My daughters coped very well as I obsessively drove around looking for roadkill one summer, in my quest for photo opportunities with vultures. In fact they are quick to point out the mutilated bodies of various local fauna. My older daughter is jealous that her young sister has seen the gory interior of a deer’s bum and she hasn’t.
Finally we got very lucky. I had to drop my little one off for a playdate and as we drove past a meadow we spotted a huge gathering of vultures at the far end, having a feast. I zoomed over to that playdate as quick as I could without getting a ticket, and zoomed back home to get my camera with the pervy lens (zoom lens) and zoomed back to the meadow. My older daughter is very excited at the idea of seeing inside a dead animal’s bum (what is with that child? Is this normal behaviour?)
We parked the car as close as possible and started to make our way over to the vultures. We pick our way through a small thicket of trees and over a dry river bed. We pass a large gaggle of geese – who my daughter insisted on conversing with; “WHO ARE YOU?” she yells. “HANK, HANK, HANK!” they cry back. I break into a sweat as I have flashbacks to my mother beating a goose with her handbag because it was attacking me. I never told her I was tormenting it and deserved the pecking I got. I can see we are outnumbered and I hope there are no goose relations here with long memories and a grudge. I encourage my bloody child to stop yelling at the bloody geese in case she frightens the bloody vultures. In fact the geese seem to be getting as excited as my daughter and are approaching us, so I drag my dear daughter away with my hand firmly over her mouth. I wonder what the passing motorists thought of this sight!
As we approach the vultures I let go of my daughter who has now calmed down and has turned her attention back to bottoms. I naturally slip into teacher mode and tell my child some choice facts about turkey vultures:
1 “Vultures poo and pee on their feet to keep their bodies cool!” I mutter, sotto voce. “Ewwww, that’s disgusting” she hisses back.
2 “Vultures like to eat dead animals, bum first” I whisper. “Cool” says my revolting child.
3 I have exhausted my knowledge of vultures.
These vultures are pretty big. I take a few photos and we creep forward a little further. We have counted about 15 of them around the carcass of what was once a cute little fawn. Looking at them through my zoom lens, I notice they are looking at us. Oh. My daughter has slowed right down now. “Mum, what do vultures eat?” says a little voice behind me. “Only dead things, bum first.” I reply confidently.
Those vultures are actually huge. I start to wonder if they might attack us like that goose did, so many years ago. I can imagine the headlines “VULTURES EAT CHILD WHILE MOTHER TAKES PHOTOS.” Perhaps this isn’t such a good idea. I start to hang back too, but I really want a good vulture photo. I wonder what my husband will say when he joins me in ER as they stitch our child back together.
The vultures are not only huge, but ugly and a bit scary. They also have bits of cute-fawn-gore dripping off their curved, vicious beaks …
I make good use of the zoom lens to capture this nastiness and then beat a hasty retreat with my unusually quiet daughter. There is nothing like having vultures in front of you and geese behind you to test your nerves and bladder. Luckily mine tested fine. Daughter dear is fulfilled in her quest to see an animal’s bum being eaten.
As we walked back through the meadow, avoiding the geese this time, I wondered how many other mums would do this – and it was all because I wanted a photo of a vulture. As we drive away our confidence was obviously returning.
“What are we going to take photos of next, Mummy?” came a little voice from the back. I’d been wondering that myself … “hummingbirds, darling” I answered … while actually thinking BEARS!!!