Thursday, February 22, 2007

Turkey Week


turkey in the dog run


A small flock of turkeys is visiting. Numbering about seven birds, they usually visit us for a short period of time each winter. I first noticed them two days ago as large dark blobs down by the big creek. The dark blotches looked too regular to be rocks or stumps so I aimed binoculars on them and they focused into “our” turkeys.

“Our” is figurative, of course, as there is no way to determine if they are the same group as before and we certainly don’t own them. Unlike domestic turkeys, which are renown for their stupidity and lack of good sense, wild turkeys are interesting to observe. One member is posted as the lookout, usually in an elevated position, while the rest of the birds seek for food on the ground. They search for seeds, usually burdock at this time of year, and methodically cover large areas in their quest. One adventurous chap (or chip!) came all the way up to the house and was seen pecking at tufts of exposed lawn grasses by the deck. I didn’t know they grazed but surmise anything that is green and herby has appeal during the winter

Besides gobbling, which I have only heard in the spring, turkeys have a range of vocalizations. I startled the group when I found them in the front half of the horse run, up by the road. The lookout gave a quiet 2-note call but they all heeded it. They moved away from me in an unhurried yet wary manner, gauging their response to my closeness and actions. I am speculating when I say warning calls may vary in type and volume depending on an internal threat index but that is how it seemed. In other seasons I hear turkeys making one-note calls on the hillsides but rarely see them.

I don't know if this group is habituated to humans but they seem unusually brave to be out and about, almost brazen, and certainly unfrightened in their behavior. Many people shoot or trap animals around us, essays for other days, so I don't know why the turkeys are being so open. I think their presence, besides giving us pleasure and a source of amusement, is indicative of a healthy environment. These are some of the native animals, parts of the natural fauna that are supposed to be here, and I'm glad they are.

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