Landing strip

March 20, 2017

 It was cloudy this morning as I made my way in to a Pennsylvania roost site for the first time this year.  I was excited because I watched a mixed group of birds peck around in a nearby pasture just before sundown last night.  I knew they wouldn't roost far from where I saw them.  

The ground was still saturated from the recent rains, so it made the walking a little more quiet.  When I reached the ridgetop this morning, it didn't take long to find some birds!  The more I scanned the treetops with binoculars, I could tell they were spread out 180 degrees in front of me.  I picked the easiest ones to sneak underneath & began my slow approach.  It was at least two hours before sunrise when I found them.  But by the time I found a tree to set up at, threw on some extra clothes & got my camera gear set up, there was only an hour left.  I could hear droppings hitting the ground all around me as I got ready to go!  Pretty soon, I could hear a bird spitting as he strutted.  Then a subtle, two note yelp (which sounded like a jake).  Droppings continued to hit the floor all around me & the only other sounds to be heard were the spitting of that one gobbler & feathers ruffling as a few turkeys shook themselves off.  It was probably close to ten minutes before a bird gobbled.  A jake followed with a half-hearted gobble of his own followed by a few yelps.  Maybe another five minutes went by before a hen jumped in with some soft, fast-paced tree yelps.  That jump started the rest & the soft tree calls surrounded me!  The sounds of strutting became more numerous as other gobblers began to blow up.  As the songbirds began to greet the day, a few jakes got excited & started in with some deep, whiny yelps & that set off some gobbling!  Sporadically, the hens began yelping with more excitement & the gobbling increased.  I zoomed in on a longbeard in front of me once I had enough camera light as it strutted on a calf-sized limb about thirty feet above the ground.  The turkey talk was almost non-stop at that point & as the ground became more well lit, a bird behind me pitched down.  Then several others followed suit.  A few of the birds landed so close to me that I felt the wind from their wings flapping!  Pretty soon, I had roughly thirty birds on the ground all around me.  Some of them as close as four or five yards!  Gobbler yelps, jake yelps, fighting purrs & wingbeats filled the air all around me!  I was surrounded by birds & had a smile from ear to ear!  One longbeard strutted back & forth at no more than ten yards in front of me.  A gaggle of jakes sorted out their rank in the pecking order twenty yards to my right.  A couple young hens preened over my right shoulder at six or seven yards.  Some more jakes were over my left shoulder strutting around.  A couple more hens pitched down & almost landed on me!  I felt invisible!!  It was fantastic!  The strutter in front of me had had a good set of spurs too!  Eventually, they all settled down & slowly worked their way into a pasture & allowed me to slip out the back door.  What a morning!! 

 

Sunrise:  7:20 a.m

 

Temperature:  35 degrees

 

Wind:  calm

 

Barometer:  30.24 & falling

 

Location:  southwest Pennsylvania

 

# of gobbles heard:  200

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