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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Call of the Turkeys

People have varied reactions the first time they see where I live. Most are as awe-stricken as I am every morning when I awake and see the Valley as it was carved out by ancient glaciers moving slowly southward. I am captivated by the play of light and the expanse of sky when each morning dawns. I have three cameras; each one has dozens of photographs I have taken to catch the lightning, fog, snow, fall foliage. I keep trying to catch just the right photograph, the one that catches the splendor stretched out before me. Other visitors are horrified that I live so far from city conveniences such as free food delivery, theatres and gas stations. None of them, I am quite sure, imagine the turkeys. Yes, they ask, “So, do you have bears? Ever see coyotes? Any sightings of bobcat, red fox, deer, grouse, pheasants, owls, or otters(only locals would guess to ask this one). But the lowly turkey is overlooked. Living here, I have grown accustomed to all manners of bird calls. The early morning hoot-hooting of owls will wake me through closed windows. The angry cawing of crows, for reasons harking back to some primitive instinct, gives me chills. I listen closely for cardinals calling. Once so common, I see them less often here. The woodpecker’s knocking heralds his visits every time. What I have not seemed to become accustomed to is the perversely LOUD sound of twenty or more turkeys gobbling. Our property seems to be their heaven. The serenade starts as early as 4:30 a.m.. These fowl paw the ground as they hunt for food, then pause to gobble, gobble, gobble. This is not a delicate or gentle sound. It is loud, gutteral, and forceful… even more so when the males go head to head in a dispute, presumably over territory. The males’ feathers are duller and they are slightly smaller than the females. I read that when I was trying to learn more about their behaviors. One night, I was outside when I heard the unearthly, blood- curdling cry of turkeys under attack, presumably by coyotes. I listened helplessly as the slaughter seemed to go on and on. Suddenly, the moonlit, snow-covered evening was restored to quiet. The next day, the turkey population had shrunk by half. The turkeys and I have established a truce of sorts. So, too, has my cat, apparently. I have a video of my cat milling among the turkeys. Suddenly, he paused to dig a hole. Business done, he crouched down, honed in on his prey and dove in to attack. Seven turkeys escaped in a running, flying hop. That running, flying hop was almost the undoing of one of those turkeys last week. I heard the fowls snacking under my window. Something spooked them. I heard the alarmed flap of their wings as they charged uphill. They rounded the corner of the house and came into full view. One of them took a flying leap and the others bravely followed. A loud, wall-shattering thud was evidence of what poor aviators turkeys must be. He had flown head-first into the house. I hurried to my window and expected to see a turkey, stunned, or more likely, dead, on the brick walk. Instead, the turkey shook its head, and raced to catch up with its compatriots. It would seem their survival as a species may be well-assured. Day 7

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