Soggy morning roost

 

It was three hours before sunrise as I made my way to one of my most reliable roost sites this morning.  It had rained on & off throughout the night & the ground was a little soggy, which made for some quiet walking.  When I topped the ridge & got to within 100 yards of the roost site, I scanned some of the treetops with binoculars.  I could see several birds clustered together in a single, gnarly limbed oak tree!  They were probably eighty yards away from where I stood.  I thought about how I would attempt to approach them.  But then I looked above my intended path & could see at least three other birds roosted away from the rest of the flock.  I would have to walk directly under one of them to reach that cluster of birds I wanted to sit under.  So I slowly inched my way along the old logging road & hoped I could pull this off.  I made it past those three birds & stopped before crossing a fence just to slow myself down.  The wet leaves allowed me to move quicker than I normally would.  I kept sneeking my way towards that cluster of birds, all the while continuing to keep an eye on the few birds I just passed up.  Some racoons started fighting down off the ridge & the racket prompted a few shock gobbles from the birds I just finished walking under!  I hoped the cluster of birds I was heading towards were hens, but I wasn't sure.  I managed to get within twenty yards of the majority of the flock, get my camera gear set up & get situated.  I pushed the record button at 5:50, almost an hour & forty-five minutes before sunrise!  I sat there in the dark listening to the sounds of rustling feathers & gobblers spitting when they'd strut.  I could make out maybe thirty-two turkeys & I was sitting within twenty yards of most of them.  But there were birds all around me in the treetops!  As I sat there waiting on the turkeys to do their thing, I noticed the sky getting a little darker.  There was a slight chance of rain, but I kept hoping it would hold off.  But about an hour before daybreak, it started to drizzle.  A few of the gobblers were strutting on the limb.  But once it began to rain, they just folded up & sat back down.  The rain didn't last very long though.  When it quit, the gobblers were right back to strutting!  Pretty soon, one of the birds behind me gobbled again & it sort of sparked some of the other birds into talking.  Some of the hens began with some soft, subtle clucks & purrs.  Then they went into some soft tree yelping.  As the sky brightened & the songbirds became more prevalent, one old hen jumped in with some cutting!  It really fired the others up & the gobblers just ate it up!  Then a "boxy" sounding hen jumped in with some longer, more drawn out series of yelps.  She really sounded beautiful.  She got louder & more excited until one of the longbeards pitched down & walked within five or six yards of me, heading towards that old, boxy sounding hen.  Then one by one, they began their descent.  There were several fly down cackles, lots of excited yelping & some gobbling to be heard.  Once most of them were on the ground, the longbeards were strutting in circles & chasing each other around.  A few jakes were yelping & sounding as though they were trying to gobble, but it just wasn't quite coming out right.  They eventually worked out into a pasture away from me & I snuck out the back door to avoid spooking them.  It was a great way to start the morning!       

 

Sunrise:  7:31 a.m.

 

Temperature:  54 degrees

 

Wind:  2.5 mph

 

Barometer:  29.83 & rising

 

Location:  southwest Pennsylvania

 

# of gobbles heard:  30

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