Early summer, the forecast was for temperatures in the low 90°s, not my kind of weather. But at dawn it was in the 60°s, rising to just over 70° by the time we’d finished breakfast. So H drove me to the top of the ridge where I could walk an old, old road down into the Big Woods – downhill all the way to where we’d left my car.
The ridgetop is occupied by an oak forest, perfect food for caterpillars of the accidentally introduced gypsy moth. Pieces of oak leaves were scattered on the ground; gypsy moth caterpillars are sloppy eaters –
A short way further down the old road several rattlesnake-weed plants were in bloom –
On down the hill I went until suddenly a great commotion arose from the bracken fern and black huckleberry growing alongside the old road. The loud sound and thrashing set me back for a moment until I realized that it was a female wild turkey protecting her young. She burst from the plants sounding her alarm call loudly, spreading her wings and running across the grassy road as her poults scattered and hid.
She continued to run around me in ever-widening circles, calling loudly all the time. I missed getting the beginning of her display, but here’s a bit of the performance she put on –
When she first exploded from the vegetation I saw several of the poults, one poult ran to a large fallen branch a side of which was off the ground. As the hen got further away I decided to look for the poult beneath the branch. It took a while, but there it was –
Turkey poults often hide beneath fallen leaves and there’s always the danger of stepping on a hidden poult. Poults that survive their first two weeks of life can fly short distances, greatly increasing their odds of survival.
With that it was time to move on and allow the turkeys to reunite. Although later there were photos of flowers and a stream, the turkeys were the highlight of the morning. The rest of my walk through the Big Woods was uneventful, and then it was time to head home and stay cool.