I did not get the image I wanted. By the time I had my phone out and turned toward them, they were either in the air or enfolded and eyeing me distrustfully. A few seconds before, three of them, one above, two below, arrayed in a triangle on the branches of a dead apple tree, had each spread their wings in the warming sun; they reminded me of an Egyptian painting of African vultures. Perhaps playing at being American suburban gods, they waited, wings extended six feet across against a dusky yellow field.
Here they speak to me of some remnant of home wild enough to support them — they “lay their eggs on the ground, on the floors of caves, on cliffs, in abandoned buildings, in the hollows of stumps and standing trees and in hollowed out logs (957).”* In other words, in places where we are not present. Malls, suburban developments thick with ugly homes and highways racing with sealed-up cars have bracketed what was once countryside, but enough secret spaces remain for them to breed. Thus, when I see their ‘kettles‘ soaring in layers of concentric circles above me, a dozen, two dozen, big wings riding the thermals, I am heartened. In the center of this imperfect landscape, something big and wild has found a way to survive our rapacity .
* The Audobon Society Encyclopedia Of North American Birds by John Terres
P.S. One more fact about them that I find brilliant: the “young make good pets and follow one about like a dog [and] are fond of being handled (959-60).”* I love that.