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Turkey Day, Redefined

Thursday, March 23, 2006

March 23, and there were 23 turkeys in the backyard at sunrise. They come first thing in the morning, before I've gotten my shoes on to replenish their corn. I can almost hear the hens saying, "Rats. She's not up yet." The smart little hens have already figured out to make a second trip in late morning, when they're sure I'll have strewn more corn. The gobblers rarely eat anything; they're too focused on impressing the hens and each other. Today, 18 hens filed out and began to peck around, and five gobblers hurried out all together like a barbershop group, almost falling over each other in their eagerness to get out of the woods and start strutting. Turkeys seem to appreciate close-mown lawns. When it rains, they make a point of cutting through the yard and using our mown paths, because, I think, they hate brushing against wet vegetation. And of course, the visibility afforded by a mown lawn is ideal for their purposes in breeding season.
Chet had just finished his morning constitutional and was asking to come back in as the turkeys arrived. He raced down to the lower patio window to see if they were out there and his face was a study when he spotted them. If a dog could cuss, Chet would have turned the air blue. He was reduced to watching them, trembling with the pent-up desire to charge and send them all flapping off. Bless him, though, he doesn't bark or jump--just sits perfectly still and trembles. The turkeys see him there in the window, and calmly go about their business. I'm impressed with the restraint shown by both parties! When they were done eating and had ambled off, I let him out, and he tore out and chased phantasmagorical turkeys in circles. Who says dogs can't pretend?
23 turkeys. That's a lot of turkeys, a lot of corn. Last night I took off on the Loop at 6:15, reveling in the lengthening days that let me stay out until after 7. Even in the gloaming I could see vast areas of forest litter that had been scraped aside by turkey feet. Their impact on the woodlands is not trivial. I heard three woodcocks, though it was in the 30's. Chet and I put one up on the way down into the Chute. It was magic to hear that twitter so close, from invisible wings. I wondered if woodcocks benefit from the big cleared areas that turkeys create. It might just be easier to find earthworms if you don't have to sort through leaf litter.
This morning, when we came back from walking the kids out to the bus, "our" male tree swallow was in his usual spot on the phone wire by the house. There's been a male tree swallow in that precise spot for 9 nesting seasons. I don't know if it's the same bird, but I like to think it is. He comes back very early in spring, and you can walk right up underneath him and talk to him, and he doesn't fly off. He takes white goose feathers right out of our fingers to line his nest. He knows us, and we know him, and we're so glad to be his landlords. Welcome, swallow. Your nest box is clean and waiting for you.


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