My guy and I–we drove to Portland this morning for a two-hour meeting and then enjoyed lunch with one of his sisters at the Miss Portland Diner before moving on to South Portland to run an errand and finally returning home.
Too much food and sitting time. And so the woods beckoned.
Right out the back door, male turkeys took advantage of our offerings. The snow is crusty and while acorns were plentiful, foraging for them has become a more difficult task. But birdseed is free feed and once discovered means often frequented.
That’s OK for now because it gives me a chance to get to know these guys. We live in an 1870s house on former farmland (I often refer to the cowpath), all of which played a part in the reduction of forest land, one of the factors that led to the extirpation of native wild turkeys in Maine. Slowly, the land has reverted to forest, which helped in reestablishing turkeys to their former range. At the same time, our neighbors, thankfully, continued to mow the adjacent field that we look upon, which provides for prime turkey nesting habitat.
Tom and his brother Tom and his other brother Tom are handsome devils in their own unique ways. Their featherless heads of blue and pink and red raised bumps called caruncles change colors with their moods.
And on their chests, bristle-like feathers that don’t look at all like feathers are referred to as beards (by us humans–I’m not sure what turkeys call them). Though some hens sport beards, theirs are not as robust or long as those of the Toms.
“You looking at me?” asked Tom.
“Yes, I am. I’m admiring your iridescent feathers layered like slates on a roof and those spurs on your legs used for defense and dominance. Do you object?”
“Well, I guess I am rather handsome.”
“I didn’t say that.”
Yeah, the turkeys and I, we talk. We’ve long had a relationship and I truly don’t think you should eat them. Maybe next Thanksgiving I’ll tell you my turkey story. I know they can leave a mess in the yard and become aggressive, but . . .
I encourage you to follow their tracks into the woods. You never know where they might lead.
Following them today led to the vernal pool. Note the pen, my form of perspective in relationship to size because it’s what I had in my pocket. The pen measures 5.5 inches. Turkey prints are large.
The pool wasn’t teeming with amphibian life yet, but for the first time all winter, it was obvious that visitors had stopped by.
Their timing wasn’t the same, but the turkeys strutted across, while deer slid and skidded on the ice. Life happened over and over again.
It appeared to be more than one deer–perhaps a mother and a skipper or two wanted to skate, much as our sons used to do at this very same spot.
And among the prints, those of a predator, though its journey appeared to be earlier than the deer. Gray squirrel tracks circled the perimeter and maybe that was the intended prey, though really, any of these critters would have made a desirable meal–the forest being what it is, groceries gleaned when needed.
Continuing the journey, plenty more turkey tracks and then the white tails of deer flashing in the distance. Beside the trail another item on the grocery shelf–fresh hemlock bark scraped.
One final item in a different aisle–fresh pileated woodpecker holes. They wake us each morning with their drumming and the sound continues throughout the day. Wrapped around the tree, a vine that added to this bird’s food.
Its scat told of the source–not only a few carpenter ants, but also bittersweet fruits. Yes, this is how the seeds of this invasive species spread.
And so it was today that I traveled the woodland trail alone after a morning and afternoon spent with my guy. And . . . the Toms shared their story and those of others. It was indeed a Mondate–spent with others.
(Did you think I was going to mention Tom Brady? Congrats to the Pats on their Super Bowl victory.)