Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ike and Tina Turkey


It's spring. Finally.

Despite waves of cold vigorous April showers, the Back Forty pulsed with avian activity Sunday.

Troupes of sparrows busily scavenged the lawn and shrubs for small clippings of grass for the nests they're building in our -- ahem -- rain gutters: The females are stern, business-like and efficient -- their mates, not so much. The males poke half-heartedly at the ground for a minute or two before flitting off to pester their competitors darting in and out of the arbor vitae.

The finches -- gold and house -- and a newcomer, ruby crowned kinglets (I think), attack the seed sacks with gusto, three and four birds at time if the gang will tolerate it. The male goldfinches are now bright yellow and full of themselves, batting interlopers off the seed sacks, then tearing off in pursuit of each other, dipping and cresting into the cedars at the end of the yard.

The Back Forty is in constant motion.

And so I worked away in the flowerbeds until my surgical toes let me know they didn't particularly care for the kneeling-on-a-garden-pad-digging-in-the-ground-and-dragging-green-shit-across-the-flower-bed position.

Whatever. It was starting to sprinkle anyway.

Ben and I gathered up our gear and headed inside to prepare for a little icing. I munched on a on piece of cheese while I filled my two buckets, then sat down for some soaking and a few rousing  rounds of Humiliation Words with Friends.

And only then did I realize I left the package of cheese on the kitchen counter.

Poops. I lumbered upright, dried my foot and walked over to the counter to put away the cheese. The Back Forty was eerily still, the air silent -- because. . . pecking and scratching at the base of our two hanging feeders. . . was a young wild turkey hen.


Now, wild turkeys are not uncommon on the urban South Hill. There are a couple well-known flocks in neighborhoods to the east of us -- one, in fact, resides in an empty lot right next to my brother- and sister-in-law's house -- and sometimes I hear their distinct chatter when out walking the dog.

But I can't say I've ever experienced wild turkeys this far west on the Hill. And obviously the small song birds that frequent the Back Forty hadn't either -- they had cleared out when the
1 1/2-foot tall bird wandered into their feeding grounds.

Of  course, I hollered for my date and grabbed my point-and-shoot with the zoom lens.

Batteries dead as a door nail. H-E-double hockey sticks.

I pulled off my socks. It was going to be me, the cell phone camera and Tina the Turkey up close and personal. In the pouring rain.

First turkey take-away: Turkeys are NOT skittish birds. Tina let me get within just under 4 feet to snap a few pictures. She was clearly far more interested in lunch.

My kind of gal.

"Get some pictures of her tail feathers," my date offered helpfully.

That's when the fun began. Second turkey take-away: While Tina had no problem with me in FRONT of her, she was decidedly less enthusiastic as I attempted to circle around behind her.

And so began an odd little tarantella around our privacy hedge . I'd go around one corner to catch her backside on camera, and Tina would step THROUGH the hedge to other side, thereby thwarting my photographic efforts.

The fruit of my photographic efforts.
This went on for about five minutes. In the pouring rain.

Yes, I am a quick study.

I finally retreated back into the house to dry out. And Tina, having exhausted the seed spillage scattered around the feeders, wandered off to wherever turkeys go -- the end of our Great Turkey Adventure.

Or was it?

Two loads of laundry later, I wandered through the kitchen and glanced out the window into The Back Forty. A much larger, darker, dappled version of Tina -- a tom -- was calmly grooming himself on the lawn. Tiny had recommended us to a friend!


Ike the Turkey had no interest in feeding -- he was on a mission of cleanliness as he worked from tail feathers to breast, fluffing and meticulously preening over each feather. He too had no worries as my date and I crept out into the backyard and approached him.

After posing for a few pics, Ike turned back to grooming. Feathers gleaming, it was time to finish the job. he ambled into the flowerbed and began scratching out body-sized indentation into which he finally flopped.


For the next five minutes, Ike rolled and thrashed in the flowerbed (me mentally warning him that it would be Thanksgiving in April if he so much as touched the peony I almost killed last summer), kicking up dirt to make more room for his expansive butt and breast. And suddenly he was done -- he stepped out of flowerbed, flared his feathers (which resulted in an impressive dust storm) and meandered slowly down the driveway, across our neighbor's front lawn -- and he was gone.

God speed, Ike and Tina Turkey. Feel free to stop by any time -- and join the rest of the gang!

1 comment:

  1. Here on the east coast near DC, wild turkeys are pretty rare as well. Every once in a while I'll see one on my dog walk. However, ours are not of the same brave stock as yours. They flee if you get within a couple hundred feet. Or maybe they are fleeing the dogs, but, poof!, they are gone in an instant and I've never caught one on camera.