Vultures and Sinkholes.

A giant sinkhole in Winter Park back in 1981.

A giant sinkhole in Winter Park back in 1981.
 
Written by Ben Alexander in February 2010
 
Florida is a really strange place. Predatory hawks swoop down into backyards and snatch small dogs for a quick meal, alligators longer than a sofa wander into random kitchens, and little lizards mate on the windowsill right outside my office window.
 
I’ve lived here almost 7 years and sometimes it starts to feel just like everywhere else, until yet another weird thing happens. In the first weeks of January of this year we had an unprecedented cold snap in which the temperatures dipped below 30 degrees for almost a week.
 
The sudden cold caused sinkholes and huge flocks of vultures wheeling over my neighborhood.
 
There was a cause and effect, let me explain.  
 
In order to protect the citrus crop all the farmers east of Tampa (in the Plant City area) started to mist their crops with millions of gallons of water. A thin layer of ice on the oranges keeps them from dipping too far below 32 degrees. Meanwhile all this water is drained out of the underground aquifer and it caused numerous sinkholes to open up in that area. Here is a great article about a giant sinkhole near Orlando back in 1981:
 
 
I wonder how many lakes were actually sinkholes that filled in with rainwater? The name of my town is Land O’ Lakes, Florida…
 
And that brings us to the flocks of vultures. There are several large lakes around my development that are chock full of gators, fish and every type of heron, gull and hawk you can imagine. When the lakes fell below a certain temperature all the fish died and floated to the surface.
 
There are always a small group of turkey vultures hanging out near my development because we live near a wooded area full of deer that regularly get killed on the busy road that passes nearby. They are highly social birds, and sometimes you’ll see them hopping excitedly over a deer carcass like college kids around a full beer keg.
 
When the fish died the area around the lake turned into a huge vulture party. Instead of just 5 or 6 birds there were over 100, perching on the roofs of the houses near the lakes or circling in the air 200 feet above their abundant food source. I think the circling in the sky is a way to advertise to all the other vultures in the vicinity:
 
“Hey fellas, there’s plenty of dead food over here, check it out !!”
 
When I walked around the lakes there were over a thousand fish carcasses on the grass, big bony skeletons with arched spines drying in the Florida sun, many of them over a foot long. The big ugly birds stayed in the area over a week, and by the time they departed there was no flesh left on any of the dead fish, and the unpleasant smell was gone.  
 
If the vultures had not arrived it would have been a much bigger mess…. this was nature’s way of cleaning up after itself I suppose.
 
As for the sinkholes, maybe one will appear under my neighbors house and I’ll finally get that lake front property I’ve always wanted.
Lovely to look at, isn't he ??

Lovely to look at, isn’t he ??

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