Turkey Tales

By Greg Lecker

At the entry to Three-Mile Drive, Tom turkeys boldly court their hens. Their behavior is right on schedule – occurring in March and April, while birds are still flocked together in winter sheltered areas. The males, with flushed red wattles, alternatively gobble at females and run in full display after the object of their polygamous affection. “Strutting their stuff” includes puffing out their body feathers, raising and fanning out tail feathers, and dragging their wings. Toms charge at each other as if to say “no she’s mine”. Other times they assign wingmen roles to each other. Meanwhile, the hens retreat to the home landscape garden. Skunked, the males check out a small opening under the deer exclusion fence. Two toms easily duck under the opening – while the third, displaying a lesser “bird brain”, nervously walks back and forth in front of the opening. After a few minutes, he successfully joins his bros.

Tom Turkeys and Hens
Tom Turkeys and Hens

The glare of the sun reflects off melting waters along the northern edge of the bog. Within inner trails, I find pussy willow just beginning to break from bud. Low morning sun basks marsh grasses in gold; leafless tamarack and alders glow a warm gray. On the shaded south side of Green Heron Pond, the woodland trails are still a bit icy, though covered with footprints.

Turkey Tracks and Iris Pond Outlet
Turkey Tracks and Iris Pond Outlet

The combination of ice and snow dusting on Iris Pond reveals explorations of turkeys that were probably seeking a drink of water at the outlet. Within Grace Dayton wild flower garden, a small patch of Jacob’s Ladder has just begun to emerge.

Jacob’s Ladder Foliage Emerging
Jacob’s Ladder Foliage Emerging

Deeper within the woodland, plenty of snow cover remains. This appears to be a different world from the open sunlit world of the display gardens and wetlands.
In addition to stacking cut twigs and branches, someone has impishly balanced a cut branch on the conical post of the Prairie signpost for comic relief. Late spring is a good time for pruning. It’s easy to see tree structure; temperatures are comfortable for outside work; and potential disease introduction is thwarted by dormancy of pathogens. A flush of growth will soon mask and begin sealing over wounds.

Goldenrod Galls
Goldenrod Galls

The low morning sun angle shines on hundreds of stem galls, most likely on goldenrod. Many galls have been chewed open by predators. Insect exit holes oriented toward me, the galls appear as a crowd of cyclops disturbed by my presence.

A low murmur of wind sweeps the top of the woodland. Here and there, tree boughs groan against each other. A red-bellied woodpecker chortles, while a woodpecker hammers. Finally a faint gobble – love is in the air.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.


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