Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winter Bald Eagles and Wild Turkeys

With the temperature hovering around 32F, today was the beginning of a good old mid-western winter heat wave - and a great day for taking the Prius for a spin.

Would my favorite rural rustic road be clear enough for a Prius - with no snow tires?

Why yes, it was.  And the roadside was full of birds.

The first was a Bald Eagle, taking a mid-day rest in a tree by Tarrant Park in Durand.   Look in the trees along the Lower Chippewa - where the river is open - and in the sky overhead.  You'll see lots of them.  We counted a half dozen on the way to Eau Claire, adults and immatures.

adult Bald Eagle - immature Bald Eagle

We spotted several Red-tailed Hawks in Meridean, hanging out in their usual roosts - at the top of deciduous trees along the edges of the corn fields;  American Robins bathing in the melting snow in the sloughs; and  Tree Sparrows and juncos drinking and bathing in roadside puddles.

Then, just south of Eau Claire, we spotted 2 dozen Wild Turkeys close to the road - in a farmer's front yard.  They are so very smart.  The minute I pulled off the road, they started to disburse.

I had to laugh at the Frosty the Snowman sign by the farmhouse - waving at the gobblers.  Too funny.

It's also amazing - to think Wild Turkeys were extirpated from Wisconsin back in 1881.  Farming and logging resulted in destruction of the habitat these birds prefer - oak forests.  It wasn't until nearly 100 years later that the Wisconsin DNR embarked on a program to bring them back.  It began with a trade: Ruffed Grouse for Wild Turkeys.

The rest, as they say, is history.  The 29 Wild Turkeys (from the Missouri Department of Conservation) released in Vernon County 30 years ago, have multiplied to the now more than 300,000 gobblers in the Badger state.  A wildlife conservation story with a very happy ending.

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