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Monday, May 4, 2020

When you see a sopping wet gobbler walking on a new-mown path, you know there's been too much rain. Wild turkeys hate hard rain. They hate getting their feathers soaked, for good reason--they can get chilled and die. So they resort to meadows and even lawns--anywhere they can go and not brush up against wet vegetation--when it's cold and rainy. I know to look for them in the meadow on such mornings, and am often rewarded.

It's especially nice when they come close to the deck, and I can creep ever so softly out and photograph them through the railings. Nice beard on this one. It's the height of turkey season here now, and there are more hunters in the woods than usual because they're bored and not working. I'm sure any hunter would like to bag this gobbler as a trophy. It seems so dumb to me,  get all excited about how long a turkey's beard is,  or how long his leg spurs are, but people do what they do. They're always counting coup on wildlife, lying in wait and calling them up, spreading corn in the woods, trying to kill them, then setting up ways to measure how "good" a gobbler is. To me, if he's out there and alive, he's good. He's no good dead, unless you're hungry. He won't get shot on my 80 acres, if everyone behaves himself.

I'd no sooner finished photographing this gent than another showed up on the other side of the meadow. Phoebe spotted him and sent me scrambling to get in position again.

You can see he's got a livid red engorged wattle, so he's probably been displaying down in the woods. 

He was headed for Bill's grave, which is the dark patch to the right, and backed by a blizzard of dogwood, and he stopped to gobble right there! If you click on the photo you can see the gobble posture: head thrown forward, a little awkwardly.

I like this shot because it says so much. The dogwoods tell you it's late April. The lone pine where Bill decided he wanted to rest. His grave to the left. And in the foreground, a crummy looking little shrub. That's got a story to it, too. The whole time we were living here, Bill was buggin' me about digging a pond out in the meadow. He wanted a pond smack dab in the middle of the meadow so he could watch for ducks and solitary sandpipers and yellowlegs and snipe and the like. Bill was a goal-oriented birder. 

Our argument hinged on the inescapable fact that this pond would be at the high point of a dry ridge. I told him, again and again, that I had no desire to look at a dry hole or a mud puddle, because I could guarantee that thing was gonna dry up every summer. Where's the runoff? I'd ask. 

So he had a test hole dug by our friend Mr. Crum when he was out here doing some bobcatting with his little dozer. And it holds water...sometimes. In spring. Some springs. And because you can't mow a hole, some shrubs sprang up and there they are to this day. With a hole. With a few inches of water at the bottom. That, I guess, is Bill's pond. That's as far as he got. I'm frankly glad it isn't a couple acres big with shrubs all around it. That's what I'm glad of. You can't mow a hole.

I've been watching jays. I have a lot of jays this spring. I watch them like some kind of addled eagle, all day long (when I'm at my desk). Because if I watch long enough, I might catch something like this.

On the right is a known jay from 2017 that I named Little Bit. See the little flash of white at the primary coverts? Unique. Nobody else has that.

In this shot, you can see the little bit of spangled white on Little Bit's brow, if you click on the photo.
I was under the impression that Little Bit was a male. In 2018, I had photographed it making a call that I thought was the male jay's "squeaky gate" call. 

Apparently not. Because LIttle Bit is getting fed by her mate here. I about fell over. Data points. Gathering them like a jay gathers acorns, all the time. Storing them away. Hoping to learn something. Learning every minute.

The real point of this post is to show you something wonderful. In mid-April, I answered a plaintive call from Geoff Heeter at the New River Birding and Nature Festival, based in Fayetteville, West Virginia. I have given a keynote without fail every Friday of that festival for the last 18 years. EIGHTEEN YEARS. I look forward to it sooo much. I love the festival, its organizers, Opossum Creek Resort (where it's held). I love the birds and mountains and wildlife. I love being around my old friends and making new ones. I love taking my dog, whether Chet or Curtis, to charm and entertain the people who come. Last year was Curtis' debut and he did not disappoint. 

I also love the fact that the festival raises money for an education fund that brings nature education into Fayette County schools. I really love that. 
But the festival had to be canceled this year, and we all hated that. 
Geoff wanted me to do a virtual keynote. Uh oh. I am real good at real life, at showing up and entertaining people. I am not good at virtual life, unless you count this blog as virtual...

So I thought about it, and decided to take my phone along and set it on VIDEO and just record a normal Zick morning on the bluebird box trail. 

And amazing stuff started to happen. 

One after another, amazing things happened. Was it because I was recording? Was it because life is just amazing, and when you make a video of it, you realize how jam-packed it is? I'm not sure, but I am so glad Geoff Heeter asked me to do this. Even though it took me most of a week to collect, edit, string them together, make transitions, and then consult with my kids to figure out how to present them in a goof-proof way for my "virtual keynote." Which actually came off without too much of a hitch, as long as you don't count the entire day I spent freaking out before we figured out how to put them all on a YouTube playlist for easy access. Virtual anything...bleh. These videos though...YAY!

Without further ado, I refer you to a series of five very short videos. Clicking this link will play them all in order. And you won't be sorry. It's a Day in the Life, Zick Style.


Delightful!! Wish I were you ...younger & observant!!

I want you to know I used my meager internet to enjoy your day. Nice to see. Can you enlighten me as to why some video has the black bars on the sides and some doesn’t?

You never disappoint. Thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! It is so nice to know that there is someone who is as crazy as I am (in a good way) and who does so many oddball things in a day that mirror my own life, even though nobody knows what goes on most days but me. I have discovered a pair of RED HEADED Woodpeckers that I am obsessed with checking on daily, and today discovered R H Woodpecker number three. Could there be more? You can bet I will be hiking up that long hill to check on them even more now! Nature never ceases to amaze me and I feel so lucky to live in the woods in the midst of it all. Thanks for sharing your life as candidly as you do.

Such a generous gift. Thank you.

I am so glad other people have days like I often have. I enjoyed the video so much and the ending quote was perfect!

Great to see the bluebirds in all different situations. They are blessed to have you looking after them. A good life in the country. Peace.

Zick: watching your video.... what a wonderful way to start our cold gray day in central Ohio. So very glad to see and hear you, Phoebe, and Liam (Curtis, Angus, Sugar Bean, etc!!!). Terrific that you are all together during the big sequester. I'm going to go prep some mushrooms for breakfast! Best to all of you. Jim Murrin

Squeeeeee!!!!! Just about the most perfect thing to watch today! Thanks for the look over your shoulder. Sure was fun.

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