Friday, October 7, 2016

Wild Turkeys in a Late September Woods

Two weekends ago, on September 24, Paul and I went for a morning walk in Cornell's Sapsucker Woods. I'm starting to really love this place, and this visit held some particularly special moments. First, we finally found the Andy Goldsworthy sculpture that's eluded us on previous visits; this stonework cairn is tucked into the forest alongside a path, and it's lovely and subtle and such a fitting feature in these quiet woods:

A juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker blended into the shaded trunk where it was foraging; a sapsucker in Sapsucker Woods, how appropriate!

Green Frogs peered up at us from a small green-covered pond:

And one frog posed nicely on a dark log:

At one point, we rounded a bend in the path to see big dark shapes up ahead:

We'd wandered into a Wild Turkey parlor, and these birds were understandably wary about our appearance:

But we stayed where we were -- some distance from the birds, although not really very far away -- and after a minute or so, the turkeys started preening. One turkey even laid down right in the middle of the path to preen, settling into a sunbeam:

These turkeys certainly knew we were there -- the front turkey kept an especially close watch on us -- but they seemed willing to share their space with us. Here's a video of these turkeys preening (pardon the noise of an airplane flying overhead):

Eventually, we decided to continue on our way; and as we came closer to them, the turkeys just calmly stood up and ambled off into the woods. Through the whole encounter, I kept thinking how extraordinarily polite these birds were. Thank you, wonderful big creatures, for letting us be with you in your woods for a little while:

So that was awesome. A little further down the path, a flock of hundreds of Common Grackles worked through the forest around us. And past the grackles, I found Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) emerging from the forest floor:

I didn't even know that this plant existed before I saw it. Beechdrops, it turns out, is one of those weird types of leafless plants that gets its nutrients by parasitizing another plant (in this case, American Beech trees). These small flowers on plain branching stems are actually quite lovely up close:

At the end of our walk, a Painted Turtle basked in a sunny pond:

And colorful sprays of goldenrod and aster -- so many colors! -- decorated the path back to the parking lot:

And speaking of colors, in the two weeks since I took these pictures, the landscape here has almost entirely changed. Fall has arrived, and it's wonderful. Hooray for seasons, and woods, and big polite birds.