Big Bend Conservancy
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Spring’s coming, the turkey vultures are here By STERRY BUTCHERPRESIDIO COUNTY – The East Coast has Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting groundhog, but here in the Big Bend, we have a much different harbinger of spring. The turkey vultures are back.The vultures head south each year to vacation in sunny Mexico for the winter. Their return to Big Bend skies heralds the gradual dissipation of bone-shaking cold nights, dust-clouded horizons and whacked-out weather patterns.An eagle-eyed Marfa observer spotted the first vulture on February 17, trolling in gorgeous, graceful circles above the northeast part of town. It seemed awfully early for the vultures’ arrival – they usually appear around the last day of February, and this fellow was all alone – but then later came a report from Presidio that vultures were spotted there the same day, along with several hundred migrating white wing dove.Last Saturday, as cowboy poets were spinning yarns at the Sul Ross State University festival, a couple vultures scudded overhead at the speed of bottle rockets, borne along by a wind so bullying that the Big Bend was very nearly blown to Kansas that afternoon. Spring here is brief, and it’s hard to be patient during bi-polar fits of cold and wind that make up February and most of March. Come on, wildflowers. Let’s go, yucca blooms. As mascots go, turkey vultures are solemn and humorless and, when on the ground, they’re as gawky as an adolescent boy. Plus, you don’t want to see one up close. Turkey vultures, flat out, aren’t as telegenic as Punxsutawney Phil and they’re not as cuddly either. Phil’s annual prediction is based on whether he sees his shadow on February 2, and there’s always much anticipatory hoopla about what he’ll do. His handlers say that Phil is 100 percent accurate. It’s hard to name a turkey vulture that’s had appearances on the Today Show. But who here needs a groundhog? We know when spring’s really on its way.
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