Twitterpated with Wild Turkey by Janine Donoho

Flock of wild toms

Flock of wild toms

During our nearly 200 hikes yearly, we revel in seasonal birdlife, although twitterpated spring and wildcare summer offer choicest viewing times. As avian couples woo and mate, then raise their young, you glimpse variations on parenting themes. For wild turkeys, commitment shy toms have all the fun while hens band together to raise their broods.

Full plumage tom

Full plumage tom

Treed tom

Treed tom

A slow-mo hike along an old logging road in Okanogan National Forest with our fourteen pound predator, otherwise known as Mighty Italian Greyhound (MIGgy), prompts spontaneous flushing of a Meleagris gallopavo from the underbrush. As often happens, this wild tom exceeds cartoonish expectations by being quick on the wing, cunning, and beautifully feathered in iridescent bronzes and greens with the hallmark scaled legs and wattle reminiscent of its reptilian ancestors. Its verbal complaint while flying resembles gobbled outrage rather than the silly preschool sound human throats make. Once the tom alights on a ponderosa pine branch, MIGgy takes a victory lap. Wild turkeys protecting their territory can be aggressive. Who can blame them when so many end up on dinner tables? So give the hound a nod.

Why does the turkey cross the logging road? It’s all about food, water, and shelter. Like us, turkeys appreciate the finer things in life. For our local populations that means established ponderosa forests, where turkeys feast upon seeds and fruits along with occasional insects and a chaser of grit—yum! Hens hollow out ground nests in debris at bases of trees and shrubs, but roost on higher limbs due to rapacious coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, mountain lions, raptors, and—yes, us. They’re also one of this nation’s few conservation success stories, returning from populations of 30,000 birds in the early 1900s to over 7,000,000 today. Evidently the idea of facing an empty Thanksgiving platter roused our national fervor to deal with habitat degradation and poaching.

Wild thing, I think I love ya...

Wild thing, I think I love ya…

With their dense bone structure, turkey fossil records date back to over 5,000,000 years ago. Undomesticated birds are no more like their meal-on-the-talon version than cows are like fierce and extinct aurochs. Today we incapacitate domesticated turkeys by favoring massive breasts that overbalance the poor beasties—and no, we’re talking meaty breasts versus silicon here. This trend began five hundred years ago, spreading to a global phenomenon when Spaniards made off with turkeys domesticated by Aztecs. The bird’s eponymous name may originate from early transport through Turkey on their way to Europe.

Wily tom heading for deep cover

So today, up with turkeys. Yes, call me twitterpated.

Turkey hens & brood

Turkey hens & brood

What local birds raise your spirits? How do you enhance their habitat?

Grit by Janine Donoho

Where the world drops away.

Where the world drops away.

Grit—those pebbles that irritate tender folds of skin during extreme hikes. Wildly enough, grit’s also the resolve to persevere through setbacks. In other words, LIFE, or as I call it, “Putting on the big girl panties.”

Walking buddiesI’ve a confession to make. After a spin cycle of agitated road trips, firefly visits with friends, and the blue funk that rolls in after launching Intrepid Guy on another cross-global deployment, I’m less than excited about spelunking into my writing today. There’s the primal thrill over my coming launch of Soundings, Water Elemental, but I’m still a bit—well—flat.

Sparkling wine days are over for the time being. Ceaseless snow amasses across the highlands. Intrepid Guy sits in a lovely pink hotel room in Penticton until the airport connecting him to Vancouver, British Columbia, clears for flights, and I need to shovel the entryways and figure out why our faithful soapstone stove refuses to burn—yes, low oxygen, but why? Later, after I do my daily work…Writers make the best friends

In that vein, I brew coffee, a gift from a best friend and writer, before facing the blank screen. Pavlovian conditioning comes through and words begin to flow. Yes, I’m that writing hound. For what is this chosen pursuit other than goals set and pursued? Relentlessly.

Today’s mantra? Be brave. Gain stamina and persistence through practice. Show grit. It’s the real deal.Grit

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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