It started out as a magical experience. A turkey head popped up outside the window above my laptop screen and she was soon followed by two baby wild turkeys!
I spent 20 minutes photographing them in our front yard, moving slowly so as not to disturb them. They were very relaxed with me and went about their business of preening, stretching and lying around in the grass.
Then they headed toward our gravel driveway so I walked around the house to sit in the direction they were headed. The whole family walked very calmly past me about 10 feet away. It was amazing to hear the quiet little sounds the baby turkeys made as they chatted with each other. (Hey, what are baby turkeys called?)
But suddenly mom wasn’t so relaxed anymore. After passing me they meandered into my native woodland wildflower garden and she immediately noticed an intruder that put her on edge. It was a metal garden statue of a crane.
Measuring about 3 feet high, the bird garden statue stood in an erect and imposing posture.
She fluffed out her neck feathers, bowed her head low, then raised it high with her wings spread to the ground. An anxious chortle rattled from her throat. Mom was not happy.
My own mother had given me the waterbird statue many years before. It was beautifully made with a copper-like patina and a realistic design. I had chosen not to put it next to our wildlife pond because I was worried the sculpture would scare away traveling frogs who were looking for a new home.
Instead I placed it in the woods in my little ephemeral flower garden where it wouldn’t bother anybody. Or so I thought.
Again I cautiously moved in closer to film the interaction. She paid me no mind but was very focused on the lawn ornament. She would approach, fluff, bow, and then raise her head high. But her enemy made no response.
The chicks went about their business pecking at the ground and mom occasionally wandered back to join them.
But soon she would move in again to test this frozen rival. First she faked an attack with a quick step forward. Then she flapped her wings right in front of it with a sharp clap.
She returned to the garden path and pecked the ground casually before launching a sneak attack. Lunging at the statue, she flapped her impressive wings and launched her large clawed feet into the air. In a lightning quick assault, she gouged viciously at the breast of the enemy, nails clanging loudly off the metal as her wings walloped the undergrowth.
It scared the crap out of me. But the intruder remained unmoved. She repeated these various moves for more than twenty minutes, including at least three frightening attacks on the statue.
I felt terrible for the agitated mom who had just moments earlier felt so calm and relaxed in our yard. The little family finally moved off and back up our driveway, but I have no idea what conclusion she came to about the threat in the garden.
They moved downhill to a sunny grassy patch in the corner of our property and I left them alone while I went to tell Cristina what had happened.
We had caught the little family on one of our camera traps 2 weeks earlier when the young were much smaller and I really wanted to encourage them to stay.
So I decided it was time to retire the crane statue and placed it in a shed for safe keeping.
Twenty minutes later I peeked out from the woods to check on the little family. They had bedded down cozily into our long grass for a hard-earned afternoon rest. I hope we see them all again soon!