Monday, May 22, 2006
While waiting for the school bus today, I spotted a doe, deep in the shadows, nervously waiting to cross the road. I grabbed my camera, turned it on, waited the eternity for it to wake up, another eternity to reset it from Play to Shoot, finally heard the click that said it was ready to take a picture...and shot this as she hurried across the asphalt. Deer hate asphalt; their hooves clatter and slip on it, and they have to work up their courage both to enter the open and skitter across the unfriendly substrate. For them, it's like wearing stilettos on ice, and it's why so many of them blunder around in the road and get hit by cars. So they hesitate before crossing. Good thing, or I'd never have gotten this cool picture. One of these years, I'll get a camera upgrade...
And a little child shall lead them...Phoebe bounced off the bus a moment later, begging to walk down the path to a secret pond near where I pick them up every afternoon. One of my cardinal rules is never to deny a child who wants to explore nature. (I'd had the same thought; it was a bright sunshiny day, and I wanted to see what the red-spotted newts were up to). Liam did NOT want to go, and when a triple Scorpio doesn't want to do something, you've got to tread carefully. I hugged him and whispered in his ear, "Come on, Liam. I'll make it fun for you. I promise." Finally, he oozed off the car seat and tromped down to the path.
You can see by the way he's walking he's still real mad.
By the time we got down to the pond and saw the newts squirting off into deeper water with every step we took, Liam was fine, as I knew he would be. This pond is full of bluegills and newts, and they're really fun to watch as they hang in the water, copulate, and do their bluegilly/newtly business. Liam squinted off into the woods. "I think I see a zherky." And there was a fine wild turkey far off down the path, a hen, and I could tell by her behavior that she had poults with her; her wings were drooping and her head was about as high in the air as it would go. I could also see that she was very upset, darting side to side. I gave a running commentary to the kids, who had no binoculars.
"She's got chicks, I know it. I can't see them, but the way she's behaving... And she's really upset, but we're too far away for it to be about us."
"Here they come. 1,2,3,4,5, at least six. Really young. Maybe only four or five days. Striped, downy."
"She's flying! Why would she fly? She's flying straight up in the air, like a helicopter! I've never seen a turkey do that! What on earth is she doing?"
"Oh my GOSH! She's knocked a red-tailed hawk right out of the air! He must have been after the chicks!"
And she had, body-slammed this red-tail off his perch, after a 30' absolutely straight vertical climb. It was a flight such as I'd never have guessed her capable of. Imagine the effort of lifting a 15-pound body 30' straight up in the air. The red-tail faltered and sideslipped, flopped to a perch, and sat for awhile eyeing the poults while the turkey clambered around in the pine branches facing it, doubtless planning another attack. The hawk beat a retreat, flapping hard. Meanwhile, the poults had scurried into thick brambles, as their mother had doubtless told them to.
The hen turkey helicoptered back down and disappeared on down the path with her chicks.
But for Liam, I'd never have seen the turkey. But for Phoebe, I'd just have buckled them both in their seats and headed home. Phoebe had the good idea. Liam might just look forward to the next walk a little more. And I know one more thing about turkeys. My heart is full.
Posted by Julie Zickefoose at 6:05 PM