A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bullies, Bellies, Babies, Birdseed, and Buzzards!

Yesterday I witnessed turkey bullying and it was not a nice thing to see! Two young turkey hens were bullying another young turkey hen. They had her pressed between them and they had their tail feathers spread like a gobbler does. She was walking back and forth in an area just inside the back fence line behind the cabin. She would walk for about 10 yards, then turn around and walk back, as if she was trying to get away from them. One bully was on each side of her and they angled in toward her so she would have had a hard time getting away. They pecked at her and pushed on her and made turkey noises which I feel sure were not nice comments!

Another young turkey hen stood outside the fence watching, not willing to take part in the bullying but not prepared to rescue her either. I haven't seen this behavior before but when I talked to Rickie about it he said he had seen similar bullying before in turkeys. He thinks the young hen had probably just tried to join the group and the they wanted to be sure she knew her place. 

I went outside to try and take a photo and if that was not possible to stop it because it is somewhat distressing to watch, as all bullying is, natural order of things or not. I had to open the door to the screen porch to take a photo and that ran the two bullies off. The victim took off and went down the fence line and out the back gate, which I have blocked open a little so the fawns can go in and out. She went down the fence line and joined the other hen and they ultimately wandered off. The two bullies headed for the water tank inside the fence.

This morning one of the squirrels in the yard did something I've not seen before also. We don't have a lot of squirrels but this year we have 4 young ones that hang around. They were busy at all the feeders. One of them came within 4 feet of the front window and allowed me to take his photo through the window without running off. He was spread out on the ground, all 4 legs spread with his belly on the ground. I wondered if he was trying to get cool, like dogs do when they dig a bit and lay on the dirt. I googled the behavior and found out it is a way they dump body heat, so my assumption seems correct. Rickie and I have seen them lay like this in trees before but not on the ground. 

We've got about 20 baby turkeys that hang around. They came into the yard for the first time yesterday. With the drought we didn't have any last year so we're very glad to see them doing well! Turkey moms are really good mothers and take good care of their offspring. They band together and this year we have 3 moms with 14 babies and one mom that was by her herself with her 6 babies. Yesterday they were all together, so I hope the single mom stays in the group. It helps protect the babies from the predators we have in our area.

I put a new birdseed feeder up this year and the squirrels, doves, and scrub jays like it. It's a top to a metal trash can that lost its handle. I drilled some holes in it to let rainwater out and screwed it to the top of a fence post on the little fence that protects out water shutoff valves.

We always have buzzard around and I like to watch them; they look like kites in the sky. Sometimes they perch on the light pole in the yard to greet the morning sun. They spread their wings out to dry. One morning I was able to get a photo of them taken from the kitchen window.

This post was brought to you by the letter "B"!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On The Wings Of A Dove

Walking past the front door in the cabin on Father’s Day morning I caught a flash of white flying by and went to look out the window. There were two Eurasian Collared Doves coming in to land on the driveway. They were soon joined by one more and then another. All walked around the circle of the drive.

These birds are not native to our continent but they like it here. They were brought to the Bahamas in the 1970s and made their way to Florida in the 1980s. They rapidly spread from there. They are much bigger than the mourning doves or white-wing doves. They have a black ring that partially circles their neck, thus the name “collared”. Not everyone likes them, as they are can increase and compete with native doves, but I like them. They are very pretty. They have a loud harsh flight call and also a loud cooing dove call. They seem to pair up and they have settled in the trees near the cabin this year. We have had them for several years but more this year.

My Dad loved these birds, which is another reason I like them. They are a very soft gray, almost white on their chests. As my Dad’s health deteriorated and he couldn’t get out much, he spent a lot of time bird-watching out his dining room window. He was a plumber and had worked all his life. He missed getting out and seeing his buddies at the hardware store in his little town. The old guys gathered there every day to shoot the breeze and get away from the house. The fellas were dying out one by one and my Dad’s life was winding down to the end. His eyesight was failing as his macular degeneration progressed rapidly. 

His one hobby was watching the birds and squirrels and their antics while he could still see them. One day he called me very excited! He said he had a white dove in his yard. These collared doves were rare then in that area and this was the first time he had seen one in his yard. My Dad was far from religious but he was spiritual. He had a Native American bloodline and an upbringing of hunting, fishing, and studying the natural world that was every Southern boy’s way of life back then. It still is in the small towns and on farms and ranches across the country. In the city only the folks that had exposure through their parents or grandparents hold on to this heritage; a knowledge of the natural and wild world is dying out there. But it was and is strong in those who lived it. 

He interpreted this “white” dove as a blessing sent to him. A sign that things were alright. My Dad sang all the time, bursting into a song out of the blue, and one of the songs that he sang was Ferlin Husky’s song On the Wings of a Dove. In the Robert Duval movie Tender Mercies the writers make that seem a rare and unknown song, but it was very popular with folks who listened to country music. And of course, we knew the story of Noah backwards and forwards. Much of the Bible was not taught in Sunday School as it would scare the bejeebers out of kids and some is x-rated, but Noah was one we heard repeatedly. Although the part about all the people, including kids, drowning was played down.

My Dad was a happy person. I know many people with fewer problems than he had and they see only the unhappiness in the world and complain all the time. But my Dad found happiness in his family and in the birds he saw from his window. His health had narrowed his world down to these two things and he found a peaceful joy in them. Happiness is not always jumping-up-and-down excitement, trips around the world, new cars and big houses. It comes from inside you and I learned long ago that only you can make yourself happy. 

As you get older, you expect that you might miss your parents less than when you were younger. But it seems in reality you sometimes miss them more, maybe because you can identify more with them as you age yourself. On this beautiful Hill Country Father’s Day, my thoughts were on my Dad and I was wishing I could sit down and have a talk with him. As I looked out the window at the white collared doves walking around the driveway together I took it as a blessing sent to me.

“…..the body grows weak, the spirit grows numb. When these things beset us, he won’t forget us. He sends down his love on the wings of a dove.”

Thanks for the sign, Daddy. I threw some extra milo out for the white doves. And shed an extra tear for you.

Hal Ketchum sings On the Wings of a Dove

(Photos from top: Daddy with his brother Bob, Daddy and me, Daddy and my brother David, Daddy and my grandson Anthony)