you're telling the truth rather than misleading them for fun.

Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed my "vulture tale."