A Visiting Turkey Vulture

Tuesday, March 17, 2020,

This is a Turkey Vulture. Turkey Vultures have an extraordinary sense of smell. Scientists believe that these vultures have the largest and most powerful olfactory organs of any bird. They can smell carrion hundreds of feet below as they ride the thermals far above. Some sources claim that a Turkey Vulture can detect a carcass from as much as a mile away. 

As some of you know, I am a long-time volunteer at Sweetbriar Nature Center. At Sweetbriar we have two Turkey Vultures, at least one of which is female. What you may not know is that this is the start of the mating season for these birds. As I stated earlier, Turkey Vultures have an excellent sense of smell. And it’s not always about carrion. Sometimes, it’s about love. (Cue the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”.) Without the love bit, we’d be running low on Turkey Vultures and that would be a very bad thing. But that’s a lesson for another day.

So anyways, some years, (but not every year), the female Turkey Vulture at Sweetbriar attracts roaming males. They will perch in the trees around her enclosure. Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to photograph a love-smitten male as he visited our grounds. It’s not every day that I get the chance to see a vulture that isn’t a half mile away so I pulled out my camera and took some photographs. Maybe I got something worth seeing. JK


A Box Turtle at Sweetbriar

Tuesday, August 6, 2019,

This is an Eastern Box Turtle. I encountered this little lady at Sweetbriar Nature Center. She’s not quite a full-grown adult yet. While no longer a baby, she still has at least an inch to grow.

I was able to discern her gender using two methods. The first, which is not foolproof, concerns the color of the eyes. Males tend to have bright red or orange irises, whereas females usually have brown eyes. A more certain method of determining the sex of a Box Turtle is to pick the turtle up and have a good look at the plastron, or bottom shell. The plastrons of the males are concave which comes in handy during mating.

There are a few more methods that can be used to differentiate between male and female Box Turtles but, judging by the look she’s giving me here, perhaps enough is enough. Maybe that conversation can wait for another day. JK