Turns out 30 was a major underestimation of their numbers. I counted to 47 before I lost track as they swirled overhead. It could have been upwards of 60 birds, I'd say.
They'd been roosting and when we walked up to check out the tree they took off one after the other and in groups--they just kept coming and coming--until they were nearly filling the sky overhead. Circling, circling, circling. All silently. It was amazing and just a shade creepy.
I was giddy.
Turkey vultures are fascinating, disgusting, and bizarre creatures so perfectly suited for the life of scavenging. Think of all the decay that would lie about on roadsides and field were it not for creatures like this. Think of the wonder of a gut and head perfectly designed to eat rotten, putrid things. Of the ability to smell their next meal from miles overhead even when it is completely out of sight. Of a bird without a developed voicebox rendering it nearly mute. Of using projectile vomiting as a defense mechanism...because, think about it, they eat rotting stuff. Of wings and flying skill that permit soaring with hardly a flap. They are amazing. And gross. I find even their grossness pretty amazing.
I felt honored to watch such a flock soar round and round. And a little afraid of getting pooped on as I stared up at them whirling overhead.
It was really something. I'd never seen anything quite like it.