Friday, August 4, 2017

T'is the season of growth #phenology

I'm pretty sure that Wednesday night we had a small flock of turkeys roosting in the oak tree that overhangs and shades our deck. I would have reported this sooner if they had scared the daylights out of me in the morning, by flying down when I rehung the bird feeders. Unless, of course, they had scared me to death or close enough to it. There were two hens, an older and a "daughter?," plus seven  or eight poults that made quite a racket when they took off late in the morning. After descending to the back yard, they spent time scratching and feeding their way through our field of feral oregano. That's when they looked like this.

down from the roost, feeding in oregano
down from the roost, feeding in oregano
Photo by J. Harrington

That we had roosting turkeys became obvious when one of the larger poults perched on the deck railing. I have no idea why, unless it was contemplating trying to feed from the sunflower feeder, or it wanted to stretch its toes instead of wrapping them around a branch. It's possible the flock didn't roost overnight in the oak but just flew up to check things out. Possible, but from what zI know of turkeys, plus what I've read over the years, improbable. These birds are known to go to roost about sunset and to fly down in the morning when there's enough light to spot potential predators. Between the rains and the cloudy weather, it was gloomy around here and yesterday was a good morning for sleeping in.

poult on a railing
poult on a railing
Photo by J. Harrington

Later in the afternoon, the whole crew had worked their way around to the front of the house and the seed droppings created by the grosbeaks, squirrels and goldfinches. The older hen was showing her dominance and taking no sass from any of the poults. At one point we watcher her grab a poult's tail in her beak and drag it around the yard for a bit, just because the poult came too close to where the old hen was feeding. I've read about this kind of dominance in wolves and lions, but turkeys?

the "flock" at the from feeder
the "flock" at the from feeder
Photo by J. Harrington

As if the turkey distractions weren't enough, late in the afternoon, about 4:30 or so, strolling through the back yard were four deer: one mature doe, two that looked to be yearlings and a fawn from this year. They seem to be looking around to see if there was anything good left to eat after the turkeys had moved on. I know I've been mentioning the lack of sightings of both whitetails and turkeys this Summer. Perhaps word got out amongst the critters and they decided to make up for it, all in one afternoon. Like so much of the rest of life, we seem to be faced with feast or famine.

Birds Again


Jim Harrison, 1937 - 2016


A secret came a week ago though I already
knew it just beyond the bruised lips of consciousness.
The very alive souls of thirty-five hundred dead birds
are harbored in my body. It’s not uncomfortable.
I’m only temporary habitat for these not-quite-
weightless creatures. I offered a wordless invitation
and now they’re roosting within me, recalling
how I had watched them at night
in fall and spring passing across earth moons,
little clouds of black confetti, chattering and singing
on their way north or south. Now in my dreams
I see from the air the rumpled green and beige,
the watery face of earth as if they’re carrying
me rather than me carrying them. Next winter
I’ll release them near the estuary west of Alvarado
and south of Veracruz. I can see them perching
on undiscovered Olmec heads. We’ll say goodbye
and I’ll return my dreams to earth.


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