One of the wonderful things about living where we do is the abundance of wildlife. This time of year, it’s the turkeys. Yes. Wild turkeys, magnificent beings and they look just like all those pictures you saw as a kid.
In the spring the males, with tails fanned out and strutting their stuff, court the ladies. It is a beautiful ritual, made amusing by the girls not really caring who has the largest spread of feathers. Is there something tasty in the grass? Bring me that, they say. Then I’ll be impressed.
This year we saw a male and female checking out the needle-covered ground beneath our pine trees, looking as though they wanted a good spot for egg-laying. With two cats outside almost full time, they decided against setting up housekeeping out front and moved on to a safer environment.
Recently, we’ve been lucky to observe the mom-and-chick brigade. Three females banded together with their youngsters, and we can have a parade of up to 15 birds some evenings. Mom, some chicks, another mom, more chicks, and the third mom bringing up the rear, encouraging the stragglers to get a move on. This time of year those chicks aren’t so young anymore, being about half the size of the adults but already able to fly.
This ability to fly was brought home to us last night, when the birds were strolling around the grounds and Morpheus, one of the Rat Patrol, decided he was curious. He didn’t slink toward them with intent to dine; rather, he casually moved in their direction, fascinated by the size of the moms and the quickness of the youngsters. The adult turkeys are bigger than the cats. The cats respect that. However, the mom turkeys were not sure of Morpheus’ intentions, and so, keeping a wary eye on him as he lounged near a small aspen tree, one scooted by him and took wing. The chicks were appalled. Where was mom going? She left us here!!! Panic ensued, and in seconds the other dozen birds were in the air and heading toward tree branches, the top of the fence, any available roosting place to get away from the dangerous feline. Morpheus essentially examined the tops of his paws and ignored all of the fuss. Mission accomplished. Birds suitably frightened, nobody hurt.
We have been privileged to have the turkeys create a couple of “roosting trees” in our back yard, and the birds have developed a ritual. Along about sundown, they assemble on the side of our house. One by one they flap over to the lower branches of the trees in the back yard, and then slowly jump from branch to branch, going ever higher, until they literally disappear within the pine needles and branches. We know there are 15 turkeys in those trees, but they are invisible. As compensation for roosting in our trees, they have been gifting us with many wing and tail feathers. We even founds some of the down from the youngsters, as they moulted that and grew in their real feathers. They are fascinating and soothing to watch. What a beautiful end to every day.