Some people might think that Turkey Vultures may have faces that only a mother could love, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them. After all, they do a necessary job, places would sometimes be a lot nastier without them, and they are often quite sociable. In this part of Nova Scotia, right on the southern tip, they have become year-round birds and the Yarmouth/Chebogue peninsula area often has quite large numbers circling and gathering, even in snowy or icy weather.
A couple of weeks ago, Mark and I were taking a tour around the local birding hotspots, and took a trip down the Chebogue peninsula, just in case. There were no surprises, except for a house, quite near the end, which seemed to be covered in Turkey Vultures. There was apparently one on every fence post, several sat on the lobster traps in the yard, and a couple cavorting in the back of a flat bed truck on the front drive. I don’t know what was in the back of the truck, but it was certainly attracting the birds and I don’t envy the owner his clean-up job! The birds were a bit splattered, but Mark was able to take lots of photographs and I was certain that I could make a good picture, as long as I worked around the splatters on the plumage (white streaks, can’t think what they are). They were obviously resting up and digesting whatever they had found in the back of that truck, before they went off to clean their plumage.
I chose four of Mark’s many excellent photos to combine in my scene. I had four birds in mind as a sort of homage to the Disney vultures, with Liverpudlian accents, in the original animated Jungle Book (apparently called Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy and Dizzy, and based on The Beatles). For some reason they were in my head throughout the preparation of the picture, despite the fact that New World vultures are not related to the Old World vultures depicted in the film, and I doubt very much if they have any accents at all, certainly not Scouse.
The birds were all facing away, but in a variety of angles and all looking over their shoulders at the viewer, so I was able to compose a pleasing arrangement. Other than the bright pinky-red heads and little ivory/pink bills, the plumage is primarily browns and beiges, and surprisingly colourful. It’s easy to think of them as ugly, but they are actually handsome, when in a good light, and were very enjoyable to paint.
‘Talking Turkey’, 10 x 13 inch, watercolour pencil on 140 lb cold press watercolour paper.