Every evening around dusk, hundreds of turkey vultures start to circle around the old AT&T microwave relay tower in southern Talbot County. By the time the sun falls below the horizon, even more have joined the roost.
As social creatures, vultures share their roost space with their friends…. and their friends’ friends. The group that clusters in southern Talbot County has been roosting there for decades.
High above the streetscape and constant traffic of Rt. 50, the vultures use the tower for security, and for seeing opportunities ahead.
Known as nature’s clean-up crew, vultures do the unpleasant but necessary work of cleaning up road-kill. And around the Shore, there’s a lot of that work to be done. Earlier this winter, a wake (the official name for a group of vultures) polished off a deer carcass near the MEBA school in under two weeks, leaving nothing but the rib structure left, standing upright like a skeleton in a natural history museum.
We watch vultures lurking in the ditches of Talbot County roads, barely moving out of the way for vehicular traffic, as they set about their work, so focused and diligent. Able to break down toxins that would kill other animals, the vulture is a useful neighbor to us as humans, helping to clean up our roads.
Bob Crosswell, Trappe’s Council President has noticed the vultures on the Rt. 50 tower for a long time. He thinks they chose the old AT&T tower because of the strong horizontal members of the tower. That tower offers them the highest place around to roost. “I think that tower was built in the 1960s, maybe 1970. And those birds have been sitting on that for a very long time” he said.
The internet tells us that both turkey and black vultures rely on their phenomenal sense of smell to find their prey. And one reason they may choose such high perches, is to see the changes in the air. In the same way that we can see the winds shifting on the water, or heat rising from the street, vultures can sense thermal currents upon which they can soar for miles, with little effort.
For more information on vultures and the useful role they play in our world, click here. And the next time you drive by the big tower on Rt. 50 in southern Talbot County at dusk, look up, tip your hat and offer thanks. The vultures’ collective work saves us bucks in streetscape maintenance.
Letters to Editor
It would appear that the only creature the vultures want nothing to do with is the skunk. There are two “stunk” bodies along 328 and one on 404. Neither the highway maintenance crews or the vultures have taken any interest in them.