Saturday, December 31, 2011

Raven: A Bird in Need of Rebranding

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Common Raven  Watercolor  Sally Wickham © 2011

While many birds inspire the imaginations of humans, the Common Raven takes a leading role on the dark side.  Citing instances of the raven’s appearances in prominent literature, it is obvious that they have a public relations problem. 

There are several references to ravens in the bible and not all are negative.  However, one example of a bum rap occurs in the Old Testament in one of the most famous stories;  that of Noah’s Ark.  Apparently when the ark landed on Mount Ararat, Noah released a raven that flew “to and fro” and feasted on carrion floating in the flood waters.  According to  the internet,  Noah was so enraged that he forever cursed the raven.  While the corvid’s diet may be disgusting, its adaptability and non-fussy eating habits have helped it to survive and thrive into the 21st century. 

In 1845, Edgar Allan Poe published the now famous dirge titled “The Raven.”  Although it is not a great poem, it is memorable.  Almost every high school student in America has been subjected to its drum beat rhythm and  its downward spiral into insanity.   This poem clearly libels the raven  by describing them as   “…grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous creatures.”

The beliefs of farmers are well-regarded but many farmers mistakenly assume that because ravens pluck a few kernels of corn out of their freshly planted fields,  they are bad birds.  A  rebranding campaign could bring farmers into the fold by educating them to the fact that ravens eat bugs, caterpillars, grubs etc that are destructive to their crops.  They help farms, not hurt them. 

Too numerous to mention are the myths about the trickster raven, its links with witches and the devil,  and its associations with death.      But the important word to remember here is myth.  The truth about ravens is that they consistently demonstrate superior intelligence.  It is a fact that their brains are among the largest of the bird world.  Their intellectual prowess has been noted in the areas of problem solving, imitation, insight and communication skills.  Research has confirmed that they are very smart birds and their success as a species verifies these findings.

Even when spoken of as a group, ravens are referred to as an “unkindness.”  An unkindness it is-- just as it is  demeaning for their corvid kin to be  called “a murder of crows.”  And that brings me to another idea for clearing up this negative image.  Television!

A recent television event featured a broadcast about the  intelligence of crows.     If only the Common Raven could get a boost to their reputation like that, they could  shed their undeserved bad name.  People would enjoy seeing ravens soaring on thermals and watching their young play with the toys that they have made.  

Perhaps a name change is in order.  Many successful corporate rebrandings have taken place in the past decade.   Perhaps the name of RAVEN  may be too closely associated with the word “raving” as in “raving mad.”  Every year several birds are renamed for reasons of genetics or something like that.  Ravens have feathers on their wings that resemble fingers.  Perhaps something that sounds like waving would be a suitable name change.  And there you have it--the campaign slogan-- 

WAVENS ARE WONDERFUL!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Canada Goose



Canada Geese Flying  Watercolor  Sally Wickham ©2011


The day a lone Canada Goose landed in my yard was a happy one.  It must mean good luck.  My  home had been chosen by this marvelous magical goose and it would not have surprised me to find a golden egg. 

The days of autumn passed and  my goose guest gave no indication of leaving.  There were other things passed during those weeks of residency that did not make me so happy-- goose droppings.  I would not have believed it was possible for one bird to leave so many calling cards in my yard, on the porch, and especially on the big stone step leading onto the porch.

The digestive system of a goose is streamlined and transforms grass, grain or whatever into “fertilizer” in an hour or less.  Their  cylindrical feces, produced about 160 times a day, displays a greenish hue with a white nitrogenous coating.    They darken as they age.  The truth about  Canada Geese is that they are capable of producing two to three pounds of excrement per day .  A Canada Goose can eat about one half the amount that a sheep eats and produce the same amount of poop.  Pretty impressive!

The good thing is that goose manure  may improve the quality of  your lawn.  It contains small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.    Before you decide to use this method of lawn care however,  you may want to invest in a few “BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU STEP” signs. 

The day the goose left was a strange one.  A Great Blue Heron flew low over the yard and cast his shadow on the goose.  The goose took leave immediately  and has not been seen since.  I am still looking for the golden egg. 



Read more about the amazing digestive system of the Canadian Goose.  Copy and paste the following link:      
                www.fao.org/DOCREP/005/Y4359E/y4359e05.htm


  

  






Monday, November 07, 2011

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

American Kestrel  Watercolor ©  Sally Wickham 2011

As a fledgling bird watcher,  I mostly enjoy the activities of the birds in my  rural neighborhood.  Each summer, at least one brood of American Kestrels joins their parents on the wires over the hayfield to take their course in Grasshopper Hunting 101.  Kestels, the smallest member of the falcon family, characteristically bob their tails while perched on a wire, dead tree, or telephone pole.  Their posture is erect and with binoculars, their colorful markings become visible.  The contrast of rufous, slaty blue, creamy white and black makes  the American Kestrel a spectacular looking bird.  Once spotted, they are quite easily recognized.

But on this particular day in late July, I had yet to see my first kestrel.  What I did see when I went upstairs in our garage was a young barn swallow fluttering at the screen inside the open window.  I gently cupped my hand around the small bird in order to set if free.  But then I realized that a bird in hand is an opportunity to have a close look.

Outside the window I notice a swallow or two swooping and twittering but my attention is focused on the young bird in my hands.  I see that he is a paler version of the chestnut rufous throat and forehead of his parents;  steel blue upper parts;  lower parts creamy.  The outer tail feathers seem shorter. 

As if from nowhere, I see a blur of similar barn swallow colors flying up to the window.  “I think your mother is here,” I assure the bird in my hand but gasped when I saw the intruder.  A Barn Swallow with war paint!  A BIG BARN SWALLOW with war paint!!  That is what flashed through my mind and that is when I felt a talon pierce my finger through the screen.  I suddenly realized that this was not a barn swallow protecting her young:  it was a bird of prey who spotted a young bird in trouble.  It was my  introduction to the American Kestrel.  

My husband came along, took the bird from my hand and released it while I babbled my story.  To emphasize my peril,  I squeezed a teeny-tiny drop of blood from my finger--proof of my close encounter. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Relaxing with a Waxwing






Watercolor of Cedar Waxwing   © 2011 Sally Wickham

The last days of July settle me comfortably into summer.  Frogs strum lazily  on their guitars; two fledgling robins hop about the lawn in wide-eyed wonder; a young bluebird drifts down from the spruce to retrieve a bug, and then flies back up to her favorite perch again and again and again.  Swarms of swallows (barn and tree) chitter-chatter while practicing their amazing   aerial maneuvers.  

I woke up luxuriously late this morning and decided to have my toast, jelly and Birds and Blooms coffee on the back step of the house facing north.  A large maple tree shades the lawn and house and I noticed intermittent bird activity in the branches above me.  There is wing flapping—leaves rustling—but I can’t see what is going on.  The two rainiest months on record in Vermont (April and May, 2011) produced a bountiful crop of big healthy green leaves that are hard to see through.  Then I notice one  long strand of dried hay  hanging down.  At almost the same moment I catch sight of the warm brown and yellowish tones of a Cedar Waxwing.  Could she be building a nest this late in the season?

By the following day I can see a  bulky nest made of dried grasses and twigs about fifteen feet  up in the branches of the maple tree. Several strands of dried loose hay hang down from the bottom.  I now know that the Cedar Waxwing is a late nester, like the American Goldfinch and the Mourning Dove.  They sometimes wait until August to raise their young and then raise a second brood! 

I have a good view of the nest from the big overstuffed sofa in the TV room. It is just high enough for me peer through the leaves and see the nest.  I happily anticipate the hatching of three to five bluish gray, spotted eggs.  I open the window, spread out with a couple of pillows, and begin a brand new horizontal bird watching experience :}>


Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hangin' Out

Great Blue Heron   Watercolor  © 2011 Sally Wickham


“Awesome bird,”  my twelve year old son Erik says.

Looking out the same window ,I spot the bird standing on long stilt-like legs by the edge of our pond.  “Great Blue Heron,” I tell him.  We watch while the solitary bird stands motionless for so long that he almost becomes invisible. 

“What’s he waiting for?”  Erik wants to know.

“Food,” I answer.  “They eat fish, frogs, salamanders, even mice unlucky enough to come within striking range.  They spear their prey and they seldom miss.”

“Cool” he says.

Encouraged by his interest, I continue.  “I read somewhere that a heron once pierced a pine canoe paddle with its beak.”

“Way cool,” he responds. 

Today , the bird is standing on the end of the dock, too high to reach the water.  “Looks like this one  is just hanging out,” I add.

The heron’s long S-shaped neck is tucked close to his shoulders  in a casual slouch.  Seeing him reminds me of the guys who used to hang out in front of the Woolworth Store in the late fifties/early sixties.   We called them hoods, aka greasers.  They too would stand for hours;  hair slicked back, cigarette chucked in their mouths, hands stuffed in pockets while their sun-glassed eyes watched the girls and the traffic pass by.  No matter what the weather, they always wore their black leather jackets with the  collars turned up.  

Erik and I continue to stare mesmerized by the sight of this big bird.  Posed against two lawn chairs on the dock, his image turns comical in my mind’s eye--more Larson-creation than real bird. 

But then, startled by something, he spreads his magnificent wings and lifts off in flight, transformed from  cartoon character  into superhero --the picture of grace, strength and beauty.  



Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011





Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Pair of Royal Orioles

 

Baltimore Orioles   Watercolor © 2011 Sally Wickham

 
My parents bought their first and only house in 1944.  The house, the horse barn, the cattle barn, milk house, chicken house and rabbit hutch sat on thirty- three acres more or less in the town of Rutland, Vermont and they called the place Homespun Farm.  Three years later, I was born. 

During my childhood, I often walked along the East Pittsford Road which was lined with elm trees.  As I walked, I would gaze up into their giant umbrella shaped branches searching for the swinging pouches that I knew were the Baltimore Oriole’s nest.  I considered the orioles local royalty and each year, gave them new names. 

Years passed, most of those stately elm trees died, I grew up, married and moved away.  

Today I sit on my porch about twenty five miles away.   It’s early June and I have speared two orange halves on the shepherd’s hook that holds the oriole feeder.  The feeder already has two sticks for the oranges, but these orioles prefer their oranges on the iron hooks.  They still love their feeder because it has two small red cups filled with Welch’s Concord grape jelly. According to my custom, I have dubbed this local pair of orioles with new names. 

As I write, Kate lands on the feeder and enjoys a few quaffs of the jelly.  When William arrives near the orange (A beautiful sight!!) Kate gives a call that sounds like “Here, Here, Here.”  She does not have a shy voice.  William always gives a kingfisher like chatter before he dives graciously into the fresh orange.  They eat sparingly but with relish before they flit away to do other elegant errands. 

I am left to sit and wonder.  Why do orioles like oranges?  Is it because they are the same color?  How did they develop a taste for grape jelly?   Is their nest swinging in the adolescent elm not far from my house?  How many eggs are swaying in that nest?   How long will the new elms live?  How long will I?


Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bully Boy!!!!!


Watercolor     Ruby-throated Hummingbird      Sally Wickham © 2011  


Nobody but nobody messes with the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  This tiny one-tenth of an ounce package of feathers is a giant among backyard birds.  He thinks nothing of chasing away Crows and Red-tailed Hawks when other bigger birds are left cowering in the trees.  Squirrels and cats that get too close had also better beware.  How is this possible you may ask?  I wondered the same thing and even wondered why I moved my hummingbird feeders off the porch and onto a pergola a little bit farther away. 

The answer to my question is that any bird moving at sixty miles an hour with a lance-like bill is going to do some damage if he hits you.  He is a needle shooting through the air!    It’s possible that he is not ruby-throated at all but blood stained.

Furthermore, the noise that his wings make is sometimes quite frightful.  One buzzed close by my head today and there was even a slight whine to the wing noise that sounded like a passenger jet when it lands.  Other birds have no doubt noticed the same thing and are aware that the Ruby-throat means business. 

Hummingbirds have been reported to the bird police for stalking and  unprovoked threatening behavior towards other birds.  Okay, I made this up, but I have read accounts where hummers will chase other birds just for fun.  I suppose when you are such a fast and accomplished flyer--able to fly forward, reverse, up and down , stop on a dime and hover in mid-air,   every once in a while you want to put the pedal to the metal.  

As for me, I did not think that I would look  good with a hummingbird stuck in my plump rosy cheek so I moved the feeders away from my observation station on the porch.  And believe me, I am keeping those feeders very clean,  very full  and very sweet because I do not want to make this little guy angry.  

Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011











Wednesday, June 01, 2011

How I saw a Black -throated Blue Warbler


Black-throated Blue Warbler Watercolor by Sally Wickham © 2011
 
One warm and sunny day in mid-May, I found myself in a section of Stockbridge, Vermont where I had never been. It’s a place called No Town. Yes, there really is such a place. To get there you drive to the spot where the Appalachian Trail crosses Stony Brook Road. In order to hear any birds, I needed to get away from the brook and so I walked westward on the trail. On this day and at this elevation, the leaves are just emerging. No bugs yet.
Finally, one bird song stands out. It is not familiar to me and the bird repeats itself endlessly as if to help me along in my bird watching adventure. Did I mention that I had left my Bushnell Powerview 10 X 25s safely in their case at home?
And then there is the problem that I have remembering bird songs for any length of time. When I get back to where I can listen to recordings, they get all mixed up. New ones I hear interfere with the one that I heard . Today I try something different and lucky for me, this bird is ready to accommodate. 
I listen carefully. Three notes and then another. Three clear notes and the last one is nasal, almost buzzy and trails up. Down\ Down\ Down\ Tsee /// Down\ Down\ Down\ Tsee/// There. I think I’ve got it. I continue to strain my eyes and my neck looking high into the tree tops but see nothing. I take note of my surroundings—mostly hardwoods, eastern slopes of the greens-- and record that information in my field book.
When I return home, I do not go to the recordings. I check my newest bird book, Birdwatching in Vermont by Ted Murin and Bryan Pfeiffer. In it, on page 5, is a table that lists habitats and their birds. With this book, I am able to narrow down my candidate list to a few birds whose songs I don’t recognize. 
Then I listen to those few birds. The system that works for me is the Birding By Ear series. AND THEN I HEAR IT. Down Down Down Tsee...... They identify it as the male Black-throated Blue Warbler. I am sure that is the bird that I heard. After consulting The Sibley Guide to Birds I know what I am going to look for. 
The very next day I find myself in the exact same section of Stockbridge. I stop in several spots along the road and listen. Soon enough I hear the now familiar call. Down Down Down Tsee and today I have my binoculars.



It takes a while, but lucky for me, the Black-throated Blue Warbler moves around a lot.  He also repeats his song frequently.   First I find him with my eyes;  raise the ptics; locate the bird.  I SEE HIM!!!!  I CAN SEE HIS BEAK MOVING AS HE SINGS  “Down, Down, Down, Tsee.”   It’s him!   It is the Black-throated Blue Warbler.   He flits from branch to branch as I watch— a new bird to add to my list. 

Words by Linda Lunna ©2011


If you are interested in owning either the books or the set of CDs, please enter the title in the Amazon box in the right hand column and you will have the opportunity to read more about them and order them if you like. 


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Four Double Yuhs for the Woodcock

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American Woodcock Watercolor ©2011 Sally Wickham


Very little attention is given to the female Woodcock. While the male is buzzing, whistling, circling, dive-bombing and generally showing off, the female is seldom seen. She is one among several chosen by her polygamous suitor. After mating she scratches a slight hollow among some leaves where she lays 3-4 speckled eggs. The brown and black mottling of her plumage blend with ground cover and she becomes almost invisible.
When visible, the American Woodcock is an adorable bird. It is big-headed with large eyes set back on the top of its head—all the better to see predators while manipulating its long sensitive bill in soft earth probing for worms, grubs, and the like.
A natural environment for any species must supply its basic needs. In the case of the Woodcock, it’s four Ws: Worms, Woods, Wetlands, and an open field nearby for Wooing. Logging and human development have decreased the amount of land that is suitable for the Woodcock and their numbers have been decreasing by about 1 percent a year since the 1960’s.
Thankfully, conservation efforts are being implemented to restore an ideal community for the woodcock. Habitat management techniques include logging, controlled burning, and planting certain trees and shrubs. Instead of being drained, wetlands are conserved and restored. These efforts simply must be successful because what would we ever do without the American Woodcock?
Read more about the Woodcock (also known as Timber Doodle ) and their habitat management plans at http://timberdoodle.org/
Words by Linda Lunna Copyright 2011

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The All American Robin


Watercolor Copyright 2011 Sally Wickham


When the Europeans first landed on the shores of America, they were greeted by a bird that looked similar to their beloved wake robin. They called this new bird Robin and even though he was not really related, so he will forever be known by this common name.
The Robin has wormed his way into our hearts and culture in many ways. Robins are plentiful and they are frequent visitors to our parks and our lawns. They are a common sight as they hop and bop in straight lines, then stop, cock their head one way or t'other -- a few tugs later and out pops lowly worm, possibly a yummy lunch for their nestlings. Robins are friendly birds and often build nests where even a child can peer into the round cup of hay and mud. Although some robins spend the winter here in Vermont and other cold locations, robin sightings are one of the sure ways to spell S-P-R-I-N-G.
Robin red-breast might very well be the proverbial early bird. Their musical song is one of the first to be heard in the morning. Speaking of music, the robin provided the inspiration for the song "When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along." It was recorded by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Dion & the Belmonts, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Al Jolson, and Dean Martin to name a few.
But let’s not stop there. Don’t forget Bobby Day’s one and only hit song in 1958 --“Rockin’ Robin.” Tweet Tweet Tweet Just in case you did forget, you will certainly remember that Michael Jackson also released the song in an album and as a single. Really. This bird in practically an American icon. It could give the eagle a run for his money.
The robin has already appeared on a two dollar bill in Canada but it is no longer in circulation . Let’s rally around the American Robin and start a movement to have her appear on a dollar bill here. And let’s make it red, white, and robin’s egg blue.

Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blue Jay's Ways

Watercolor  Blue Jay © 2011 Sally Wickham

Who doesn’t recognize the Blue Jay?  They are smart, adaptable rascals;  lovely to look at but harsh on the hearing.  Their raucous calls alert other birds to the dangers of hawk, owl, or human.  Blue Jays will  sometimes mimic the call of a Red-tailed Hawk.  Do they know that this call will clear the area around the feeder of all but their ilk?  Probably.  Not having to queue up for the tasty morsels is reward enough to keep repeating this behavior. 

While other birds fly up, take one seed, and then fly away to eat it, Blue Jays don’t do that.  They stay and take one, then another and another.  A spandex-like material on the floor of their mouths provides a storage area for holding as many as ten to twelve  sunflower seeds or a volume equivalent in acorns. Blue Jays love acorns.  They also love  nuts, seeds, suet, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, song bird eggs and nestlings, and WHAT?  They eat adorable song bird babies?  And their eggs?  Well, yes, they do, but not very often.   But it gave me an idea.

I am  occasionally required to set up a mouse trap line in the cellar--especially in the spring and fall.   I recycle just about everything and I thought, why not put the latest mousekin victim outside and see who takes it.  I hypothesized that it would be one of our three resident crows, but no, it was their cousin, the Blue Jay!  Within minutes, down came the jay and whack, whack, whacked away at that poor little mouse until it was in small enough pieces to be carried away. 

In the future, I will place the mouse bodies up in the garden by the compost bin.  The jays can duke it out with the crows for the booty and I won’t have to watch from the kitchen window.

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chickadee--lightful



The Chickadee is practically perfect in every way.  Its appearance is tailored--conservative in black, white, and shades of gray.  Good manners accompany them to the feeders they love to visit --kind of like we humans take turns at an ATM machine and don’t like to have others stand too close, so the Chickadee flits up to a feeder, takes a seed , then flits back to peel and eat it in the lilac bush.  The next Chickadee repeats this action and so it goes. 

Chickadees are friendly and reports of their eating out of human hands and lighting on human shoulders are numerous.  Chickadees do not migrate and their constant presence and consistent appearance make them easy to identify.

But just in case you do not recognize a Chickadee immediately, it tells you its name.  While many of the mnemonics for remembering bird calls do not work for me,  the words chick-a-dee-dee-dee  sound exactly like what the bird is saying. 

In the spring, the Chickadee has another sound.  Around the time the sap runs in the maple trees, he  begins to sing fee-bee--a  clear two-note whistle.   He is not impersonating another bird--this is the chickadee’s “song”.  So what is the difference between a bird song and a bird call?   Bird songs are usually melodic, complex, and the domain of male birds only. They are associated with mating and all that entails,  Bird songs are usually heard only in the spring.  Bird calls are heard throughout the year, are not as melodic and are used by males and females alike.  Calls are used for warnings, location, flocking, or to announce a food source.  Although the Chickadee is known as one of the lesser musicians in the bird world, human spirits are lifted by all who hear his simple spring song. 



Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011









 


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Return of the Red-wings

Watercolor   Red-winged Blackbird  © 2011  Sally Wickham

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March is a fickle month.  Many days are below freezing and storms can dump several feet of snow.  Other days the sun begins to radiate heat as well as light;  skunks arouse and their odor lays like  a heavy fog;  maple trees relax and their sap begins to flow. Snow Buntings leave for the arctic tundra and an army of  male  Red-winged Blackbirds fly in ready to do battle for a prime piece of real estate.


The male redwings, aka “little generals,” have a military appearance.  Their uniform is jet black with scarlet epaulets underlined with a pale yellow stripe. They like to flock together in a unit;  all at the feeder;  all singing in a chorus in the tree;  all gliding around officially announcing that spring has arrived--or almost.  Their battle ground lies under a deep covering of snow but now they are mingling with  an occasional skirmish.  The real war begins when the females arrive in a month or so. But they will not be fighting for love.  It’s all about territory.  After the battle,  the female redwings decide where it is they would like to live. It’s a question of where, not who.


Yesterday I  watched a group of nine or ten  male  redwings eating off the ground under the feeder.  They scuttled around looking for seeds.  Most of the males had their red epaulets hidden with only the yellow showing.  One strutted around showing off his colors and spreading out his wings like a cape.  He frightened   one small group away and then threatened another.   They  also fled.  Within seconds, he flew to join them.  I guess that it’s  not fun to spar without any partners.  


Monday, March 14, 2011

Cardinalis Cardinalis

Watercolor  Cardinal  © 2011  Sally Wickham

     I have lived on Music Mountain in central Vermont for almost forty years. Never in all those years did I see a cardinal here in my neck of the woods.  I  remember Peg Brainard saying that if she ever saw a cardinal at her bird feeder in nearby Liliesville, I would be able to hear her yell with joy all the way to our house and that’s about five miles.  Cardinals have been expanding their range while I have been hoping.  Anyway, one day late last year (2010)  I looked out my kitchen window and there on the ground beneath the feeder was a cardinal.

     He was a rather skinny cardinal and while one of my bird books says that cardinals are the first at the feeder in the morning, this one was always the last in the evening. That’s my kind of cardinal--not being up in the morning with all the rest of the birds, but skinny meant that I needed to take action. I have always been a lackadaisical bird feeder. It is so much easier feeding the birds in the summer but now I had a purpose--to keep this cardinal alive and visiting my feeder all winter and hopefully finding a mate and raising a family next spring. Hallelujah!   I must remember to call Peg and tell her about my visitor.
     Over the next few days, the cardinal disappeared. I worried that perhaps he had just been passing through. But after this first disappearance, he returned and has been a regular guest at the bird diner all winter long. I noticed that he never ate the seeds from the Droll Yankee hanging feeder--the one adored by the chickadees. This guy was always on the ground picking up the seeds that fell from above. Naturally I started sprinkling extra on the ground just for him.
     Before I called Peg to inform her of this good news, her obituary appeared in the local paper. I believe that she died on the day the cardinal appeared in my yard and whenever I see one, I will be reminded of a wonderful lady who also loved birds.


Birdwords by Linda Lunna ©  2011


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Two Tom Turkeys

Watercolor  Two Tom Turkeys  ©2011  Sally Wickham
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Balmy 45-50° temperatures finally put an end to a two month deep freeze. This morning it is foggy and raining. There is a birdfeeder not far from my kitchen window. Two tom turkeys are scratching through layers of soggy snow for sunflower seeds buried after many winter storms. Meteorologists say it was the snowiest February on record!

It is a weird sight to see these two Jurassic appearing creatures on an archaeological dig but the treasures they are finding seem to satisfy. Every time I glance out the window they are still there giving me a good opportunity to watch them.

This pair of turkeys are very wet and every once in a while they give themselves a good shake. Their bodies are as dark brown as a coffee bean. Their wings are barred--it’s the wing feathers that are easy to spot on the ground when they are shed. Wild turkeys are very alert and they have bright intelligent looking eyes. Their head is featherless, tiny and cannot in any way be described as pretty. Their legs are golden colored. I know that these are male turkeys because of a needlelike protrusion on their chest. This pointy bunch of feathers is called a beard.

The turkeys spend a couple of hours scavenging seeds under the feeder and do not leave until my brother-in-law arrives in his Gator. But I bet they’ll be back!