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It's time to talk turkey about life in the woods

Outdoors columnist causes a bit of a stir with his camera and his curiosity
Hawke-Turkeys in yard - Edited
The turkeys were spooked from their roost. The question was, Why? David Hawke/OrilliaMatters

"Cause and effect" is a term that's well known in the scientific community (and I imagine it's just as well known in the social community).

I always thought that the words were presented in reverse order, as the 'effect' is usually noticed first, and then there's the investigation as to 'cause'. Whatever.

During a recent wander through our back fields, there was evidence that I had 'caused' a chain of events to happen, with an interesting ripple 'effect' taking place.

Let me begin at the beginning.

The evening prior I had taken the dog for a walk, and it being a somewhat chilly evening, the walk didn't go too far.

As I waited, rather impatiently, for the dear dog to do her thing, there came crashing and thrashing noises from the canopy of the nearby woodlot. Hmm. Probably turkeys coming to roost; they do tend to make a ruckus as they settle onto the treetop branches.

Peering around the end of the barn and up and into the upper branches of the big ol' beeches and maples, I could see silhouettes of turkeys ... but instead of coming to roost, they were leaving, in great haste.

Perhaps they had already roosted in the beech trees when dog and I came outside, and our presence caused them to become nervous which translated into taking flight.

However, as much as this is an example of 'cause and effect', it's not exactly what this story is about.

The next morning came with frigid temperatures, a glowing sunrise, and the promise of new and exciting opportunities to enhance my life and to make the world a better place for all of humanity… but first, the dog needed walking.

As I waited, rather impatiently, for the dog to do her thing, I once again peered around the end of the barn to check out the beech trees.

Wow! Over 30 turkeys were roosting atop the giant trees, some awake and others still with head firmly tucked under a wing. They had returned after all. Great photo opportunity! Thus begins 'cause'.

A few moments later, with camera and long lens now in hand, I approached the woodlot.

Ever notice how a scene looks good until you actually put the camera up to your eye? Every angle of view had a foreground tree in the way, every peep hole through the nearby branches failed to reveal a clear shot of the more distant birds.

I had to get closer.

As my boot touched down on the frozen wooden bridge that crosses the stream that runs by the woodlot that has the beech trees that have great branches that all the turkeys roost on, there came a great SCROONCHING sound.

This can also be filed under 'cause'.

Now for the 'effect'... the air is suddenly full of flying turkeys. My camera points right while I look left. My camera points left while I look right.

Turkeys are above me, turkeys are in front of me, but surprisingly no turkeys were either right or left of me. And just as suddenly, the turkeys are gone, a broken branch doing a slow ballet as it falls to the ground being the only movement in the woodlot.

While this could be considered 'effect', it's still not the interesting result that I would soon discover.

Since I was dressed for the great outdoors, and had the camera with me, and the dog needed an extended walk, it was off to the fields we went, hoping to see the flock out in the open.

As we traversed the rolling hills, a series of tracks presented themselves: coyote. They were very fresh, as the new fallen snow that lay abreast the ground was, well, new fallen, and the tracks were fresh upon it.

We followed them for a few hundred metres until they did a 90-degree turn and began bounding into the adjacent field.

Still following the coyote tracks, dog and I found a second set of tracks that indicated a different animal going lickety-split across the open field. Snowshoe hare!

That's odd, as this animal is usually a deep woods critter, rarely found in the open terrain.

The coyote tracks now turned to follow the hare's tracks. As they disappeared through the fence and went far into the neighbour's field, we didn't continue our part of the chase.

But we were getting close to the 'effect' that I was talking about earlier.

Re-examining the hare's tracks, it seems that it was tentatively crossing the open field, as its footprints are very close together.

But the forward-moving track pattern stops, turns left for a step or two, and then begins a rapid retreat back to a shelter of trees.

Aha, cause and effect!

By walking the dog I saw the turkeys, and by trying to get a picture the turkeys got spooked, and with all the hulabaloo of 35 turkeys rapidly exiting the canopy of a nearby woodlot, a snowshoe hare that was exploring the open field was frightened into turning and running, whose movement then caught the attention of the coyote in the next field, which altered its course to give chase to the hare.

Which leaves us out standing in our field… no turkeys, no coyote, no snowshoe hare. Just me contemplating life, and a dog begging for a cookie treat.