Light as a feather…

The magic of nature revealed by a clutch of eggs

One crisp spring day, with last winter’s leaves scattered along our path and crinkling under our feet, we explored the thickened wooded area surrounding our hiking path. The trail that we chose happened to belong to a private area, which we are members. The air was cool; just enough to capture our breaths as we walked.  Naturally, our two favorite companions, Brandy and Hermes, joined us, scampering far ahead, making sure that the path was clear for us to follow. Ten minutes into our hike, the puppies stopped along the way to explore the surrounding woods. They remained at one area for a lengthy amount of time; tails wagging, drooling and yipping in delight.  My husband and I decided it was in our best interest to seek out what Hermes and Brandy thought was so special.  And, indeed, it was special.

Hidden in a nest of weathered leaves and broken branches were nine fairly large eggs.  We weren’t sure what they were, but we knew that they weren’t your every day variety of eggs.  After a moment of deep thought, we heard a fluttering of feathers and screeching from above. It was a wild turkey, trying to get us away from her family before our puppies devoured the eggs.  We left the nest immediately, as we didn’t want the mother to worry about her youngins and continued on our journey in the woods.

When we returned on our next hike, the eggs and the nest had vanished, and wondered if some wild animals had destroyed them.  From time to time on our hikes we passed a jumbled scattering of leaves, tossed around like a fluffed-up featherbed, as if some animal had been foraging for food.  “Racoons,” my husband said, “or maybe squirrels,” he added quickly, to keep me from worrying about the eggs and animals that might find an unprotected nest a tasty treat. And so we left it, sometimes pointing out the unsettled leaves from hike to hike as proof of the presence of hidden wildlife, and letting the eggs pass on to a one-time wonder we had both shared.

Spring came and went, as we limited our hiking on that particular trail; warmer weather had arrived and more hikers discovered the paths that previously we had had to ourselves.   We returned much later on a warm summer day, with budding branches and the aroma of honey suckle drifted across a gathering of ferns.  Many were out hiking that day, so our puppy’s freedom was a little stifled.  As life would have it, the hike was anything but boring. A splash in the pond brought us quickly to the shore, as our puppy, Brandy, decided to cool off in the pond, lapping up the refreshing source.  Splashing and playing like a child was a Kodak moment for us.

On the way back, after numerous adventures in the surrounding woods, our puppies happened upon another magnificent sight.  There were nine young turkeys crossing the path in front of us, being led by the mother herself.  Our puppies thought it would be fun to chase them, maybe to see if they could catch one?  My husband and I took a different path as the puppies in hope of capturing a picture.  As we suspected, they were the nine baby turkeys from the eggs that we spotted that spring, fairly grown, with some a scattering of downy feathers still on their bodies.  We were quite happy, knowing that the nine eggs had survived the cold winter months and had not become prey to the wild creatures of the woods.  Eventually, the puppies lost interest and we made our way back to the car.  The pictures were blurry, jittery works of modern art with no sign of the baby turkeys.

The summer got hotter, the hiking trails busier; so hiking became limited to beaches at night where our puppies could run free. Summer went, then autumn came.  We returned, hiked our favorite paths, enjoying the coolness of the days, and the hand painted leaves along the way and pondered the fate of the young turkeys.

Winter roared in and we were preparing for our winter hikes with boots, scarves, mittens and warm downy parkas.

Mother nature blanketed us with a magnificent amount of snow right before the holidays.  It remained for awhile; even though winter rains had washed away many snow men at that time.  Hiking was still a part of our daily routines, even with the darkened, foreshortened days of winter.  We returned to our favorite trails, as much for the fact that it is close as that there wouldn’t be many hikers along the path.

This time, the path was covered in some snow still remaining from a winter wonderland from Mother Nature. Winter is so magical, with snow covered trees, branches twinkling in the sun light and the complete solitude from the sleeping woods. Our puppies didn’t seem to mind the cold air, as they scattered about the wooded areas, leaping across snow piles and tumbled tree limbs.

Again we saw the scattered leaves, dug out from under the snow, and near it a clearly recognizable footprint with three talons.  Large prints.  “Geese?” my husband pondered.  “It’s odd that they’d come this far into the woods.”  We were totally engrossed in this find and until we noticed that our puppies were jumping and barking in the air, trying to catch large flying creatures. “They’ll never catch a goose,” my husband said.

Upon a reaching the pond, we discovered that the puppies were barking at a flock of wild turkeys.  With birds in flight in all directions, we hurried to count the number of turkeys:  one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine magnificent, fully grown wild turkeys.  Could these be the same nine turkeys that we spotted a year ago before they were hatched out in the wild?  Could they all have survived the mystery of the woods and its creatures?

Gone were the last traces of downy feathers, replaced by the smooth, silky dark gray feathers, long slender legs and the statuesque figure of an adult bird.  Gone was the dependence on someone else to take care of him.  Gone was the innocence.  Yes, these had to be our nine turkeys, the eggs and the young birds we discovered along our hikes in the woods.   Somehow, I even think our puppies remembered who they were, as instead of chasing them along the path, they just stopped and stared, as each bird flew away, each perching in a different tree, watching us, as we stood watching them.

Maybe, they remembered us.  Remembered us when our dogs didn’t crack open the eggs. Remembered when our dogs stopped chasing them when they were about 6 months old, and now, remembering us, as we remembered them.  Yes, it was them, the upturned leaves had been their handiwork.  We had been seeing evidence of them all this time and mistaking it for other, potentially nasty animals. We knew then, that Mother Nature had spared them from wild animals and curious humans.  That she allowed these nine eggs to mature into nine fantastic adults, who may someday, have nine eggs of their own, making that 81 turkeys by next Thanksgiving.

Wild turkey at Thanksgiving?  If they keep their home in the private protected woods where we enjoy our hikes, it won’t be our nine!

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