Turkeys at sunset

I seldom take sunset walks these days. Fresh into Daylight Savings Time, though, I find myself with daylight to work with even after I’m through with the dinner dishes. The lingering light lured me outside yesterday, long enough for a round-the-block stroll. I was well-rewarded: I saw and heard the local turkeys as they called it a day.

We share our suburban development with a flock of wild turkeys. My neighbors and I are accustomed to seeing them a few at a time in our yards throughout the year, patiently gobbling up spilled seed beneath bird feeders or checking out freshly-turned soil in our gardens. The flock has grown over the past several years, and I counted 57 turkeys a few weeks ago, pecking and scratching under nearby power lines for whatever food they could find. They’re habituated to us, but still wild.

Wild turkeys flocking together, late winter. Ellen Kolb photo.

I’m used to hearing gobbling and clucking, along with the occasional thumping whoosh as a turkey takes ungainly flight, usually at just the right altitude to match the grille of an oncoming car. On my recent sunset walk, I heard that whoosh, then another and another. Soon I came upon the cleared space under the power lines, and there they were: dozens of turkeys, taking flight one at a time, not to torment motorists but to head into the nearby pines to roost.

I’d never seen a flock at sunset. I stood fascinated, watching them ascend to their chosen spots. There were a few kerfuffles as some of the roosting birds objected to having their space invaded by later arrivals, but there was ample room in the stand of trees for all of them. Soon the clucking subsided to softer sounds, and the whooshes came to an end.

The timing was none of my doing. I just got lucky. Pretty good stuff, for a spur-of-the-moment walk.

male wild turkey displaying feathers
Male wild turkey, posing for his portrait. Ellen Kolb photo.

According to New Hampshire Fish and Game, wild turkeys were successfully re-introduced into New Hampshire in the 1970s, after more than a hundred years of absence due to habitat loss and overhunting. Since then, the turkeys have been thriving. Too thriving, it sometimes seems: I think every driver in the state has at one time or another had to stop for a bunch of turkeys crossing a road, always one bird at a time, moving at an infuriatingly leisurely pace.

I’ve grown a bit more patient with the big fowls as they’ve moved into the neighborhood. I’ve seen them throughout the year, courting and squabbling and caring for their young. Without meaning to, I’ve picked up a bit about the rhythm of their lives. They’re remarkable, even if they do act as though they own the roads.

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