Feeding Turkeys

moon phase Week of 01/17/2010 Good time to start seeds.

There's no doubt in anyone's mind that winter is for real this year. Feeding Turkeys Feeding Turkeys The reminders are consistent, with little mercy for anyone who can still smell the summer flowers. It's been below zero every night in the valley for two weeks, and last night a snow shower brought ten more inches of light, fluffy snow. I'm grateful for these past sunny days, but the temperature doesn't get much above ten degrees.

Down from the woods came five wild turkeys, trudging along single file through the deep snow. Their legs were barely visible in the new layer of snow. In no time they are in the yard and heading for the bird feeders. When winter passes a bitter, cold hand over the land and covers everything under deep snow, it challenges all who live outside. A Posse of Turkeys A Posse of Turkeys It's early in the season, and already the wildlife feel the pressure to find something to eat--to stay warm, find food, and all will be fine. The turkeys snap up every speck of birdseed in about 15 minutes and walk down to the creek one behind the other. They had eaten all there was, and were off in search for something else to eat. I'm convinced there isn't enough birdseed in the world to satisfy a flock of hungry turkeys. I don't mind if they come and then leave when the food is gone, but I can't afford to keep their crops full for the next three and a half months. When the turkeys are at the platform feeders, all the other wild birds come to the four window feeders. It gets a little crowded but they eat together with little trouble. It's nice to have so many colorful birds in the windows at once. Scratching for food Scratching for food There are 20 cardinals, 15 blue jays, a dozen woodpeckers, 25 chickadees, 8 to 10 nuthatches, 10 finches, a few tree sparrows, 30 juncos, and—oh, ya—a pair of Mourning doves. It's about the nearest thing to excitement I get around here, this time of year.

There was a new visitor at the bird feeders today. Picking up pieces of cracked corn on the ground with several juncos, was a beautiful, male, Rufus-sided towhee. I'm surprised at how small he is, not much larger than the dark juncos. In fact, if it weren't for his Rufus/orange flanks I may not have noticed him there, mixed in with the others. Cardinal surrounded by Juncos Cardinal surrounded by Juncos It's the third year in a row that a male towhee has spent the winter here. I have fed the wild birds for over 50 years, and until three years ago I'd never seen a Rufus-sided towhee here in the winter.

This is the first winter in the past five years that I haven't seen a robin or bluebird. Both were a common sight last winter, and I would see them once or twice a week. This winter I hadn't seen or heard either of these hearty thrushes until this morning. While taking a walk up the road, I heard the "chuk-chuk" of a male robin. Barred Owl Barred Owl He was hidden in the thick branches of a large cedar tree. It's a rough uphill climb through deep snow, and I wasn't wearing warm boots, so I opted to just stand and watch for him to fly out. After hearing him several times, I counted it as good enough and went on my way.

It's not often that I'm treated to the call of a Barred owl in the middle of winter. Most any other time of the year I may hear them any evening: "Who-cooks-for-youu-all." In the dead of winter, I'm lucky if I hear that call once a week in this valley. When their mating season starts in late March and early April, they will call to each other day and night. These beautiful owls are one of a few species of owl that has large dark (rather than yellow) eyes, and they spend most of their time watching for field voles.

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Comments

AlisonJoy from from Chicago on January 26, 2010 at 12:31:47 PM
Thanks for the birdy info Dan, I could feel the hush of the woods and snow and hear the birds calling, Your writing is quite nice. Alison
Carrie from from Fort Bragg, CA on January 24, 2010 at 06:44:08 PM
Hey Dan,
I've been reading your writing for a few years now, and I really love them. It motivates me to try to see the beauty in the world around me, and makes me long to be in a place like you describe someday. Thank you! I love traveling through the seasons with you.
Viola from from Southwest- Las Cruces, New Mexico on January 24, 2010 at 01:07:39 AM
Dan,
Enjoy you sharing all your life stories. I too feed the birds and both my husband and I are always surprize how quickly the birds eat the seed I put out for them. Thanks for sharing.

Viola-down South
PS Hey, we got some snow on the Organ Mts. last night and they really stand out so beautiful. Thank you God for your creation.
CLAIR from from Washington Heights, NYC on January 19, 2010 at 02:53:39 PM
Dear Dan: I love how you share nature with us through your writing. It fills me with hope..not sure why, but it does. Washington Heights has Ft. Tryon Park and I have seen Orioles, Robins and the most beautiful Cardinals there. Please keep sharing with us...and have a wonderful 2010. Best, Clair
jeann from from jupiter fl on January 19, 2010 at 12:44:01 PM
Hi
I'm enjoying your essays. Thank you very much for sharing your world.
Diane from from Worcester, NY 12197 on January 19, 2010 at 11:46:56 AM
Howdy Dan!

I thoroughly enjoy your wonderful nature newletters! I live in a rural area of Otsego County NY (Decatur) and I DO see many of the great wildlife and "my outdoor friends" that you show in your mail...thank you for providing this refreshing email!

Again, thank you.

Diane and her furry and feathery friends!
Georgieanna from from New Orleans, La. on January 19, 2010 at 11:24:43 AM
This was such a nice story. I really enjoyed it very much. I'm glad someone would go out in that weather cause I'd stay snuggled in my house.
Byron from from United States on January 19, 2010 at 11:13:49 AM
Dan, your newsletter is very interesting to me, and many others I am sure. I live deep in the boonies in NW Pennsylvania where more than a fair share of lake effect snow visits regularly. The views are spectacular. I too feed the birds here. Most common are dozens of the always too aggressive blue jays. I bought a big bag of raw Georgia peanuts and put them out under a covered porch for them. The peanuts vanish within minutes, no matter how many I put out. Sometimes I feel a bit hardened to their agressive behavior & chince a bit on the peanuts supply, but they are a pretty bird nonetheless, so I feed them anyway. Mean spirited as they are, blue jays even chase their own away from the find. Cardinals feed on safflower seeds I got on another weight sensitive hanging feeder under the porch here, so the blue jays gave up on that feeder. Very few other species of birds are around here in winter, which brings me to my question for you. Is it possible that the very many meanie blue jays have chased away the other bird species, or is just the winter weather? And also, as new to your web site, in what northern region are you located? I suspect Wisconsin, a real favorite of mine, where I loved to travel often previously from northern Illlinois both for business & pleasure trips. Byron
Diane from from Pine Barrens, NJ on January 19, 2010 at 11:05:20 AM
I get wild turkeys in my yard too, usually in the summer. We can hear them "gobbling" as they walk through the woods. The last day I saw them was ironically on Thanksgiving Day!

~Deetle
Asiyah from from Horn Lake, MS on January 19, 2010 at 10:49:12 AM
Dan,

I appreciate you for writing this post. As I sit here in my office cubicle it feels like I right there with you. Thanks for a bit of respite in an otherwise ordinary day.
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