When I was a kid one of my favorite things to do on a long afternoon was play with my father’s moose, duck and turkey calls. Hunters used these to trick moose, ducks and turkeys into coming closer, at least some hunters did. I personally think my father just like making funny noises.
Every fall he would go to Maine and New Hampshire with some old Army buddies to go hunting. To my knowledge my dad never shot anything on these trips but he always came home with lots of great stories of what he had seen. My mom said he just liked an excuse to go tromping around in the woods. Anyway….
my dad would sure have been surprised to see wild turkeys running around everywhere on Cape Cod. Turkeys are now in every town on the Cape and have become a pretty common sight, even along the highways and in the down town areas. These birds used to be very rare. Even in places they were known to be they were hard to find and see. Turkeys were reintroduced in Massachusetts only about 20 or 25 years ago, I think and have certainly made a good come back.
Turkeys travel in flocks and usually there is only one male with a whole harem of females. You may also see a bunch of young males hanging around together that don’t have their own harems quite yet.
These turkeys were all raising their tails in the air while running down the driveway. I had stopped my car to take their picture out the window in the rain but they wanted nothing to do with me…..I found these turkeys in Eastham yesterday but you can see turkeys just about anywhere on the Cape.
Have you seen a wild turkey?
Sorry I haven’t posted this week but I’ve been sick and was unable to post. I have tons of new pictures to share, though, so be sure to visit over the weekend.
One of my favorite early spring signs is seeing the snowdrops bloom. This year they at least didn’t have to bloom in the snow!
Skunk cabbage is growing in wetland areas….
All the budding bushes and shrubs are giving the landscape a pink tinge….
And there’s something different in the ponds….
Green plants are already growing, reaching for the sun!
And winter ducks, such as this male red-breasted merganser are courting and displaying even as they prepare for their long journey north to breed and nest.
If you live on Cape Cod you probably know that sighting an adult bald eagle is not very common, even in winter when we do get a few eagle sightings.This winter there have actually been a fair number of eagles about, including this adult that has been hanging around in Mashpee. This photo is by Mary Noonan Keleher of Mashpee for although I did get to see the eagle I have no pictures to share. Let’s just say the eagle is a dark speck with a white head in my photos.
Bald eagles nest a bit to our north and also to our south and west but so far not on the Cape itself. As you probably know, eagles are birds of prey and eat just about anything from ducks to mice to fish. They are also scavengers and will eat the prey of other animals as well as hang out at the dump.
Have you ever seen a bald eagle?
I love sanderlings and sandpipers. They accompany me on many a beach walk, especially in the fall and winter….
For many folks all the little birds running around on the beach are sandpipers and although that is not always technically correct it is often close enough. Even good birders refer to the whole group as “peeps” or “pipers” and sometimes indentifying them, especially in winter can be tricky.
I took this photo at quite a distance but I believe these are sanderlings in the top picture. The area I took the photos in has had both dunlins and western sandpipers over the last few weeks as well as sanderlings and winter shorebird plumages can be a tough call. You need to look at the overall shape, size, behavior, etc.
I believe the bird in the second photo is also a sanderling. I thought it might be a dulin, which are a bit chunkier and have a longer bill that curves down a bit but another birder I spoke with is pretty sure it is a sanderling. I am happy to be corrected so please feel free to chime in.
These two shots are definitely of sanderlings. Jaunty little guys, don’t you think?
They are often on our beaches all winter and will soon be molting and getting their summer plumages. The dunlins will, too. Then they will all be off to the north where they will mate and nest. They will return here in the fall.
Earlier this week a reader of my Weekly Nature Watch column (Enterprise newspapers) called to tell me they had a screech owl sitting on a branch in their yard. They had previously had screech owls in a nesting box they had built but the day before they called me a squirrel had moved into the box. It was rainy, windy and cold the day I went over and sure enough, there was the little screech owl sitting on the branch, watching the box…..Every now and then the squirrel peeked out of the box but mostly it stayed inside and let the owl stare and stare and get wet and cold…..Screech owls are pretty common on the Cape and they are fairly easy to lure to nest boxes. Owl nest boxes have a 3″ hole which unfortunately is plenty big for squirrels, too. You can see that this box has even had the hole edges chewed on, most likely by squirrels, which enlarges the hole. It is not uncommon for screech owls and squirrels to go back and forth winning the box back and then losing it again. Home owners that prefer the owls are encouraged to clean the squirrel nest materials out of the box daily so the owl can return. The squirrels may still win, however.
These homeowners were adding several other nest boxes this week so it will be interesting to see what happens next. Screech owls are using boxes or holes in trees to roost right now. They don’t nest until February or March. You may be hearing great horned owls right now because they are getting ready to nest and all that hooting is helping them find a mate. Screech owls don’t hoot, by the way. They either let loose with a blood curdling screech or make a sound that is sort of like the whinnying of a horse.