They number from 5.1 to 5.3 million birds. They were first named ‘forest turkey’ in 1817, and can grow up to 4 ft (1.2 m) tall. The upper tail coverts are tipped with chestnut brown. Males can reach 30 lb (14 kg) in weight. The eastern wild turkey is heavily hunted in the Eastern USA and is the most hunted wild turkey subspecies.
I have never tasted wild turkey, but I would like to someday… and compare the flavor to Meleagris butterballus.
Impressive wings. They look ungainly, too big to fly, but I have seen them take off high into the trees when my dog ran into the backyard. A bizarre sight.
… wild turkeys have had the same comeback history as geese and deer, and an even sharper trajectory, going from the edge of extinction in the 1920s to abundance a half century later. Then, just as quickly, they too went from novelties to nuisances. Here was one of the wiliest of wild creatures, one that would in the deep woods flee in an instant at the slightest movement by a hunter otherwise invisible in camouflage, suddenly turning up where people lived in the suburbs like an overgrown robin.
Here’s a review of the book by Russell Baker writing in the NY Times: Visitors.
During America’s first 250 years, early settlers cleared away some 250 million acres of forest. Yet the forest comes back fast. By the 1950s, one half to two thirds of the landscape was reforested. Most of us now “live in the woods,” Sterba writes. “We are essentially forest dwellers.” The new forests “grew back right under the noses of several generations of Americans. The regrowth began in such fits and starts that most people didn’t see it happening.”
Here is a Thanksgiving-appropriate cocktail from the Wild Turkey bourbon website. Tipple before the feast this Thursday, or save it for a cold night and a good book by the fire.
Yesterday I was looking up Thanksgiving-themed jokes to tell some kids and found this chestnut…
Book and drink and deck, and light that lingers late.
The cocktail is a Blue Bird. It is gin and curaçao liqueur, with lemon juice and a cocktail flavoring syrup called orgeat, which is made from almonds, sugar and orange water and used in some “tiki” drinks like mai tais.
As in the fairy tales, be careful what you wish for.
A cackle of grackles (yes, that is the proper collective noun for these icterids) has been visiting for a few days. This morning I wished one would come close enough, or hold still long enough, for me to take a good picture.
Less than a minute later… BAM
…a grackle hit the kitchen window, fell to the ground and lay motionless.
“This is spooky,” I thought, and went out to check on it. About half the birds I’ve ever seen hit a window are stunned for a few minutes then they fly off. I was hoping this was the case.
Poor bird. It wasn’t moving.
I picked it up gently and checked for obvious wounds or broken bones and found nothing except a few loose feathers on its left shoulder. I held it for about five minutes, then I let it rest on my lap where it was mostly motionless except for mild panting and an occasional blink of its eyes.
Then it pooped on my pants, so I got a nice towel for it to rest on, warm in the sun on the back deck.
I hung around and kept an eye on it, even chasing away one of my chickens who came up the back steps. A few times the grackle started to stiffen up and become especially unresponsive; it looked like it was going to do one of those bird-giving-up-and-dying things.
So I encouraged it: “C’mon, bird, don’t give up. Grackles don’t quit!”
About half an hour after the window strike, quite suddenly it popped back to lively life, hopped a couple of times, opened its black wings and flew off into the shady woods.
Later I ran some errands including buying a package of WindowAlert decals (butterfly shapes) from Rolling Green Nursery in Greenland, NH.
To get them to stick right, I had to wash the window. The one damn window in the whole house I can’t flip open to wash from the inside and I have to use a ladder. And my husband is in Barcelona. And I’m afraid of heights.
It’s the only window without a screen in summer, other than half the sliding glass door. We had a problem with bird strikes there too, until I added Window Alert Snowflake Decals a couple of years ago.
I stuck those ultraviolet-reflecting butterflies on good. (Photos by daughter Anna, at home in her pajamas on a Saturday.)
The rest of the day the grackles came close enough, and held still long enough, for photos. They flew over me while I was in the back field weeding the sprouting corn. Spotted them while I was out back too with Anna, my sister Fiona and our dogs.
Grackles can be pests especially for farmers, but I like them. They are spunky and attractive.
Common Grackles are blackbirds that look like they’ve been slightly stretched. They’re taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy-iridescent bodies. Grackles walk around lawns and fields on their long legs or gather in noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens.
A bright golden eye gives grackles an intent expression.
This evening I celebrated my strange encounter by inventing a new cocktail…
Hello, bird! A Ruby-throated Hummingbird visits our backyard.
I finally took the hint and bought them a feeder.
Two weeks ago I was buzzed a couple of times while sitting on the back deck with a book and glass of wine. Hummers really do sound like big bumblebees. Two days later my daughter Anna was doing dishes when a hummingbird came and hovered at the kitchen window, staring at her. “He looked into my soul,” she said.
The first skinny, tiny, hungry migrants arrived in coastal New Hampshire three weeks ago. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds winter in southern Mexico and Central America. In spring, they fly from the Yucatan Peninsula to Florida and Louisiana, across the Gulf of Mexico – 500 miles over open water!
It has a perch around the rim so they don’t have to hover and expend energy while they feed. (Also, then they hold still for photos!) It has an “ant moat” in the middle to keep ants from getting to the nectar.
The cover is bright red to attract hummingbirds and it snaps off easily for cleaning and filling.
I like to imagine this little bird is appreciating this newly discovered food source.
Recipe for hummingbird nectar:
• Boil 1 cup of water
• Add 1/4 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve (4:1 ratio water to sugar)
• Let cool to room temperature and serve
No need to add red dye. If it’s cold and rainy, or near migration time, you can make the nectar a bit more concentrated… as much as a 3:1 ratio.
The first hummingbird dinner guest arrived the day after I put up the feeder. I celebrated by creating a new cocktail I call The Ruby-throated Hummingbird…
Mix melon schnapps (or Midori melon liqueur) with vodka and some simple syrup… or homemade hummingbird nectar! Carefully and slowly pour a “floater” (it sinks) of Grenadine. Top with crushed ice.
Sip slowly on the back deck in view of the hummingbird feeder. Don’t worry about scaring them off. They are tiny but they are bold, not shy.
Do you feed hummingbirds? Any tips on what works (or doesn’t) in your yard?