Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's in the Cave?!? WHAT'S IN THE CAVE!?!

Don't come down here. There's something in the cave! It's rattling. I think it's a Rattlesnake. Everybody stay where you are! It sounds weird. More like a hisssssssssssssss. Are there Rattlesnakes in New York?
For the Labor Day Weekend we drove up from Florida (yes drove) to Glass Lake, New York for a family reunion.
We used to spend our summers here and one of the big adventures was to climb Bearshead Mountain to the lookout and look down at Glass Lake (pictured below with Albany, NY in the distance).
Once most of the mobile family tree had wandered back down, I asked some of the more limber and daring in the crowd if they had ever been to the "boulders" below the cliff. It's a good 100 foot drop from the lookout but if you carefully navigate the foot-wide rock ledge you can shimmy down with relative ease.

When we were kids there was a porcupine den under the boulders and we would snag quills if the den was vacant.
When I hopped down to check it out we all heard a very loud hissssssssss which cousin Sam had also heard moments before my jump. My first thought was rattlesnake and although the noise persisted it didn't sound right. One of the stupidest things you can do is antagonize a rattlesnake but boys will be boys (which accounts for most of the rattlesnake bites each year) and Sam, Will and I continued to poke and prod around the area.
Hey look - bird poop on the rock. Hey - downy white feathers near the cave entrance. Hey! A broken egg a bit bigger than a chicken egg.

Well if it's not a snake we can stick a camera right in there! I see some feathers and a foot.

It is a Vulture. A juvenile Turkey Vulture! Doing what vultures do. Hanging out in caves while mom and dad are out pulling roadkill off the road to bring back and regurgitate for junior. Having taken a picture and solved the mystery, we didn't want to upset the puker any further so we left him to his boulder cave.
Turkey Vultures disappear from Florida in the summer so it was fun to see one up North. They nest on cliffs or in caves with the parents taking care of them for nearly 3 months after their 30 day incubation. The young are born nearly all white but this one is probably about two months old. In a few more weeks it'll fly down south with mom and pop and start feeding on delicious Florida roadkill.
The hissing? When alarmed the adults will vomit or play dead but the young will vomit or hiss. Lovely considering what they eat. Since vultures have no larynx, they can only makes a raspy hissing sound that sounds to a Florida Jungle Boy like a Rattlesnake or at least Sir Hiss from Disney's Robin Hood. Ah the fun of a mystery. Turns out there are no known Timber Rattlesnakes in this part of NY anyway.

I wonder what ever happened to the Porcupine.....