Revenge of the Buzzards

December 19, 1993

Nature is fighting back. At least, large animals are. Humans have gobbled so much habitat in North America that species formerly driven away are learning to adapt and are re-invading human domain. Many people who worship nature in the abstract find it discomfiting on close examination.

This is much more than the raccoons flourishing in Baltimore City storm drains and red foxes in wooded parks. And the deer invading suburbia to the horror of gardeners. And the bear that traversed Baltimore County on a bee line for the Inner Harbor until barred by the Beltway. And the coyote reinvading the East from the West. And the moose that crossed from Maine to New Hampshire and are headed south to the peril of motorists and themselves alike.

That is the context for the turkey vulture nuisance in Lake Linganore, the attractive lakeside community north of I-70 between New Market and Frederick in Frederick County. People who pay a lot to avoid the cares of older communities and get closer to nature find that nature comes their way, warts and all.

Rather, turkey vultures and all. Turkey vultures are beautiful in flight, soaring with six-foot wingspans, often remarked by children in cars, sometimes mistaken for hawks. Turkey vultures are also hideous on the ground and close up. This is the bird most commonly called a buzzard. Its place in the folklore is not blessed.

Turkey vultures won't leave Lake Linganore alone. The land and stream was theirs before it was the developers'. They don't just rid the streets of road-kill. They attack boats, cushions, roofs, boat covers, air conditioners, anything of canvas. They leave droppings.

The environmentally correct community will not kill them but tries to evict them with firecrackers and sirens, which undermines the auditory environment. Success means the buzzards fly away and bother other people not fortunate enough to have a community association armed with bangs and whistles. But success is not assured. Vigilance must be maintained. The buzzards return at the first quiet.

Nonresidents may have mixed feelings, but the Lake Linganore Association is basically right that humans and birds are going to have to learn to share the lake, and all of Maryland's habitat. There are too many of each species for the other to hope it might with a minimum of nastiness be persuaded to fly permanently away.

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