Woody and I spent much of the afternoon watching a herd of turkeys munching fruit from the ornamental apple trees by our house. The turkey invasion actually started this morning when two spent a long time under the trees, scratching and pecking. They were quite suddenly joined by six that flew out of the woods - I just happened to be watching when they appeared. It startled me to see so many very large birds flying towards us. They spent quite a bit of time feeding, and even stayed there as we walked down the driveway at about noon to take our walk. We tried to be as quiet as possible so we wouldn't interrupt their meal, but when we came back half an hour or so later, they were all gone. Then around 2 o'clock, a flock of about 17 came strolling us from the woods to our apple trees, and that's when Woody and I got really interested as they jockeyed for position on the small limbs.
They are neither graceful nor handsome birds. They don't seem to have very good eyesight, and are very unsteady on the small branches at the top of the trees. They seemed to reach for berries that were too far away - even when there were some right next to them - and would lose their balance and topple down into the snow, all flapping wings and clumsiness. It didn't seem to deter them one bit, and after a few minutes harassing their buddies on the ground, they'd lift off into the tree again. I must say, they take off very smoothly - it's getting their big bodies in between all the small limbs and twigs that is hard for them.
This went on for a couple hours while Woody and I watched and took pictures. Numerous cars went by and our boiler spewed steam at the side of the house within 15 feet of them a few times, but none of that bothered them. However, about dusk, they all took flight at once, and were out of sight in seconds. This is not normal procedure for them. A few may fly when startled, but usually they will make a run for nearby cover rather than expend the energy to fly.
What spooked them was a hunter walking down the road. I only got a glimpse of him through the bushes and he seemed to be wearing camo and was definitely carrying a gun. I guess those birds may have had some experience with gun-toting hunters!
This is not turkey-hunting season, but of course the birds don't know that. I think today was the end of muzzle-loader deer hunting season, so that is what the hunter was probably doing. I haven't heard any shots this weekend, so I guess the deer around here are safe from hunters for another year. It may be a hard winter for them and our turkey friends though - we're hearing this may be not only a colder than usual winter, but we may have more snow. Time will tell. We seem to have a good start with about 7 inches on the ground and more to come tonight.