DEAR JOAN: I came out of my house the other morning when it was about 42 degrees out, and directly in front of me were four turkey vultures.

Two were sitting, wings outstretched, on the ridgepole of a house about 150 feet away. Another was on a light pole and one more was on the other side of the ridge. Were they warming up or sterilizing after a carrion feast? This was in the middle of the Val Vista area in Pleasanton, not in the wilds.

Joann Ludwig

Pleasanton

DEAR JOANN: I must say turkey vultures sort of give me the willies, but they are fascinating creatures and a testament to streamlined ingenuity.

Turkey vultures spread their wings in the morning sun.
Turkey vultures spread their wings in the morning sun. (Courtesy Joann Ludwig)

The classic spread wing stance you captured in your photos is called the "horaltic pose." (To see Joann's photos, go to Pinterest.com/gardenjoan and click on the "Animal Life, a column" board.) It is done for several reasons but that early in the morning, bird experts say the vultures are trying to raise their body temperatures.

Vultures are geniuses at conserving energy. At night, when they sleep, they lower their body temperature. In the morning, they use the sun to raise it. They can glide for hours without flapping their wings. Instead, they rock their bodies a bit to pick up air currents and float along.


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Dear Joan: My husband and I own an Amazon parrot. Her name is Senorita. My question to you: Is it OK to put the newspapers I use to line the bottom of her cage in the recycle bin or should I throw the newspaper in the garbage? The newspaper is used to catch her droppings.

Anita W.

El Sobrante

DEAR ANITA: By recycle bin, I'm guessing you're talking about the bins that are provided by your garbage company for the recycling of paper, plastic, cans and cardboard. If that's the case, do not put the soiled newspapers in the bin. The paper can be recycled, but the bird droppings can't and the whole thing will likely end up in the dump anyway.

At first, I thought you were asking about composting, and the answer there is a bit mixed. If you have a hot compost pile, you could put them in there, but you would still be exposing yourself to a lot of diseases carried by birds and contained in their droppings. At the very least, you couldn't use the compost on your vegetable garden.

So all in all, you want to toss those papers in your regular trash.

DEAR JOAN: There's a pond here in the foothills, It is about 25 yards by 25 yards. While hiking by it the other day it sounded like a thousand frogs crowing in it.

I went for a closer look but when I reached the pond all went silent. I didn't see a single frog though, or a ripple in the water. There is some growth in the middle of this pond but I didn't see any movement coming from it.

Was I hearing frogs or could it be some kind of cricket? Hopefully you can help me out here with what it might be.

Mark

San Jose

DEAR MARK: I'm pretty sure you were hearing frogs. I can't say how many. When male frogs get going, they can produce quite a resonant sound.

They are croaking to attract females, and sometimes to warn off other frogs or creatures they don't like.

When you showed up, they went into defensive mode and became quiet and still. Some may have been in the water, but they also could have been around the pond.

If you had walked away and then stood quietly, you would have heard them start up again.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.