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13 January 2006
Bedtime for turkeys

Turkey Bedtime 1.2006 2For the past few weeks, we've been noticing that our most local small flock of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are as reliable as clockwork. Every evening at 5:00, if we're home, we hear the loud crashing of turkey wings beating through tree branches as the turkeys begin their nightly roosting routine.

Our little flock of 12 or 15 turkeys has chosen a small stand of mature hardwood trees in a low, wet area that is surrounded by a much larger stand of white pines and open grassland. The first few times we heard this series of loud, irregular and abrupt sounds, we weren't sure what we were hearing. Deer crashing antlers on small trees? Nope, this is much louder than that. Some other large animal breaking through suspended ice? Maybe... Finally, we stood still long enough to make out the sounds of big wingbeats over the sounds of tree branch impacts and figured it out. Also, if we stand in just the right spot, they become visible as the work their way up higher and higher until they're probably 20-30 feet off the ground. [Sorry for the poor picture, dusk is not the best time of day for low-end digital photography.]

We've been entertained by the almost-comical sights and sounds of wild turkey roosting before, but never right here in our backyard - until this winter. On one particular stretch of trout stream on the west side of the state, we share the company of a small band of turkeys almost everytime we fish there. And we've often stood, fly rod still, watching them with smiles on our faces in slight disbelief at the clumsy awkwardness and sheer racket of their nightly process.

On the ground, wild turkeys are large, powerful, elegant birds, but it's difficult to appreciate these features while watching them jump, flapping and flailing awkwardly, grabbing branches and smashing through the canopy to their nightly roosting places.

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