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Gardening For Wildlife, Issue #009 More spring and wild turkeys
March 26, 2007

I forgot to mention, that Yolanda finally has her adjustable casts for both legs.

They are designed to slowly stretch her leg muscles and hopefully uncurl her toes.

She wears them twice a day for a total of three hours right now. The time will grow as she gets used to them.

Keet and Pookie are enjoying the evening walks now that the snow is gone.

Karen is happy, no more winter dirt to drag in.

How are things going for you?

I can tell you, there aren't enough hours in the day for me right now.

For now, the weather is all about Spring.

The daytime temperatures are in the sixties and we've been getting our share of sunshine.

Last week some serious thunderstorms move through the area. I love a good thunderstorm, do you?

A nice light show and house shaking thunder.

The smell of rain.

All the rain washed away the winter dirt and grime. You know the stuff that builds up from air pollution road salts etc.

The grass is greening up and crocus are in bloom.

Listening to the frogs (peepers) around the wetlands and ponds is true music isn't it?

I love Spring!

With all the waterfowl landing on the local ponds and waterways and other birds coming and going, it is enough to give air traffic controllers nightmares.

Yet with all the in bound and out bound traffic, there isn't one collision to report.

The birds are in full chorus now. Robins are singing their love/territory songs.

The several pair of cardinals I enjoy during the winter is now one regular pair the frequent our yard.

Chickadees and other birds are in song as well.

The patch work of yellow and olive green on the male American goldfinch.

The tree swallows are back.

All signs of spring.

Still, is it really spring until the Juncos have headed north. They know the real deal.

Keep your feeders filled and cleaned if possible. I understand in bear country that is difficult, however.

By keeping feeders filled and water handy, you can get some really good backyard birding.

With the lack of natural food this time of year, non migratory birds will welcome your offerings.

Especially with extra energy required for mating, nesting and babies.

By keeping your feeders filled, you will help out migrants and some may stay.

Yes, birds you may not other wise have, stop by for a few days to feed and freshen up.

Grosbeaks, White-crowned and White-throated sparrows will visit my yard for a good two weeks before heading on to Canada's breeding grounds.

Warblers will often stop for a bath and on a rare occasion, a feed. Warblers are insect eaters, but will visit a feeder in time of need.

After my surgery last November, I had plenty of time to do go for walks and look out windows.

It gave me time I wouldn't have to watch and observe nature.

One such observation was the wild turkeys around here.

They cover a lot of territory.

I learned that turkeys don't have a special tree for roosting. Rarely did I see them in the same tree 2 nights in a row.

What ever tree they were near that night was home.

I could go weeks and not see them at all.

If you haven't seen wild turkeys up close, they are a BIG bird. The male or "Gobbler" stands about four feet and the female or hen stands about three feet. Young turkeys are called "poults".

Though turkeys prefer to run, they are pretty good in flight when they need to be.

Turkeys hang out in separate groups, Males in one gang and the hens and youngsters in another. The only time they get together is for "March Madness"

No, No, No,

Not Basketball,

For Turkey Whoopee! (March and April)

The male struts his stuff and shows his feathers hoping to impress the gals. A tom will mate with as many hens as he can.

After mating season, they go their own way once again. Yep, the guys hang out the rest of the year and are joined by last seasons young toms.

The hen builds a depression on the ground, usually in a wooded area or forest with a well established under story. She will cover it with vines, grasses and old leafs.

She does all the work from here on in.

She will lay anywhere from 10 to 15 eggs.

Often predators like coons, snakes, skunk, and fox will feast on eggs and babies.

Once hunted to dangerous levels, turkeys have been re-introduced to many locations (including Michigan) where they now thrive and are hunted under strict regulations.

Turkeys eat anything from slugs to salamanders and insects of all sizes. They also enjoy nuts, berries, plant buds and of course, our offerings aren't turned down.

As you may know, Ben Franklin wanted the turkey as America's National bird and lost by only one vote.

Thankfully the Bald eagle is our National bird and turkey is on the menu, not our flags and money.

Mickie in the Adirondacks, NY has this turkey story to share (Mickie's turkeys in this photo).

So many wild turkeys this winter! It looks like they had a good breeding and survival season last year. They've been coming here for years and there are usually about 2 to 2 1/2 dozen at my feeders. This year there are about 40. So many are last year's poults.

These of course are the older hens, younger hens and younger toms from last year. The toms stay with their mothers in the flock until breeding season. They then leave to form their own flocks until they're old enough to challenge the bigger Toms for hens for their harems. It is thought that they stay together because there's safety in numbers. Older toms are usually solitary, although on occasion one will be seen with a slightly younger, smaller male companion.

All males, or Toms, have a feather hanging down from the middle of their chests and it's called the beard. The older the Tom, the longer and thicker the 'beard'. On some of the older Toms it's so long that it drags on the ground. Last year's poult have just a stub of a feather. It's really funny to see. They like to challenge each other, but never actually fight. Just looking at that beard and everyone knows that they're just teenagers.

This past Wednesday there were just about 2 dozen turkeys at the feeders. I couldn't understand why since there's still a couple of feet of snow on the ground, and under it there's still a layer of ice. It's hard for all the creatures to break through that for food. After looking at the turkeys I realized why there were so many fewer - they were all hens. Not one juvenile male to be found.

Although it looks like it's still winter to me, the turkeys decided that they are going to stick with their middle of March breeding schedule! The hens kicked out the juvenile males to live on their own now. Soon the big toms will be arriving to court the hens. That is a sight to see! Soon, very soon. I'll have to let you know what goes on, including the plumage of the toms and how magnificent they are!

Well, it's time to fly

Remember to wear your smile and share it with a stranger this week.

You just might make someone's day and make yourself feel good in the process.

As always

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson.

PS. please feel free to forward this onto friends, family and co-workers.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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