What a venue!

It’s sucker season on Bull Creek. This means that between 7:00 and 8:00 A.M., we see even more pick-up trucks than usual in the tiny dirt parking area by the bridge. Most of those pick-ups sport step-ladders and contain one to four males ranging in age 6 to 66, with 23-38 being the most common range. These males debark their vehicles and press through the brush on the near side, walking upstream along the bank while carefully studying the water for any subsurface stirrings caused by schools of suckers.

I think the suckers usually live in Lake Taneycomo, but (with apologies to Tennyson), in the spring a young sucker’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, and he – along with all his near and distant kin  – comes up the creek to spawn. Googling “when do suckers spawn in Missouri?” yields the following from the Missouri Department of conservation website:

“The majority of suckers harvested in Missouri are taken by snagging (or grabbing) and gigging. Both methods are time-honored Ozarks traditions. Sucker grabbing is at its best in the spring when these fish move into shallow gravel areas to spawn. It is not uncommon for hundreds of suckers to congregate in a relatively small area. White suckers migrate up Roark and Bull creeks from Lake Taneycomo each spring. Because of their affinity for cold water, they make these runs earlier than other sucker species. Local residents take advantage of the early white sucker spawning run to harvest these fish prior to the later spawning migrations of the redhorse sucker species.”

And local residents are not the only ones to take advantage of this sucker run. It is the nature of the above-mentioned males to “clean” their catch and leave the fish carcasses in heaps either on the bank or in the water. These multiplied hundreds of fish skins and heads remain (and smell) until either we get some really heavy rain to wash them away and/or other critters carry them off.

I was walking on the creek road the other day, and about 4/10 of a mile up, I spied a great number of turkey vultures enjoying their Thanksgiving dinner of sucker remains that had been dropped in a pooled area of the creek. The feast must’ve been tasty, because they let me get quite close before flying off. I tried to count them; there were more than 25. That’s a lot of vultures at one party! I was only doing a short walk down and back, and after I had turned around and walked only maybe 30 paces back toward home, I looked over my shoulder, and the whole gang was already back at the table. I clearly didn’t intimidate them for very long. And since I love to learn, I wondered if you call a group of vultures something other than a flock. Turns out you do. I had seen a venue of vultures! Isn’t that just a wonderful, alliterative, and memorable term? A venue of vultures; I can surely say I learned something fun today.

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