Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Don't you look at me!

Wild Turkey

This morning my drive to work produced a flock of Wild Turkey, just where the forest ended and the neighboring orchard begins. By the time I pulled the car over and grabbed the camera, most of the flock was already hidden in the tall grass, except for this guardian. It’s not just that this photo is missing the rest of the big birds, it’s also missing the peeps. I saw at least 3 tiny turkey-ettes before they disappeared in the grass. The peeps were no taller than the big birds’ knees, nothing but tiny brownish balls of fluff.

Finding tiny peeps (or poults as they are more rightly called) now is odd. Typically, the little ones hatch around the end of May after a 28-day incubation. The male gobblers are at their strutting best in spring. Since these poults couldn’t be more than a week or so old, I suspect that the hen’s original clutch of eggs was destroyed as it is rare for them to re-nest in the same season if they raise a brood.

It isn’t unusual for a hen to lose her eggs. I’m told that less than half make it to hatching. Turkeys nest on the ground, where they are highly vulnerable to predation, especially by raccoons, of which there are many around Roundtop. And raccoons aren’t the only dangers—snakes, fox, skunk, opossum. It’s a long list.

In any event, mama turkey has a young brood now, and hopefully it’s not too late in the season for them to do well and be large enough to survive the winter. This flock isn’t a huge one, but there are enough aunts in them to help mama keep an eye on those babies.

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