"Bye - Bye Buzzards" September 22,
Saturday, from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
September 22 marks the 20th annual observance of our autumnal "Welcome Back
Buzzards" event celebrating the Arboretum's migratory flock of Turkey
Vultures. Make sure to arrive early on this special event day - Boyce Thompson
Arboretum opens at 7:00 a.m. on "Buzzard Day" -- one hour earlier
than usual for this month so early-bird visitors may join our staff and volunteers for a chance
to see the Turkey Vultures perched on the magma cliffs in the center of the
Arboretum for the first hour or so after sunrise. On a typical September morning
they bask for an hour or two after sunrise, then take to the sky to circle
over Pinal County scanning the ground below for carrion.
View a Bye Bye Buzzards Day event video by Arboretum Volunteer Mike Rolfe; if that link fails, try http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Nculj1sQeg
ASU Professor Dave Pearson is our special guest for the morning, and will be stationed near the Desert Legume Garden "talking about TUVUs" from about 7:00 am until 8:30, when he will lead a bird walk around the grounds in search of other BTA birds, mammals and critters.
Turkey Vultures usually return in March. Spring and Summer months are spent here at the Arboretum. By late September the huge birds began to depart, heading south to spend the Winter months in Mexico.
As an added treat, Catherine The Herb Lady Crowley will prepare and serve samples appropriate for the day including "Carrion Con Carne" near the Smith Building flagstone patio - also "No-Kill Chili", "True Grit Bread" and "Something Weedy This Way Comes" (a salad for the herbivoracious) from about 11:30-12:30, or as long as her supplies last.
Wildlife can be unpredictable, but usually our resident birds take to the skies by 8:00 or 8:30 a.m. and are circling overhead and away to roam and forage for the rest of the day. At 8:30 a.m. volunteers will lead a guided birdwalk along the main trail, teaching us to identify birds of the Arboretum. Even if you arrive late, count on seeing at least one charismatic vulture up close and personal. Arizona Game & Fish Department wildlife rehab volunteers will bring "Ed the Education Turkey Vulture" and a selection of other photogenic birds and critters for visitors to see and photograph.
Turkey Vultures are fascinating birds, scavengers that are adapted to feast on roadkill and survive broiling Arizona summer heat. Usually by mid-March anywhere from 10-50 Turkey Vultures have returned from Wintering in Mexico to roost each night in our Eucalyptus grove and volcanic cliffs of the Picketpost Mountain escarpment, gliding away an hour or two after sunrise each day to forage for roadkill and other carrion. The birds typically reside here from March through late September before departing to spend fall and winter months in Southern Arizona and Mexico.
Turkey Vultures have a unique defensive technique: they vomit to repel a threat. Sure, their habits may be a little repulsive, but turkey vultures are a gentle, charismatic and misunderstood species and they're quite worthy of celebration.
San Juan Capistrano boasts the seasonal migration of swallows -- but this corner of Arizona asserts its own bragging rights each year with the seasonal migration of the species Cathartes aura as they glide overhead on wings that span six feet. In past years our resident flock has been numerous, which is why the Arboretum allows early 7 a.m. admission at so visitors may view the vultures perched in the towering Eucalyptus trees and sunning themselves on the rocky cliffs of Magma Ridge.
After sunrise the morning air warms and thermal columns begin to rise, the birds take wing and catch the upward spiral air currents - performing an impressive circling aerial ballet as they depart in search of carrion. On Bye Bye Buzzards Saturday, September 24, we'll gather at 7:00 a.m. to scan Magma Ridge for the birds, then at 8:30 a.m. take a birdwalk to learn about other species on the grouds. Another thrill for visitors is the display of live raptors, reptiles and mammals which is set up by volunteers from the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Melissa Reilly (seen in the photo at right) and other volunteers will bring "Ed the Education Turkey Vulture" and a variety of other birds; all can be seen near the Smith Building until about 2:00 p.m. so visitors may observe the wildlife at close range and learn about their biology, habitats and habits. "Ed" and the other birds are typically orphaned or lame animals which could not survive in the wild and are cared for by Adobe Mountain and also put on a mission to educate the public about wildlife. Expert Wildlife Rehabbers will be on hand to explain how they rescue and aid injured wildlife for release back to their habitats. Unlike vultures in the wild, Ed is habituated to humans. Living the comparatively easy life at the rehab center, Ed seldom needs to resort to feral vulture behavior such as vomiting at aggressors when threatened, or urinating down its legs and feet as a way to dissipate body temperature. Does that seem a repulsive adaptation? It has another useful purpose -- the strong acid of vulture excreta also inhibits the growth of bacteria on the birds' legs - an important evolutionary defense for a life spent amidst decay and disease. Events of our "Bye Bye Buzzards" Day are included with regular adult admission of $9, or $4.50 for ages 5-12.