Black vultures, if you please


Here’s the song reference.

One of our favorite features of homeschooling is the freedom to go wherever the tribe’s curiosity takes us, insofar as learning is concerned.  While we have a daily requirement of English, math and religious studies lessons, it’s not uncommon for the day’s planned science or history lesson to be set aside in favor of exploring some question one of the tiny people has posed, particularly when it’s one to which I don’t have an immediate answer.

Yesterday, while she was working on her arithmetic, Bugaboo heard a bird crying in the skies outside, and excitedly declared, “I think I hear a vulture!”

“Hmm. I don’t think so, Bugaboo, that sounded more like a crow to me.”

“What sound do vultures make, Mommy?”

“I’m not exactly sure, honestly.  Tell you what.  You finish your math, there, and Beanie, you finish yours, while I get the computer and see what I can find.”

“Okay! Maybe we can learn how to talk to them!”

We live in a semi-rural area, where wildlife populations are robust.  Because the automobile population is also robust, Bugaboo and her siblings are accustomed to seeing vultures on the side of the road, cleaning up the inevitable results of encounters between the two populations.  I believe her first inquiry about the big carrion birds came when she was about three, at which time I explained to her that every creature the Lord created has some purpose, and vultures are God’s garbagemen, eating up the dead things so they don’t stink for a long time.  Seconds later, I had to further explain that no, vultures would not make good pets, in spite of the amount of garbage we might be able to generate.

I still haven’t come up with an explanation for the purpose of mosquitoes, unless they’re meant to be a reminder that the smallest things can cause the biggest trouble.

Grinning as I recalled that conversation, I fetched the laptop from its table and started searching for vulture calls online.  The first interesting result didn’t have any actual vulture speech, but was a nifty two-minute short about the black vulture.

“Hey, Bugaboo, hey, Beanie, take a little break.”  I turned the screen so it faced Bugaboo’s chair.  “This doesn’t have their actual calls, but it’s interesting anyway.”  Beanie scrambled out of her chair and tucked in beside her sister, and the two of them raptly watched a nature center’s introduction to one of its avian inhabitants.

september 2013 015

“That was neat, Mommy, can we watch it again?”

“Sure, why not?  Then you can finish up your math while I look for some more, and hopefully I’ll be able to find one with the actual sounds vultures make.”

Bugaboo hurriedly recommenced solving equations, while Beanie dawdled her way back to her chair.  Vultures were significantly more interesting than practicing sums.  A few minutes later, I located a page with audio clips of the various sounds turkey vultures make, cranked up the volume, and played the sounds for the girls.  “Mommy, they sounds like they’re snoring!” exclaimed Bugaboo excitedly.

“They do, don’t they?  And listen to this – when a young turkey vulture thinks it’s in danger, it hisses like a cat.”

“Wow!”

After all the math and reading were done, the girls headed off to play while I looked for documentaries about vultures on Netflix and Fios.  My lesson for yesterday was that if one searches with the string “movies about vultures,” one will get a large number of search results that have absolutely nothing to do with wildlife.  While I didn’t succeed in finding anything vulture-specific, I was able to add Sir David Attenborough’s excellent Life of Birds series to our queue, along with Wild Kratts (am I the only one who misses Zoboomafoo?) and a quirky little animated series called Oscar’s Oasis, which features a vulture as one of the recurring villainous characters.

By the time I finished my searching, Baby Guy and Mr. Man had finished their breakfasts and begun making merry mayhem in their sisters’ room.  If I’m not mistaken, Legos were being used as missiles, and I think it was Baby Guy who pulled Beanie’s Wall Tracks off of the wall . . . again.  With a sigh and a bit of an eyeroll, I waded into the battle zone to deliver the news that suitably education viewing materials had, in fact, been located, and that should the room be rendered navigable again, we could watch them over sandwiches on the couch.

We watched the Attenborough episode about carnivorous birds, after which Baby Guy decided he was ready for a nap.  I decided Bugaboo, Beanie, Mr. Man and I could use a little rest, too, so I came back upstairs from tucking Baby Guy in with Mr. Man’s blankies and pillow, then advised all and sundry that we could have a little movie if everyone could rest quietly while we did so.  Since Joseph, King of Dreams happens to have vultures in it, that seemed like a good viewing choice, and gave me a good opportunity to talk with the tribe about the importance of forgiveness (a particularly relevant lesson, given what we commemorate today), we watched that, each of us in repose in our comfy spot of choice in the living room.

Before we left for Deedaw’s in the late afternoon, we had also caught an episode of Oscar’s Oasis, and talked about references to vultures in the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Revelations, as well as the Gospels of Mark and Luke.  We read up on carrion birds in our wildlife folio collection, and talked about avian life cycles and anatomy.  My one regret is that we didn’t have time to turn our newfound knowledge into a craft project of some kind, but I suspect we’ll devise one today.

Our drive over to Deedaw’s house was punctuated by joyful exclamations from Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man whenever they spotted vultures circling overheard.  As we drove past a car dealership, Bugaboo explained to Mr. Man, “Look, there are lots of vultures flying over that car store.  That means there’s probably something tasty there, probably in the back, and it’s probably stinky, too.  There’s lots of cars at a car store, so maybe somebody ran something over, and the vultures are waiting for it to be safe for them to go eat it.  Then it won’t be stinky anymore, it will just be food in the vulture’s tummy.”

They also made a project of teaching Baby Guy to say, “Booteeful vuchuz!”

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the eyes of Your blessings, so eager to find the beauty in every living thing You created.  Thank You for the ability to read, and the joy of passing that skill along to the tiny people You have entrusted to my care.  Thank You for reminding me, through them, how full of wonder the world is, and to contemplate how all the things in it work together for Your glory.

Lord, on this day when the minds of so many will be occupied with remembrances of a day filled with evil, fill my heart with awe and joy.  Help me teach Your blessings to seek Your face on dark days, to find that glimmer of You in every other person, and to respond to each of them as You would have, with gentleness even in reproof, by sharing whatever nourishment those other souls may need.  Please guard our hearts and tongues from wrath, and help us remember to seek justice instead of vengeance in all things.

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