OK, I began this adventure through COVID-19 land as a member of the “just how far will we go to protect ourselves from ourselves” club, thinking we were taking this whole thing to the extreme. But just as I was softening my stance and beginning to see the need for canceling events that draw crowds of people, I heard that Buzzard Sunday was canceled.
The event scheduled for March 15 at Hinkley, Ohio, is where hundreds, perhaps thousands gather to watch the arrival of the turkey vultures there.
This is the last straw! Does anyone else see the irony of a virus canceling an event meant to celebrate the arrival of a bird that can eat diseased meat like we eat chocolate cake?
A legend dating back to the turn of the century has it that the famous “Buzzards of Hinckley Ridge” arrive in the town of Hinckley, Ohio every March 15 like clockwork. In the northeast corner of Medina County, just south of Cleveland are a series of cliffs and caverns known locally as old Whipp’s Ledges that are a popular roosting and nesting area for turkey vultures. So popular was the legend that in 1957 the first Sunday after March 15th was dubbed Buzzard Sunday and a festival was planned around the event that still takes place today.
Along with the legend of the vulture’s timed arrival is the story of how that came to be. The story says that when that area was first settled, farmers began losing livestock left-and-right to bears and wolves that were native to the area. Finally, the farmers had enough and one fall, a huge mass hunt was organized resembling the coyote drives once popular here in Kansas where hundreds of hunters form a circle surrounding an entire section or township and slowly walk toward each other, tightening the circle. As the circle tightened, wolves, bears, deer and most wildlife in the area were driven toward the center of the circle, where they were shot.
The story goes on to say that after everything was skinned and butchered and all useable meat and hides were taken, the dozens or perhaps hundreds of resulting carcasses were left there for the winter. In the spring, returning turkey vultures were drawn to the scent and sight of the thawing carcasses, and once there to feed, the numerous natural nesting sites among the cliffs and caverns kept them there for the summer and to this day keep them coming back each year.
Vultures are migratory, heading for Central and South America each fall and returning to our area from mid-March to early April, depending on the weather; we began seeing a few this past week here in McPherson, County. Favorite roosting places for turkey vultures are the old water towers that some small towns still have. In McPherson, KS a spring or summer evening will often find many roosting on the handrail of the old water tower. In Marion, KS a couple hundred routinely spend days soaring over the town and roosting on the water tower hand rail at night.
Turkey vultures are amazing birds, the main employees of God’s cleanup crew that can in fact eat diseased meat without any ill effects. I often wonder what it would be like to glide and soar above the earth like they can. Everyone likes a good legend, and who knows what about Hinckley’s past that drew the buzzards there in the first place is true, and how much is just legend. One thing for sure is that vultures do arrive in Hinckley Ohio like clockwork every March 15, which this year also happened to be Buzzard Sunday. As an ex-Buckeye myself, I hope to take Joyce there some year to enjoy the spectacle, even if it means Enjoying Kansas Outdoors from afar.
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]