coragyps (from korax, raven, and gyps, vulture) atratus (black)
Saturday, September 19, 1981 — 11:00 am
Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas
My sister-in-law’s wedding was this evening, and my mother-in-law wasn’t happy that I was going birding. It was one more thing she had to worry about. In a weak moment, I promised to be back at the house by noon. I had to leave Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge much sooner than I wanted to.
My route back toward Conway went over the top of Petit Jean Mountain, through the state park. On the west side of the mountain, a creek cuts a deep canyon that extends nearly a mile through the plateau. An overlook along the road gives a great view of this canyon and the Arkansas River valley beyond. I stopped to take a look.
Three Black Vultures were perched in a dead tree right at the lip of the canyon. Shortly after I spotted them, they took off down into the canyon, flapping slowly with short glides. They joined three others that were already circling over the valley below me. All six flew slowly out of sight down near the canyon floor.
And I made it home by noon.
I took this photo of two Black Vultures 24 years later from the exact spot where I saw my lifers.