Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Turkey Time

While Wild Turkeys are non-migratory residents and therefore present all year, there are certainly times of the year when they are more noticeable than others. During winter and during the breeding season, birds can be surprisingly difficult to find, despite their relatively large size, so when is the best time to enjoy turkey sightings? Well, right now! Late March and early April constitute the peak of courtship and mating for Wild Turkeys in Cape May and an early morning drive around the county at this time of year is almost certain to provide you with some great turkey watching. Look for open, grassy areas on the edge of woodland, as courting birds often like to strut their stuff where their plumage can be shown off to maximum effect. Turkey numbers appear to be increasing in Cape May County and just a couple of days ago I counted 39 in a field off Tuckahoe Road - quite a sight with the males strutting their stuff. Recently, I visited the yard of a friend who has gradually worked up a close relationship with his local turkeys and it was quite a sight to see them all gathered around his feet and eating sunflower seeds.

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge fields along Rt 47, clearings and old fields in and around Belleplain State Forest and fields along New England Road are all good places to look for turkeys right now.

Wild Turkeys up close. Low light angles on a sunny morning show up the amazing metallic hues to maximum effect.

Male turkeys in all their finery

With different light angles come different colors. Here, a rich array of bronze tones stand out.

Turkey art. If you can get good and close to the birds, you can come up with all sorts of artistic possibilities.

Wild Turkeys occasionally come in variant color forms, the most common of which is this leucistic form, often referred to as 'smoke phase'. These birds occur naturally and are not escaped farmyard birds, as is often thought [photos by Mike Crewe].

Recent Reports and other news

April has finally arrived and with it, a nice range of birds. April 1st saw the first Yellow-throated Warbler singing along Jake's Landing Road, Barn Swallow at The Meadows, Purple Martin at The Beanery and the surprise appearance of a male Eurasian Wigeon on Lighthouse Pond.  Highlights on the 2nd included an American Golden Plover flying over Stevens Street and a Black Skimmer past 2nd Avenue jetty. Tom Reed's diligence at the point today highlighted a steady movement of gulls, cormorants and swallows heading north, as well as a few raptors; the latter included a couple of American Kestrels late morning.

With a couple of days of west to south-west winds ahead, it's worth heading down to the point to see what new arrivals have come our way. Check out our online calendar or download a copy of the Kestrel Express to stay in touch with our program of walks, boat trips and other events - you don't want to miss out on the fun!!

A small party of American Wigeon showed up on Lighthouse Pond on April 1st and with them came this nice, rusty-headed male Eurasian Wigeon [photo by Mike Crewe].