Outdoors by Rick Brockway: Turkey happenings

RICK BROCKWAY

Since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought it was appropriate to write about turkeys. Now I’m not talking about those overly stuffed birds that adorned our tables. I’m talking about the wild turkey that roams our forests and fields. As I told you a couple of weeks ago, Pat and I lived on our hill in our camper for the summer. Truthfully, we saw turkeys every day.

It started out with two small flocks. One hen turkey had about a dozen little ones and the other had three or four. We’d see them going across the old pasture eating bugs and insects. But, it wasn’t long and the two hens got together forming one flock. It wasn’t so the little poults could run around together. It was definitely for safety. Two hens watching for danger is better than one set of eyes.

I found it interesting to watch them feed. They had a definite pattern. The hens would start at a certain level on the hill and slowly move across the pasture with the chicks spread out behind them. Like little vacuum cleaners they would pick every insect in sight and work their way across the hill. When they reached the other side, they would move down twenty or thirty feet and pick their way back across the field. The birds continued this behavior until they got to the bottom of the hill. They covered the grassy hillside like you or I would do it with a lawn mower.

As the youngers got older, the hens moved down into the taller grass of the meadow, but the daily routine was much the same. Back and forth they went, day in and day out as the chicks got bigger and bigger, feeding on the luscious grasshoppers and other insects.

One day when down in the big meadow above the pond our friendly coyote emerged from the brush. He followed his normal path and never knew those turkeys were just a few yards away. There was a steady breeze coming out of the northwest. The turkeys were downwind of the cunning canine, and he obviously never smelled or heard them. The coyote continued on his merry way, and the turkeys went back to feeding.

One other day the turkeys were again in the meadow. Suddenly Pat and I heard some loud cackling and the flapping of wings. Both hen turkeys are running through the grass with their wings outstretched, wildly going up and down while screeching as loud as they could. In front of them was a fisher, bounding away as fast as he could.

I was reminded of the way you’re suppose to react when confronted by a bear. You raise your arms, making yourself look as big as possible and yell loudly. I’m sure some people over the years became the bear’s dinner, but it’s supposed to work. It sure did on that fisher. He was not going to tangle with those mad hens even though he could have easily taken either one of them. Like an angry bear protecting her cubs, those turkeys were protecting those chicks. A few minutes later the young turkeys flew down from the trees in the hedge row. They had already flown to safety before we heard the commotion.

The turkeys got to know us, moving closer and closer as the days of summer passed. Many mornings they would feed on our side of the pond, picking insects from our lawn. If we went out without checking, the flock would just move off to what they considered a safe distance.

Remarkably, eleven chicks made it. They avoided coyotes, foxes, bobcats and fishers. Heck they even evaded the family of red tailed hawks that often soared high above on the thermals each day.

Nature is remarkable and still surprises me every day. I feel blessed to have witnessed these events and many others from our hideaway on the hill.

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