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.)
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.
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.