Turkey Vultures in Alberta

We spot the abandoned farm house, brake hard, swing onto the shoulder and stop. We are someplace east of Innisfree, on the Yellowhead.

For years, I’ve had a notion to take pictures of the farm site standing solitary and sad—house, long weathered, brown-grey, grand enough in its time, a stone foundation in the foreground, a shed to the west—framed by a stand of poplars.

The notion finally worked its way up to action, partly because I was with my brother-in-law Fred, who has an affinity and an eye for a camera-ready scene. But there was a bonus.

Even before we step out of the car we see the birds. Bigger than ravens, black, pink-red neck and head, perched on the ridge of the house. Turkey vultures. Fitting for the scene.

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I sense their agitation as we cross the ditch, and before we get any closer, 150 meters perhaps, they open their wings, pitch forward and climb up over the poplars, circle and soar south—soar beautifully.

When we get home I look them up and learn that this farmstead would be at the northern edge of their nesting habitat, and that spotting them in Alberta is “semi-rare”. I also learn that Turkey Vultures like to nest in abandoned buildings, away from prying human eyes. "If available, the preferred site is on the second floor." Well, me too. I sense a connection.

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