Finally some hens!
The conditions weren't exactly ideal for filming a roost site this morning. It was very cloudy & dark. The temperature was ok, but the wind is what I was worried about more than anything. They were calling for 13 mph winds with gusts in the 20+ mph range! Plus there was a chance of snow. But I braved the elements & hoped for a good morning. There wasn't a whole lot of wind as I made my way in there at 4:30. So I was hopeful it would just stay like it was for a few more hours. The ground was wet from overnight rains, so it made for some quiet walking. I actually had to stop a few times just to slow myself down as I climbed the steep wooded sidehill where the birds normally roost. I spotted a couple birds above me when I got in there too! The more I looked around, I could see at least six of them! So instead of setting up below them & having to look way up in the trees to film them, I decided to get above the majority of them so I they would be closer to eye level. I slowly crept up the hill right underneath a couple of them & got set up by a blowdown within 10 yards of one particular bird that was off to my left as I looked down the slope! The rest of them were scattered out in front of me, some within 10 yards as well. I got situated & was ready to go by 5:40 (more than an hour before sunrise). I dozed off a few times waiting for some action. But around 6:00, I heard the wind coming! It really started to gust & pretty soon I could hear snow hitting the leaves. It came down fairly steady for about ten minutes or so & forced me to shut the camera off. I was hoping it didn't keep snowing like it was because I would probably have to hurry up & get out of there! I didn't want to get my camera gear soaked. But it let up, so I stuck it out. The birds were blowing all around in the treetops & I had a feeling they wouldn't talk much. As it began to break daylight, a bird scared the heck out of me when it gobbled! It was one of the birds off to my left, which sounded like an older gobbler. But a jake shock gobbled at it & it was the bird over my left shoulder, not 10 yards away that scared me. For the next five or six minutes, not much was said. There were only four or five gobbles from what sounded like jakes. But then all of a sudden, I heard wingbeats & fighting purrs from a bird behind me! At first I thought there were two birds fighting behind me that I hadn't heard fly down yet. But I think it was another jake that got caught up in some vines as it pitched down or something! I wish I would have been able to see it to know what happened. But it was the craziest thing! The jake that was off my left shoulder right above me started putting & all the other birds jerked their heads up to see what all the racket was about. They eventually settled down & after that, a few other birds came down that ended up being jakes as well. The few birds in front of me were still on the limbs & just preening themselves. They stayed pretty quiet for the most part. There were four jakes that I could see on the ground maybe twenty five yards to my left, that gobbled & yelped every once in a while. Then one of the hens in front of me came down & the only thing she did was cluck a little once she was on the ground. I could see her over there between those jakes & me just pecking around in some green shoots of grass. Then another hen came down. Then at least three or four other birds out the ridge maybe fifty or sixty yards pitched down that I hadn't seen. The young hen I was zoomed in on with the camera was still sitting down & watching the birds on the ground. Then one of the older hens on the ground started in with some light, under the breath raspy yelps! The hen I was focused on stood up & yelped real soft. She had a typical young hen, high pitched sound. Then she came down & joined the rest of the flock with a few wingbeats. They all just kind of picked around within twenty to forty yards of me for a while on my left side. There were two longbeards over there that chased around those four jakes & wouldn't let them close to the hens. One of the older hens actually had a six or seven inch beard! But for the most part, the only sounds from those hens were just light yelps. They weren't in a big hurry to go anywhere, that's for sure. They probably stuck around for close to forty five minutes just preening & pecking around. The weather didn't help much. But it sure was nice to finally get under some hens again!
Sunrise: 6:49 a.m
Temperature: 31 degrees
Wind: 11 mph (gusts up to 22 mph)
Barometer: 29.72 & rising
Location: southwest Pennsylvania
# of gobbles heard: 25