Turkey Vultures at Devil’s Lake State Park

On Monday, October 26th my husband and I drove up to Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin to so some hiking. We both had different expectations and goals going up there. He didn’t think he’d enjoy hiking around for several hours but was still looking forward to getting some exercise and fresh air. I was excited for several hours of hiking and wildlife watching but concerned that I wouldn’t be able to stay as long because he wasn’t as much of an outdoor enthusiast. It ended up working out perfectly though and he enjoyed himself more than he thought he would, so we were able to hike for a few hours.

I decided to visit because I wanted to see the turkey vultures gather before they began heading south. Turkey vultures aren’t a species that are really thought of as migrators, but northern birds do go a little bit south in the winter (Cornell University, n.d.). One of the areas they tend to gather is Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

We saw several as we drove into the Baraboo area circling in the skies above us. But for the first half of our hike once we were at the park, didn’t see any. I was concerned we weren’t going to spot any when one flew right in front of the cliff we were standing on. I quickly pulled out my camera and waited for him to circle again, thrilled to see one of my favorite bird species so close. When he disappeared from view, I figured that would be it. Until I glanced down at the rocks below us and saw two small groups of them hanging out. (Interesting sidenote: I counted a total of 13 vultures on the cliffs and realized later that it was a full moon that day :p)

How many vultures do you count?
How many vultures do you count?
They are sometimes mistaken for eagles or hawks, but turkey vultures can be identified by their raised wings and the uneven circles as they soar (Cornell University, n.d.).
They are sometimes mistaken for eagles or hawks, but turkey vultures can be identified by their raised wings and the uneven circles they fly in as they soar (Cornell University, n.d.).
This guy was watching me while I was watching him! :)
This guy was watching me while I was watching him! 🙂
Turkey vultures serve a valuable purpose in ecosystems as scavengers. Without scavengers, carcasses are left to rot and can pose health dangers to humans and wildlife.
Turkey vultures serve a valuable purpose in ecosystems as scavengers. Without scavengers, carcasses are left to rot and can pose health dangers to humans and wildlife.
Although not a technically "perfect" shot, it's one of my favorites of the day. They are some of the most beautiful birds in flight.
Although not a technically “perfect” shot, it’s one of my favorites of the day. They are some of the most beautiful birds in flight.

The vultures weren’t the only spectacular sights that day! We had beautiful views of the last little bit of fall colors all throughout our hike. Everything from within the woods to the stunning sights from the tops of the cliffs, nothing disappointed!

Beautiful Baraboo as seen from the cliffs in Devil's Lake State Park. (c) Cyrene Krey
Beautiful Baraboo as seen from the cliffs in Devil’s Lake State Park. (c) Cyrene Krey
The last of the fall colors. (c) Cyrene Krey
The last of the fall colors. (c) Cyrene Krey

Be sure to get out and enjoy the little remaining fall colors while you still can! They’re fading fast and winter will soon be upon us. While I’m looking forward to lovely snowy days, I will miss the bright orange and yellow hues of autumn, the last incredible shows of migrating birds, and an excuse to eat leftover Halloween candy! 😀

References

Cornell University. (n.d.). Turkey Vulture.

Devil’s Lake State Park Visitor Guide.

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