Wild Turkeys at Bent Tree

November 4-5, 2007

When we drove up the driveway to the Bent Tree house about 5pm on November 4, we came upon this column of wild turkeys, walking calmly up the driveway. We counted 19 birds. We eased up the driveway, and they were not greatly alarmed by our presence.

After going on the alert for a few moments on our parking area as we approached, they started moving leisurely out into the woods and up the wooded mountain.

As soon as they were in the woods, they almost disappeared from view, so effective was their camoflage. We watched the whole flock as they made their way diagonally up the slope of the mountain.

It was approaching sunset and the birds were probably headed toward their roosting spot up on the side of Big Stump Mountain. We watched them disappear up the slope. How many turkeys can you see in this picture?

November 5

I had been pleased to see the wild turkey flock last night, and didn't expect to see them again. But I was out about 8am to look at the leaves and heard steps in the dry leaves. I turned to see the column of turkeys coming back down the mountain toward our house.

Parts of the flock would stop and look for food, scratching in the leaves and pecking like I remember our chickens doing in the yard when I was young. As they grazed, they kept up a gentle peeping sound, like they were having a soft conversation as they ate.

More members of the flock came down the mountain in single file, like someone was telling them "Keep in line, now!" When they stopped to peck, they were very well camoflaged in the low morning light.

Since I was standing very still, some of the turkeys near the end of the column had not seen me when they came down the hill. So a couple of times, one of them would catch sight of me and poke their head up and give a little alarm chirp. But the others that had already seen me and decided that I was not a threat just ignored them and went on eating. It was like they were saying "Aw, you know Granddad is not going to hurt us."

There wasn't any doubt about which turkey was the leader. After a time of feeding, he advanced a few feet in front of the flock and gave three or four sharp chirps. Some members of the flock immediately formed a line, but some others dawdled, pecking at a few more bits of food. About what you would expect if you are leading a bunch of turkeys.

Finally, most of the flock was in line, heading down the mountain a few feet away from our driveway.

The flock stayed at this spot for several minutes. I was standing still about 15 feet away from them on the driveway, but they were paying no attention to me. I could hear the soft peeping sounds as they grazed.

"Alright! Time is up!"

The lead turkey lines them up and heads them on down toward the road.

The leader marched right on across the road, but his followers tended to lollygag back and peck on stuff.

"Come on, you guys!"
This group lagged so far behind in the woods that they had to be called. But it was a plaintive, gentle call by one of the turkeys in the rear of the column. It was like family - they made the effort to take care of each other and keep the flock together. It was neat to hear the different communication sounds they made.

Part of the flock grazed peacefully here by the side of the road for quite a while. Their little peeping sounds were very soothing and relaxing. I was standing still about 15 feet from them, having eased slowly down the driveway as they headed for the road through the woods. I expected them to go on down the mountain because of my presence, but to my surprise, the lead turkey decided to walk right by me and take the flock up Chestnut Cove Trail.

The members of the flock showed a little hesitation, but then followed his lead, going right by me.

We had seen turkey buzzards a few weeks ago and they are indeed similar in size.

This seemed like just the kind of setting in which you would see a wild turkey. Since no hunting is allowed here, they don't even have to worry about the fact that Thanksgiving is approaching.

The flock moved on up Chestnut Cove past Buckskull, headed toward their daily feeding ground. For the most part, they were very quiet and peaceful, but sometimes they would spread their wings and do a little dance.

It was a privilege for me to be a turkey for 30 minutes, or to at least be among them and be accepted without alarm. I have never had this experience before. There was pattern and harmony here - I got the picture that every morning they would travel from their roost spot to a feeding ground and then back in the evening just before dark. I could imagine that they might roost on one of the rock ridges above our house on the mountain, where they could fly off if a predator approached. It was a reverie for me to be among some of God's gentle creatures and reflect from the Desiderata "be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. An whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God ..." They seemed to be at peace.

RA Overnight at Bent Tree

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