The last, but not least, bird we exercised on Saturday was Cayce. Cayce the wonder vulture. I got to witness a new side to Cayce. Cayce’s next door neighbors, a pair of Peregrine Falcons, are currently nesting. Wings to Soar is hoping to have their first fledglings to release to the wild as a result. This is an exciting extension of their program from education to restoration. Peregrine Falcons were a critically endangered species that has, through captive breeding and release programs, been removed from the endangered list.
However, during nesting, the falcons are fed through a hatch in the side of their enclosure that opens into a shelf up where the birds nest. To reach the hatch, John and Dale have a ladder set up outside the enclosure. When we took Cayce around the Peregrine Falcon’s enclosure, Cayce clearly thought that ladder was the boogie man. Or whatever Black Vultures might be terrified of. She jumped straight up in the air when she saw the ladder and refused to go past it.
I tried taking Cayce back around the corner while Dale moved the ladder. Then we tried to come back around. I thought Cayce was following me, but as soon as I got passed the corner, she jumped straight up in the air again and made an attempt to land on a tree.
Fortunately, as soon as Dale came back into sight, she hopped back down and seemed a little more relaxed. We ended up not being able to fly Cayce, but she did hop up and down from our gloves and run along the ground between us. She just wasn’t up for flying.
One of the challenges of shooting Cayce in flight is the length of her wings. She has such a long wingspan that the tips of her wings are always a blur in flying shots. While I don’t mind having some motion showing in the photos, I’d like to have more of her wings still. Regardless of what I want, on this day I don’t have the opportunity to try.
Shooting Cayce on the glove is a lot like trying to take portraits of a 2 year old. She squirms and wiggles and moves her head. She flaps and jumps and basically makes it almost impossible to get a good shot. This is complicated by her black feathers and black face, which suck up light and often leave her as a dark shadow.
In spite of these challenges, I think at least one image I came home with gives a good idea of Cayce’s personality:
I don’t know if vultures have a sense of humor, but when I look at Cayce, I have to think they do. There’s just something about the way she tilts her head like she really wants to know if you’re paying attention. I suppose she could just be looking for food, but it makes me happier to think she at least find us entertaining.