Hot, muggy weather returned to my realm this past weekend, and with it came an abundance of wildlife.
Yesterday, while spending the day with Daughter No. 4, we caught four turtles, one rat snake, one glass lizard, wildflowers galore, and, the highlight of the day, a baby turkey, or poult.
(Of course, we rang up a big fat zero on the day’s stated goal: catching fish.)
Now, no offense to aficionados of turtles, snakes or glass lizards, but catching the baby turkey was definitely the highlight.
While driving in a rural part of a rural county toward mid-afternoon we spied a hen on the side of the road. My daughter also caught sight of several youngsters, so I stopped the car and set off into the underbrush while she grabbed the camera.
The hen immediately began clucking and trotting in large circles around me, trying to draw me away from her babies. My daughter began taking pictures every time the hen ventured near her while I crouched in the brush stock still, trying to catch sight or sound of the youngsters.
After about 10 minutes of no movement except the mother circling and squawking, I recalled many years earlier when I’d captured some baby quail.
It occurred to me that the poults were probably like quail in that they wouldn’t budge until their mother gave them the “all clear” signal, so I began to stealthily work my way through the brush.
All the while, I could hear the hen circling, her thickly padded feet thumping each time she crossed the road.
Over time, her circle grew larger, which led me to believe I was still in the right area and she was desperate to distract me from her brood.
After about 20 minutes I was beginning to believe I’d been outsmarted, especially given the denseness of the brush and the ability of wild animals to blend in with habitat when necessary.
Then I saw it, hunched down in a small divot surrounded by pine needles: a baby.
It knew I was right behind it, but didn’t move, enabling me to gently scoop it up. It was covered in a soft down, caramel and white in color, and, not surprisingly, its eyes were quite large as I cupped my hands around it.
I brought it out of the brush and called to my daughter, who was taking pictures of the hen. She, as might be expected of a 12-year-old girl, practically melted at the sight of the poult.
I will say it was considerably cuter than the glass lizard we had caught earlier in the day.
After I let her hold it for a couple of minutes, during which time we studied its markings and looked at its already sturdy feet, we put it down and watched it scamper off into the brush.
The mother continued to circle, albeit with less speed and enthusiasm. She’d probably figured if we’d let one of the poults go we couldn’t be very serious predators.
We then got in the car and proceeded off down the country road, enabling mother and babies to reunite, and allowing us to contemplate the beauty of God’s creation.