My New Book


Turkeys In Trees

Man, that is a bleak landscape.

I went out the other day with Non Birding Bill to look for golden eagles. I know, NBB going birding?  What??  Well, we’ve both been busy doing shows, he went to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show and then I went to Atlanta for AmericasMart  We’re basically just two spousal ships passing in the night this month. He was so desperate for my company that he willingly offered to go driving around with me to look for golden eagles.  Since it was mostly in the car, he was cool with that, it wasn’t like being pestered by bugs looking for sparrows. The landscape was overcast and covered with snow. When we got to the road, we laughed and I asked, “Where is the horizon?”

I was checking for the Golden Eagle survey conducted each winter by The National Eagle Center. We checked the same area where I found goldens last year.

Alas, no golden eagles on the route this year, but lots of bald eagles. After we finished our survey route, we headed to Colville Park in Red Wing, MN and found this bird.  See the eagle in the upper left corner? People were practically driving under it.

It appeared to have something wrong with its eye that’s facing my camera. It never moved and the bird usually kept it closed.  I wonder if it had gotten in a territory battle and got a talon in  the eye? Colville is a good place for this bird. There’s open water all winter, lots of waterfowl and the nearby power plant stuns fish, leaving an ample food supply. I’m not sure if this bird will recover but it’s possible.  We’ve seen healthy one eyed birds come into Frank’s banding station.  It’s not always gloom and doom.

We saw a ton of wild turkeys on our travels, that’s NBB grabbing some turkey footage from the car. Turkeys are supposed to be one of the reasons we now have a wintering population of golden eagles along the Mississippi River on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border–the goldens have been observed taking turkeys as prey. We saw quite a few turkeys in trees, you’d drive along and wonder why there were a dozen black garbage bags in the trees and then realize it was a flock of turkeys feeding on sumac berries.  Check out this turkey:

Waaaaaaaaay at the top of that tree!  That turkey looks like she’s surveying her kingdom. There were several turkeys in the tippy tops of the trees, I think something on the ground flushed them up.  It’s weird to see a turkey so high up. I’ve seen them in the tops of trees around the beehives, usually after a fox or coyote has moved through. I took turkeys in the tops of trees as a sign that a golden eagle was not actively patrolling this patch of sky.  Still, I love the picture of this huge bird balancing on a high branch, watching the surrounding snow covered bluffs.

Here’s that same turkey but this time what she looked like through my spotting scope.  I may go back to look for goldens again.  One day of no birds could just mean they were tucked in the bluffs somewhere.

7 comments to Turkeys In Trees

  • You’re going to get me into Birding yet, Sharon. So far I’ve been able to resist because while I’m a huge fan of wildlife and biodiversity (I really am) I don’t normally feel a burning urge to participate in the diversity first-hand. In my mind it’s the sort of thing my dotty Grandmother (long deceased) would have done (badly).

    However, your posts are causing me to be intrigued by the photography aspect of it. I’ve always liked taking pictures, and this last fall I took a photography course which has gotten me more into it. I love the photos you’ve posted here.

    I think it’s interesting when there’s significant visibility, but because of the tone of sky and the ground there’s no visible horizon. I’ve seen it a few times from the air and occasionally from the ground, but the top photo is a great capture of that.

    The eagle-and-parking-lot photo is doubly amusing to me. I like photos where the real subject is hard to see; I like “find waldo” kinds of photos. The other reason is that except that one’s an earlier model, that could be my car.

    I love meta-photgraphy. One of my own favorite photos is a photograph of a photogram, and the objects that I used to make the photogram. The photo of Bill taking a photo of the Turkey is great as a meta-photograph, and that you got light coming through his glasses is really cool.

    And finally, the wheres-Waldo photo of the Turkey in the tree, and then digiscoped of the same thing is what draws me to this. I think if I were to get into Birding, it would be with the caviat that I would only “count” seeing birds if I got a good photograph of them. This dovetails (ha!) well with the fact that I like to be able to photograph airplanes in flight, and the same optical technology can be used for both.

  • the raven

    yes. finally. there were turkeys that used to roost in my neighborhood some years back, and i’d find them in the trees now and again (usually they just chilled out in people’s yards or on the side of the road). nobody believed me about hearing them in the trees. and now i have proof that it doesn’t just happen, it’s normal.

  • Lynn

    I went to college in Winona and would always see eagles on my way back and forth to my hometown. I used to work in Red Wing and would take breaks down by the water to watch the birds. I also saw five turkeys in a field along Hwy 52 just north of Cannon Falls on my home on Saturday.

  • A turkey roosting high in a tree is some weirdness indeed. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I would like to suggest that it may be time to upgrade the spouse to Occasionally Birding Bill. Whether he likes it or not, he probably knows way more than every non-birder just from being around you all the time!

  • Sharon,
    Another great post. You’re so casual about Turkeys in trees, yet these guys can be so darn elusive. I live in a area of Western MD with LOTS of wild turkeys and have only ever snapped poor pictures of them.

    Our favorite Turkey Tale was one day when working at the top or our gardens, on the hill above our home, we looked up to see two large birds coming in from the creek far below. They were clipping along at a pretty good speed, and well above our roof line below us as well. They were against the sky, so at first I made out the bars on their feathers and said, “Are those hawks?” to my wife beside me, knowing all along that a pair of hawks wouldn’t be flying like that so close. About then, they got overhead and we realized they were turkey hens! Right over us and into my neighbors field above me. I grabbed the camera and ran up, but as they are so good at, I couldn’t find them in the brush. Probably walked withing a few feet of them. I have seen Turkey hens on the wing before, certainly, but not cruising at a 100+ off the deck like this! We figured that there were some very tall trees in the creek bottom they must have been up in when spooked, and got a draft off the house to get the altitude.

    On raptor counting, we have an annual fun count we do while driving to and from Texas for the holidays. A Roadside Raptor Count. In 3783 miles, we tallied 75 various hawks and kestrels on posts and wires. Passed just south of Beebe, AK. Saw a big flock of black birds, (all alive) going down, but came back in mid-day so they weren’t assembled for the evening yet.

    Happy Birding

  • P.S. I second the Occasional Birding Bill statement. I know some true Non Birders, and they wouldn’t be caught dead in weather like that!

  • @Craig–join us, join us, join us!

    @Shane–Many of our turkeys are hardened urban turkeys and they practically insist on photos. I predict they are the next “Canada Goose” in the twin cities and we’ll have round ups to curb the population like we do with the geese.