Vultures are cool. They are a hiker’s companion. Sometimes, they sweep down close enough so you can see their red faces, their necks and wrinkly baldness. Some people demonize them — so much that the federal government has placed them under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act — but I’ve always liked them. I like the way they fly — always wobbling, making constant corrections, as if they think they are going to crash.They are squeamish, and startle easily. If you sneak up on one of them from behind, a vulure might projectile-vomit a foul bisque of semi-digested carrion all over you, and then, hours later, go back and re-eat the vomit. (Waste not, want not!) Equipped with stomachs that are 10,000 times more resistant to botulism than the common pigeon, they also carry enzymes that can neutralize anthrax and hog cholera. Say what you will about vultures. They keep our deserts tidy.

(by the way, that great photo is by Robert Bernstein. I found the photo at

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