Black Vultures. Catharista Uruba. ( Diary- Dry Season) Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.
One morning a loud flap of wings and a shuffle behind me caused me to turn around and there stood, three South American Black Vultures.
I was sitting on the wooden harbour boards, birdwatching. I had just finished washing up in the river water and the soft clouds hiding the glaring sun for a while allowed me to sit and stare.
The vultures surprised me as they landed within feet of me. They came to at least my shoulders and at full stretch the top of my head. When one became agitated and fully spread its wings, it seemed huge, vampire like and threatening. I knew them to be scavengers and therefore not dangerous or aggressive, but their large size was still oppressive.
They looked up when I turned, waited, and when I didn’t respond to them in a negative way, went on picking at the ground clearing it of any bits of fish and meat that had fallen from plates whilst cleaning or during preparation. I occasionally had to shush them away, when they came within pecking distance, eliciting from them a hiss or grunt of irritation, otherwise we cohabited peacefully.
In a clear blue Amazon sky, the sharp, black shapes of the vultures can be seen flying very high, circling slowly, using their incredible eyesight and acute sense of smell, to search the forest and river banks.
The dry season brought benefits to the vultures, who were able to take advantage of the misfortune of the rivers animals. Caiman and dolphins caught out by the swiftly disappearing river, were left high and dry on the sandy banks and the vultures quickly disposed of them.
Vultures are strange looking, not very attractive, not very exciting, but probably the most important bird in the forest. They are essential to the ecology of a region by clearing away the dead bodies of animals and keeping areas clean, as they do in my harbour.
They were always welcomed and tolerated and rather admired.