My New Book


Dead Stuff In My Office

FYI: No podcast this week.  I got called away to work in Missouri for the week and well, we just don’t like Skyping in for the Podcast.  We’ll be back next week.

Also, kinda gross photos ahead.

I have a weird lifestyle.  I don’t often know where I’m going to be from day to day. Most recently that came to an extreme level when a quick phone call Wednesday afternoon turned in to me on the Illinois/Missouri border on Friday afternoon to help with a habitat survey.

As I travel, I frequently post to social media what I call Today’s Office, which is basically a shot of what my outdoor office looks like that day.  Often, it’s beautiful.

Then there are these sort days like I had yesterday:

dead head

Look close…that’s not a bird in that tree…I think it’s some sort of way to let nature clean off of a deer skull.  Apart from the weirdness of suddenly noticing a giant deer head with an amazing rack suddenly appear out of the branches like a magic eye puzzle is unsettling.  But then you just tell yourself, “Oh, those hunters.” And press on.

Then you find another one:

dead head 2

And you note the rotting and shuttered farmhouse surrounded by goats and how it looks like something Jason would live in on the property and think, “Maybe I’ll step a little livelier on this survey.”

But deer decapitation wasn’t the only fun body parts I found in today’s office!

cached feathers

My field partner called me over to see “something cool” and he’s not as into birds shouted, “You have to see this, it’s so cool!” And he was right.  It looked like some sort of cache, possibly a fox had left a large, dark wing wedged into some trees.  Hmmm, what could this be? I had noticed some large black feathers as we were walking and took mental note.  I was trying to resist the temptation to explore the wing further because I have a completely different assignment to this survey and it doesn’t involve CSI Special Bird Unit. But I couldn’t help but take a photo and notice a familiar smell…mmmm…vulture.  And I wondered given my location if it was black or turkey.

wing under

We soon found the rest of the carcass…yep, turkey vulture based on the light gray edging on the underside of the wing.

turkey vulture head

As if that weren’t proof enough, we found the head!! And that totally sealed the deal for turkey vulture based on the nose opening–look how huge it is! Black vultures do not have the sensitive aroma sniffing abilities that turkey vultures have.  Definitely a cool find and one of the things I love about my super wacky unpredictable schedule lifestyle.

I can neither confirm nor deny that this head is in a make shift field envelope tucked away in a back pack in my hotel room (yes, I do in fact have a permit if I did choose to pick up the decomposing vulture head). I’m more worried about recriminations that could be suffered when a particular cohabitant finds out.


5 comments to Dead Stuff In My Office

  • mthgordon

    When I worked in Kendall Square, I often found pigeon wings on the sidewalk, just outside my traditional cube farm office. Urban hawks are certainly well-fed.

  • Super impressive job re: bird id–learning lots from you. =)

    I knew I had sealed my reputation as an actual biologist (in the NPS, ages ago) when someone left a small brown bag in my mailbox @ work. I opened it and there was a dead fence lizard and NO NOTE. =) How sweet!

  • RH

    That skull puts me in mind of a skeksis.

  • Catherine S.

    All I can say is “wow”. Two finds like this in one day! Maybe you should’ve bought a lottery ticket.

  • As long as you didn’t slip those other heads into your luggage, you’ll probably be OK. And also, may I add… YUCK! (And I’m a hunter.)