Thanksgiving


Video link

I went out turkey-stalking this morning, armed only with a camera. Half-way along the old woods road to the Far Field, I found three sets of tracks. The snow was beginning to melt in the strong sunlight, but these looked very fresh. I put the camera on video setting as I approached the last bend.

And there they were. They started running as soon as they saw me. It wasn’t the best view I’ve ever had of wild turkeys by a long shot, but for once I had my camera with me. I was only sorry they didn’t fly. They’re intriguing enough on the ground — there’s definitely still a bit of the dinosaur about them — but when a flock of turkeys takes to the air, it’s a heart-stopping experience. One never expects something so large to fly so well. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to catch that on film someday. (Yes, I know — some of you in the suburbs, where turkeys are never hunted, get much better views.)

turkey scratching

When I got to where they’d been, the ground was all scratched up. They’ve spent most of the autumn down in the valley gleaning corn, as usual, but now that turkey season is safely over, the turkeys have moved back up on the mountain. Unlike their domestic cousins, wild turkeys are extremely canny birds. We do allow turkey hunting on our land, but many years go by without a single bird being taken. If our friends are any indication, turkey hunters are a pretty dedicated lot, but sometimes I suspect they’re just looking for an excuse to spend a fine autumn day out in the woods.

wild turkey tracks

The snow was just right for tracking: neither too wet or too dry, too deep or too thin. I crossed paths with ruffed grouse, raccoon, deer, squirrel, and a couple species of mice. But the best find of the morning had to be the very graphic remains of someone else’s Thanksgiving feast — almost certainly a red-tailed hawk’s, judging by the size of the wingprints. Here’s a slideshow of the struggle, in the order I think it unfolded. (Those with slow connections can access the set here.)

As I waited for a shadow to move off the remains of the squirrel, I could hear the twittering of a mixed winter flock of songbirds drawing near. The hawk’s leftovers won’t be going to waste, I think. As for me, I was just grateful for this photographic bounty to share with y’all. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates it, and thanks for reading. I don’t know if it makes sense, logically or theologically, for an agnostic to feel blessed, but I’ve never claimed to be a logical person. All I know is my blessings are too many to count.

18 Comments


  1. I give thanks that you transport us into your woods to hear a porcupine gnaw in the gloaming, or watch turkeys skedaddle. Gratitude for beauty, grace, and the irreducible truth of nature requires no deity in my view.

    On a less elevated level, I’m now fighting the urge to present the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line with a novel stuffing problem.

    Your dino reference reminded me of a former law partner who stayed at the corporate client’s hunting lodge. He humiliated himself the next morning by calling with a panting emergency: six turkeys resting on rental car. Jurassic Park!

    Also loved (what does this say?) the squirrel viscera. Such operatic beings the squirrels; so deserving of a libretto with long-nailed gesticulations and mad chittering. The score: angsty, angular, Finnish.

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  2. How interesting. I’m from Scotland and had never seen either a wild turkey or a porcupine, and certainly had no idea that porcupines could climb trees. It is satisfyingly fat and furry. How can it get so chunky, just gnawing trees? Or maybe it eats other, more nourishing food, too.

    Thanks for posting these.

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  3. Gee, Dave, no wonder those turkeys ran away so fast. I would too if I met someone playing a harmonica that loud while walking through the bush! (just kidding — loved the soundtrack).

    Happy thanksgiving!

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  4. I think it makes plenty sense for an agnostic to feel blessed, Dave.

    Thanks for that turkey video — it makes my evening. :-) (Well, it and the glass of sherry I’m enjoying now as we watch the Texas/A&M game…)

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  5. What blessings you have here, indeed, Dave! Thanks for sharing, I loved the patterns on the snow in the second set. Happy thanksgiving!

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  6. That’s absolutely fantastic. I particularly loved pictures 3 & 4 in the slideshow – the splaying of weed and wood and feather.

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  7. Yes to Turkey in the Straw and the hawk wing snowshadows. Gorgeous photos.

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  8. Way cool, hope you had a happy thanksgiving!

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  9. JMartin – That corporate client might not have been so crazy. Judging by the turkey videos on YouTube, sometimes they can get pretty aggressive. One of our hunter friends was attacked once when he was using a turkey call.

    Thanks for that link. My latest thinking about a Morning Porch book has taken a more ambitious turn: I’d like to keep making daily entries for five years, and then arrange them in synoptic fashion, with five brief paragraphs/stanzas for each day.

    Isabelle – Thanks for stopping by. That is the typical porcupine physique, and I don’t know how to account for it. They are strict vegetarians. They may eat other plants and leaves in the summer, but all winter long it’s nothing but tree bark and twigs.

    bev – Ha! You’re on to me. Yes, that’s why the camera was shaking, too. Damn harmonica.

    Rachel – If you say so. (I hope U of T kicked A&M butt!)

    marja-leena – Thanks! Yes, I was pleased by how well those photos turned out. I can’t imagaine I would’ve liked the results nearly as well if I’d been lucky enough to catch the hawk in the act.

    Lady P – Glad you liked those. I really like the new Flickr slideshow, the way it gives a full-screen option.

    ..deb – Thanks.

    David – You too! Yes, the feast-and-family part of my Thanksgiving went well. It just wasn’t as photogenic.

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  10. If only the turkeys given a fighting chance with Palin.
    ————–
    So much for your self-vaunted “easy” approach to the Morning Porch project! But you’ve left me torn: multiple takes on the same day — once proposed — sounds stone-plonk-in-stream resonant and absolutely integral.

    But five years? I know that I’m older, and I gather less hopeful: can we talk you into three stanzas?

    What about a subscription chapbook for MP fans who commit to purchase the final product? It could contain the first year of entries, with room to paste in the next stanza from the web. Too Advent Calendar?

    Am starting to sound like one of the Sixth Graders from my nfp’s reading room. Her constant plea to exceed weekly new book allotment: “But I NEED this book.”

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  11. Wow. Hope you had a good one (thanksgiving, not turkey).

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  12. Well, JMartin, I was wondering whether a database sort of arrangement would be an interim digital solution. There’s already the “last year” link on this year’s MPs… some clever person could make an interface like a yearbook-adapted google calendar and each new Porch could slot in to the appropriate date, allowing a visual, clickable navigation. And of course it would be searchable so if you have a particular interest in, say, goldenrod, you could get all the entries containing that word, possibly displayed in interesting ways (a highlighted dot on each day they occur on the calendar? a different colour for each year?)

    Of course this is nothing like paper. But given the nature of the means of original distribution wouldn’t it be exciting to extend the concept to more flexible digital home?

    Dave, what do you think?

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  13. Hi Dana and Jo! Just saw five more turkeys this morning as I drank my coffee (coming very soon to a tumblelog near you), so the blessings continue…

    JMartin and Lady P – One of the attractions of waiting a few more years to produce a paper artifact, aside from the additional richness, is that I won’t feel so reluct to engage in overnight travel (say, for example, if I decided to go visit blogging friends in London). Some days will end up with four entries instead of five – no big deal.

    The database idea sounds really cool. Do you have any idea what tools I could use? Email me. (Note that it’s already searchable – the Tumblr search function seems to work pretty well. Which is cool, because there’s no way I’m going to weigh down the entries with tags yet.)

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  14. Thanks for these photos. I’ve never seen wing prints on snow — just incredible.

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  15. I love the photos of the snow and tracks. The colors and shapes are lovely, steel blue, rust, white, really nice.

    Thanks for sharing your walk and observations.

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  16. The wing prints on the snow look quite angelic, in the sense perhaps of angels as God’s assassins!

    That clear sense of gratitude with no apparent object is one of the things that keeps me the agnostic side of atheist.

    I enjoy Thanksgiving since I’ve been blogging, I never thought much about it before.

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