On a recent Sunday morning my cell phone rang with an interesting opportunity - a friend who lives in the country had found a dead deer on his property the evening before. With the rising sun, the turkey vultures were circling. Might this be an interesting photo opportunity?
Without a doubt!
But there was a problem. I was already in my car, on the way to an immutable commitment. The deer would be nothing but a sad memory by the time I was free. My thoughtful friend had an idea - he would put a tarp over the carcass, and uncover it when I arrived. We agreed I'd show up about five o'clock.
My idea, as you might imagine, was that the light would be just a bit softer by that hour.
I arrived to find what seemed to me to be ideal circumstances. The vultures had been circling en masse all afternoon, eager to get at the hidden deer. The carcass now lay in rough grass about 30 yards from my friend's back fence. I had a slightly elevated position from which to view it, with trees and a scenic lake beyond. I set up my tripod, and waited. And waited. No vultures flew. The dead deer lay undisturbed. As darkness descended I gave up and hatched a new plan.
It seemed the vultures had gone to roost, but they would surely be out in the morning - assuming the deer wasn't consumed by creatures of the night. I would return the next morning at 6:30 a.m.
And so I did. Amazingly, the dead deer appeared to have been untouched overnight. For a long time there were no vultures. A shy coyote circled and circled and peeked out occasionally. At about 8:30 a.m., one vulture lit in a nearby tree. He was joined by another. At about 10 a.m. five more of the big birds appeared, and began circling and swooping all about. The coyote continued to peer through the dense dry grasses.
At one point two of vultures landed and began to feed, but as I moved towards my ready camera on its tripod, they flew quickly away.
I began to get the picture - just not the one I was hoping for. My assumption had been that the birds, which regularly frequent the area, were at least somewhat accustomed to human presence. That a low-key approach, and patient waiting to get them accustomed to the concept of my harmless presence would be adequate. But I was sadly mistaken.
By 11:30 am., I gave up in the certainty that the birds would absolutely outwait me to the bitter end. I left with some fun pictures of a praying mantis, some tomato vine shots with possibilities, an interesting picture of a wooden sculpture, and, painfully, an image or two of an immensely patient turkey vulture, drying his wings and watching me with a gaze that betrayed just the slightest trace of mockery.