7/12 Preen

 

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She saw me but she didn’t care. Like much of the forest’s wildlife, this urban bird had apparently decided I was no big threat. Among the dangers she confronts as a large visible fowl, in the city hunting is not one of them. So she could afford to relax a little. From the excellent vantage point of her log, she allowed me to watch her daily grooming ritual – the preen.

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First she made a good scan of the surroundings. Despite the turkey jokes, Wild turkeys are very smart, wary animals and can blend into the underbrush instantly when danger threatens. Though she appears to be in deep woods, we were actually quite close to the LNC nature play area, the trail, and a busy neighborhood road. However, the area around her was fairly open, reducing the chances of a predator sneaking up.

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Once she began to fluff, I knew what was coming. Living as I do with a flock of free-range parrots, preening is a familiar activity, often performed while sitting on my shoulder. But a turkey preen – such a magnificence of feathers!

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The preening ritual is very important to a bird’s survival. Feathers must be kept in prime condition for flight, to shed water, and to preserve warmth in winter. Dirt and parasites are removed, as well as the sheaths surrounding pin feathers. Barbules that have come undone are re-zipped.

In the pic above, she’s getting preen oil from the uropygial gland above her tail, and spreading it over her feathers as waterproofing. Most of her varied feather types are on display – though tom turkeys are considered the “pretty” ones, I think she’s quite a lovely sight.

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Birds can reach almost all parts of their bodies with their beaks, but of course not their heads and necks. This is where “allopreening” is useful – having your mate or flock member do that area you can’t get to. It’s a very affectionate bonding behavior, particularly in social species like parrots, or those that cooperate on parenting. Since Wild Turkeys don’t really form pair bonds or raise young together, they don’t allopreen.

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She gave herself a good shake and a final fluff, before stepping off the log and vanishing into the undergrowth.

In other turkey news, I have seen very little of the many chicks hatched in spring. It’s unlikely a great number survived – that’s why turkeys lay so many eggs. But a few weeks ago I got to see one youngster flap up into a tree – thereby educating me that young turkeys can fly very well, despite their seeming lack of flight feathers.

I hope it’s a survivor.

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7/6 Beargrass Creek – the Video

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It’s a first! The first ever video featuring Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve and  oneforestfragment, is now on the Beargrass Thunder show.

     https://www.beargrassthunder.com/

          Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve: An Epic journey

Thanks to my new friends Jody Dahmer and Richard Stottman, I agreed to do an interview style video about the forest, little realizing what this meant. Though I’ve taken great care to keep myself out of the limelight, the opportunity to share what’s been happening in our “urban wild” was not to be missed. There are two videos – a short one  that introduces the work of the Forest Stewards, and a longer one about the preserve.

Richard and Jody are working to revive an area along the South Fork in Beuchel, and have recently created the podcast to highlight environmental and nature related issues in particular. I hope you’ll check out all their great videos, and subscribe to the show.

6/13 Rich

 

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Abundant snails and their eggs provide calcium-rich food for Box turtles, salamanders, mice, shrews, thrushes, turkey poults, etc.

As we race toward the summer solstice, life is busy in this little fragment. Though I keep planning to work on the next epic blog post, my images are documenting lots of (seemingly) little stuff. How to tie it all together? It occurred to me recently, the role of the forest stewards is akin to that of a financial planner – helping this forest “grow” its biological assets (pun intended). From what I’ve been seeing lately, we’re doing a decent job of it. Our client is working much harder though – survival is a great motivator. Read More

5/30 Grow it and they will come

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image: Craig F. Walker

This is not my picture, but I was this close to a wild turkey today. I didn’t have a choice in the matter, since she burst out of the trailside undergrowth and confronted me. Apparently I had once again come too close to her chicks – if indeed this is the same momma turkey whose nest I stumbled upon two weeks ago, and who I startled with her chicks in a heavy rain last week. She had every right to be upset with me for the repeated disturbances, and it showed. Unnerved by her flapping and clucking and the look in her beady eye, I backed up but did not flee. She slowly retreated up the hill, and positioned herself atop a tall stump where she could see my every move. Read More

5/17 Birdy

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Great Horned Owl trying to nap

It’s shaping up to be a very busy summer in the forest for this blogger, which helps explain the scarcity of posts lately. So much going on, and so little time to write about it! But I can’t resist sharing yesterday’s birdy encounters, as well as the fact that my life is increasingly dominated by birds (more on that below).

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4/25 Pure Green

 

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Sweat bee, that is. As a kid that’s what we called them, for their habit of landing on a sweaty arm to get salt. We thought they would sting us, and the females can if riled up. Little did I know they were just one of 4000 species of bees native to North America. But Augochlora pura, the Pure Green Sweat Bee, has to be one of the loveliest of the bunch – and it’s common in this forest. Read More

4/10 First

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This is how you look after spending the winter sleeping underground

Apologies for the long gap in posts, but I’ve been waiting for just this moment. 2019 will be my seventh year collecting data on the Box turtles of this forest, and yet the first one spotted each spring still gives me a thrill. Read More

3/12 Blue

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Male bluebird watching for dinner near trail post #20

Growing up as a city kid in the ’60’s, bluebirds seemed like faraway mythical creatures. I’d never actually seen one, but read that people built special trails for them with boxes to nest in. Once while hiking we came across just such a box mounted on a fence post -but alas, no bluebirds. Years later, living on the west coast, I came to know both western and mountain bluebirds and to recognize their calls. So when I finally heard that distinctive little “cheery-we” call in this forest, I knew Eastern bluebirds were about. Read More

2/16 Weed

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There is a plant that interests me as much in the depths of winter, as when it’s green and juicy. One of the last weeds still standing, gangly Pokeweeds’s bleached skeletons rear up along the forest edge, offering a few shriveled berries to animals sheltering there.

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2/3 Coldest Day

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Male Downy woodpecker foraging in brush

One of my favorite times to explore this little fragment is when it’s very cold. Last Tuesday’s daytime windchill reading was about 5 degrees, and I wanted to see how the forest birds were faring. Except for the creaking of trees and the occasional call of a woodpecker or wren, it was amazingly quiet down in the woods, as if all humans but me had suddenly departed the planet. Even more than usual, I marveled that I was in a forest in the middle of a city. Read More