Saturday, January 16, 2010

Odds and Ends

Very cool to see the hundreds upon hundred of comments firing through the contest!

I hope you all are having a blast! Looking at the camaraderie, I'm sure that a lot of you will keep hanging out after its all over.

Many of you have asked what kind of bird is featured in the photo. Here's the story. For the past couple of years when the autumn leaves are in full color, I've tried to take a day to ride my motorcycle through this chunk of Pennsylvania. The cycle makes it easy to pull over and whip out the camera.

This part of the state is hilly and old (old for the U.S., at least). Even though we're considered suburbs of Philadelphia, we still have some remote dirt roads. I was coming down one of these toward French Creek, when I saw a whole mess of large black birds in the tree tops. They were bigger than crows. When I lived in Buffalo, I used to see ravens, so that was my first thought. However, I'd never seen them so far south.

As I got closer, I realized they were vultures without bare heads. Juveniles? I really don't know. They were congregating over the carcass of a road-killed deer. (I took pictures of that too, but will spare you.) Many of them took off before I could get close ups, but they began circling right over my head. In this shot, I isolated the bird with Photoshop and blurred the background (well, foreground actually) while sharpening the silhouette of the vulture.

Anyway, thanks again for a stellar turnout! I'm deep in scoring right now. At this point, I expect to be posting the results on Wednesday.

Because of the longer delay to allow everyone to get through the entries, I'll return to normal Clarity of Night content on Monday rather than wait until after the results are posted.

Also, I'm going to do something a bit different after this contest. Rather than comment about what I liked most about each entry, for all entries not in the Forties Club*, I will tell you which scoring category was your best and which might need more attention. As a reminder, the scoring categories are: pacing, entertainment value, technical use of language, storytelling, and voice. In a way, the categories represent an expanding scope of review. Technical scoring looks within the sentences themselves. Pacing describes how well the sentences build on each other. Storytelling considers the flow of paragraphs and what you chose to portray to give your story life. Entertainment scores the idea itself, and voice reflects whether your writing has a clear, overall identity. Entries in the Forties Club were proficient in all of these areas.

Keep reading and getting those Readers' Choice votes in!

*The Forties Club members have scored at least 40 out of 45 possible points.


ollwen said...

I really thought it was a raven with it's bill towards the viewer until I clicked to view the enlarged picture on Thursday or Friday. Closer up I could tell it was a vulture, but I'm surprised to hear about the feathers on its head. Maybe to deal with the Pensylvania winter?

Anonymous said...

Do you know Club 33 at Disneyland? I feel like we need to build a special place for all the Forties Club members where we serve the best scotch and get to meet, Aniket.

emeraldcite said...

Were they Turkey Vultures?

One of the coolest things I've seen down here in florida, other than the sandhill cranes, was a hawk that dove toward the water and snatched out some kind of perch (or perch-like fish) right from the water and flew off.

very awesome.

laughingwolf said...

thx for the info, jason...

to me it looked like a crow cuz i've not seen juvenile vultures

happy marking! ;)

JaneyV said...

Y'know despite the fact that the four vultures in Jungle Book had Liverpudlian accents I don't think we have them here. Magpies and crows seem to be the carrion feeders of choice in the UK and I know a bloke in Ireland who picks up roadkill to make soup.

No really that bit's actually true. And he stuffs the animals.. OK I may have made that bit up...

Thanks for all the info. And good luck with the scoring. Have you ever felt a victim of your own success?

Unknown said...


Thanks for offering the contest. Your picture prompt led to so many different ideas....237 of them, so cool that there were so many entries.

As for the prompt itself, here in Illinois I've seen some vultures and I think they're really creepy. Featherless heads with beady eyes, and fearless, they stand over there carrion daring someone to try to steal their meal.

Since this is a rural area, we have plenty of hawks and large owls. Your picture reminded me of the hawks that we have that cruise the farm fields looking for tidbits of edibles. They look so powerful, and the bird in the prompt seems to carry that power.

Lovely prompt, glad you were able to capture that feeling.

Dottie :)

Aniket Thakkar said...

@Aerin: Who told you of my pet name? I don't recall posting it on FB or my blog? It used to be my blogger id like wayyy back.

And you can meet the Other more famous Mickey over at 33. I'd love to hold my place in 40s club,thank you. :) Though that looks like a mean task to accomplish right now.

All the best to everyone though! May the best person win! (Ain't I nice? :P)

Anonymous said...

Ollwen, it's the first time I've seen that. We have Turkey Vultures here, and normally their heads are bald. I should look it up....

Aerin, definitely! Only my hope is that everyone becomes members eventually. Let the NON-writers have the stock liquor. (And I'm inviting Ariel.)

Emeraldcite, I think that they must be Turkey Vultures, because I'm not aware that we have any other species here. That's cool that you saw the hawk hunting. Around here, we've seen some cool things on the water. We have Bald Eagles on Chesapeake Bay, and on a lake a little farther north, we used to see Loons in the fall.

Laughingwolf, too bad they weren't ravens. Do you have ravens in Nova Scotia?

JaneyV, this deer was way past any use, except maybe soup. Mostly skin and bones. (Victim of my, yes. :) )

Dottie, even though it's natural for the prompts to lead to a number of similar concepts, it's still amazing to see each different spin and treatment. That's why I think this format is a great way to learn as a group. With so much controlled, writing style and imagination are the only variables.

Aniket, my people will call your people about booking your appearance. ;)

Stephanie Suesan Smith, Ph.D. said...

You took a picture of a black headed vulture. Ranchers here hate them because unlike other vultures that wait until a creature is dead, these can be very aggressive and attack a newborn calf while it is still weak and can't flee. Their range is expanding with the change in weather patterns we are experiencing.

Anonymous said...

Stephanie, interesting! I just looked at the distribution of Black Vultures and although they are primarily found in the south, it looks like the range might stretch just high enough for S.E. Pennsylvania. That's probably it!

James R. Tomlinson said...

With Stephanie's explanation of the type of vulture, I've got all kinds of stories forming in my head.

As for the contest, thank-you Jason. Let's see, my top picks have the following items: crayons, a newspaper, and a disco ball. Good luck to everyone!

Anonymous said...

You're very welcome!

Anonymous said...

Love your scoring system!! What an efficient way to offer feedback on so many entries.

Best of luck compiling everything - and again, thanks! :)

~ Corra

Pallav said...

First thought when i saw the pic was that it is vulture, but the stereotypical image of the vulture just didn't fit somehow. All stories would have been amazingly different had people known it was a vulture.

A big thanks for the effort of the contest man, it was fun :)