After a winter of few sightings last year, snowy owls invaded Massachusetts in a big way a week ago Thursday. Several birds were spotted on Plum Island and one was seen in the marshes of Salisbury. For the past 10 days, snowys have been reported from all over Massachusetts, from Worcester County to outer Cape Cod. Some have made it into Rhode Island and Connecticut. Looks like it is going to be a good year for viewing these diurnal owls.
This influx of snowy owls has precipitated the yearly discussion on the Internet about wildlife harassment. Since these incredibly beautiful birds perch in the open during daylight hours, they are often approached by wildlife viewers and photographers to try to get a better look or a memorable photo. Minimizing disturbance by keeping your distance from these birds, and all wildlife, is important.
With high-powered optics, and magnification on even small cameras approaching 50 times, great views and pictures can be had from safe distances. Sometimes, however, with some wildlife, we have to worry about them approaching us.
With this being Thanksgiving weekend, I decided to dig up some turkey stories from the past and share them again with you today:
Some of our wild turkeys seem anything but wild. Some years ago, one of our customers in Byfield had an adult with 11 young show up in her yard. She had turkeys at her feeders and bird baths for several years. If the feeders were low, they let her know by tapping on her window with their beaks.
My friend Harry, who lived right on Route 1 in Newbury, had to shoo turkeys out of the way sometimes just to get his truck out of his driveway. On one of my bird walks, I stopped to view a pair of turkeys feeding in a front yard. As I got out of the car in an attempt to notify the caravan of cars that were following me, the turkeys followed me. They even chased the caravan as we proceeded on our way. Turkeys roost high in trees — usually evergreens. I sometimes heard them “gobbling” to each other at dusk as they gathered in the trees behind my home. In the mornings, I would see them glide in from the trees, landing on the grass to feed. It is sometimes startling to see these large birds fly! I can remember walking down a path at Maudslay State Park early one morning when this large object came hurling out of the tree above me. I was relieved to realize that it was only a turkey leaving his nighttime roost.
A Concord resident shared a story of the turkeys in her yard: “A male tom foiled my snapshot by seconds this morning, when he took his head out from deep beneath his feathers to prove that he hadn’t been decapitated. Until then there was no sign of a head anywhere. Those feathers are deep! There are now 20 turkeys who mosey by our bird feeder every morning. Usually they’re in two flocks — the older ones and the younger ones (with a couple of hens). But this morning they were all there. Last year there was a total of 12. So it’s been a good year for turkeys!”
A Gloucester resident also shared her turkey experience: “Several years ago, I was ‘house-sitting’ for some friends in Newbury and they assured me, by leaving many pounds of cracked corn and an open account at Steve Grinley’s, that the turkeys would show. Before the snow fell, however, they’d been nowhere in sight. I’d seen them gleaning from the corn fields in and around Newbury, Newburyport, etc. but none at the house or in the adjacent salt marsh. Then, it finally snowed. Really hard. I awoke that morning to an awful banging on the huge picture window that looked out over the marsh. There was the Tom banging on the window (I was afraid he might even break it) with all his might. Whap! Whap! When I looked around, there were females and immatures everywhere. On the roof, in the trees, near the bushes where the snow was shallowest. He’d come to tell me that it was now time to put out that corn so he could feed his flock. I thought this was pretty cool.”
I hope that your Thanksgiving was enjoyable.
Steve Grinley is the owner of Bird Watcher’s Supply and Gift at the Route 1 traffic circle in Newburyport and the Nature Shop at Joppa Flats.