Where are the vultures?

Weekend uptick swells numbers of wide-winged visitors
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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The turkey vulture migration count over Auburn was down this year until this past weekend.

Moving into the final stretch of the yearly major aerial movement through Auburn airspace, watchers of the majestic bird were hopeful on Friday that it would pick up.

By Friday, volunteers in the Auburn area had tallied 7,500 vultures passing through since Sept. 15.

Deren Ross, a vulture-watch leader, said that with the count lasting through Oct. 15, the possibility of 10,000 or more vultures being recorded was still a possibility.

And on the weekend, more than 2,000 were counted over two days.

In past years, as many as 20,000 were seen in Auburn and it wasn’t unusual to have a count of 1,000 vultures or more on a good day.

This year, though, there has been just one day with a count of 1,000 or more - until Saturday and Sunday.

Where did the vultures go before then?

Ross said that weather conditions appear to played a role in the vulture migration between Washington State and South America.

“When we look at the telemetry, a lot are going to the east of us,” Ross said said Friday.

Ross was heartened Thursday after a slow day when he noticed a few birds soaring in the wake of stormy weather and decided to go back to the favorite roost for vulture count participants on a hilltop at Auburn’s Overlook Park. He started counting around noon. The best time is normally from about 9:45 a.m. to 11 a.m., as vultures use thermal updrafts to soar into the sky for a new day of journeying to the south. He was rewarded with a late count of almost 400 buzzards by 1 p.m.

And starting Saturday, the winged migration over Auburn increased significantly.