Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gobble Gobble Guests

The 40 acre meadow behind our home, woodlands behind the meadow.
This winter, for the first time ever since living here, we saw wild turkeys.

Our half-acre piece of heaven abuts a large tract of conservation land, about 80 acres in total, divided between a meadow and woodlands.  Much of it is wetlands at least part of the year.  Extending from the northern border of the meadow is a large horse farm which I've been told is another 55 acres.

With this much open land so close to us, even in a small city, the variety of wildlife we see is amazing.  Especially when you realize that our front door opens onto one of the busiest streets in the city, we are literally positioned between the best of both worlds.  Our yard is a haven for birds and we enjoy watching them year round. This year, for the first time, we participated in the Cornell University Ornithology Department's "Birdwatch" Program.

In the meadow we've seen deer,
Four does who were following a buck across the far side of the meadow, March 2013
fishercats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, woodchucks (groundhogs), coyotes, and turkey vultures.  The smaller rodents (voles, moles, mice, chipmunks, and rabbits) and snakes frequently invade our garden.

Although we support "wildlife" and are careful not to use any chemicals on our property that might leach into the wetlands and affect the abundant creatures who reside in the woods and meadow.  We are also concerned about protecting the bees, butterflies and birds that visit the yard.  But we find that good fences make good neighbors when your neighbors include a lot of wildlife.  Ours is reinforced with chicken-wire buried deep enough to thwart the burrowers.  Yet, with all of the wildlife surrounding us, we had never seen wild turkeys. 

Then, on Sunday, February 24th, shortly before noon, the snow had just begun  to fly for yet another of our typical New England winter storms when my son shouted to me that there were turkeys in the front yard.  Turkeys.  In our yard!  Our front yard!  This is the part of the yard facing one of the busiest streets in the city!

Certain he was mistaken, I ran to the front door and looked out to see three large turkeys stroll up the walk past our front door, then circle through the driveway, and loop back to head down our walkway to the back gardens where they headed back off into the meadow behind our home.

With only a pair of socks on my feet, I slid both of my feet into my husband's boots and stepped out onto the front porch to try to get a closer look, then headed for the deck off the kitchen where I watched as they meandered along the trees behind the houses next to us and disappeared from view.  It was a bit of excitement but I figured we'd seen the last of them.

Of course, my camera wasn't handy either, but as soon as they were out of sight, I retrieved it and photographed and measured their foot prints. The middle of the print measured 7.25 inches (18.4 cm) in length.  Mighty big feet.  Mighty big turkeys.

Some time later, I heard my son shouting again, calling me to come immediately.  Apparently, the turkeys had scouted the yard and reported back to the rest of the flock that there was a veritable buffet here, and they had returned en masse.  Eleven of them.  Eleven turkeys feasting on the sunflower seeds I had strewn on the snow for the mourning doves and on the remaining crab apples in our apple tree.  At one point, there were six large turkeys in this one tree, gobbling up [sorry, bad pun] the tiny apples while others picked the sunflower seeds out of the snow.

Wild turkeys scavenging for sunflower seed in our front yard. 
A turkey nibbles one of the crab apples in the tree.  The dark shape behind him on the left is another large turkey.
Two turkeys in the tree feasting on the crab apples.

Two weeks ago, four of the turkeys appeared again in the meadow.  I was happy to see them in the field, but relieved that they stayed there.  I admit, birds this size are a little bit intimidating, and I've been told that they have been known to fly over fences into backyards to eat in this area.

Three of the four turkeys congregate during their foray into the meadow.
In this photograph aken from across the meadow, a wild turkey forages for food.

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