Beware Militant Turkeys

It’s always a wise idea to avoid feather brains with an attitude.

Yet it seems to be increasingly difficult to go anywhere without the possibility of an unexpected encounter with an inflamed id.  I strive for safety but everyday events present many challenges.

Of course driving the car puts you in the main ring of the manic circus. On the road, I often feel as Yaphet Kotto did in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street where he turned to his subordinates and commenting on their lack of skill intoned “I’m surrounded by fools and assassins.” On the street I cast occasional glances to the side and rear, looking for the one nut that, although there are only two of us on the whole street, must speed up to overtake me from 100 yards behind so that they can cross in front of me by one millimeter, break my stride and feel the adrenaline rush of making me yield. The person with the irritated expression and the nervous foot-tapping in the line at the cafeteria or the grocery can have my spot in line without even asking. The key agenda item here is being anywhere but in the immediate vicinity of someone who undergoes a fit of Episodic Dyscontrol. Today however I almost didn’t succeed in avoiding some avian aggressors.

 Driving by the Fenway, one expects to see the almost omnipresent Canada Geese trimming the lawn and laying their signature bombshells in the grass. On the other hand, this day I noticed some nibblers of a significantly larger statue, darker coloration and a red head. Wild Turkeys?? In the Fenway??

Barely escaping a rear-ending by folks who were in a rush and clearly didn’t understand why it was suddenly imperative to me to swerve to the right and find a parking spot, I pulled over and walked back to where I though I had seen the wild cousins of my Thanksgiving “ButterBall.” It was true. Three feral gobblers, two males and a female, were boldly sampling the Fenway lunch menu. My friend the “Toy Camera” jumped into my hand. (“Never leave home without it.”) With only 200mm equivalence on the long end, I needed to get within a close proximity to get the image size I wanted in the frame and so I began to slowly walk toward the red headed visitants.

 At first the turkeys were just scratching and pecking, much to the amazement of several passersby.  But as they exhausted the pickings in the area, they began to saunter out of the bush and onto the path toward Simmons College. Unhurried and uninhibited, first the males and then the female, ambled over a US Postal worker who was taking a quick rest break, her mail cart at her side. In a way they affected disinterest, much like a pair of amateur pick pockets. “Hi, we’re harmless and just hanging out.” She looked around and after satisfying herself as to their intent, turned away and resumed looking off into space.

Indeed they might have initially been cool and disinterested but when a fellow on a bicycle stopped to take a long close curious look, they became not only fascinated but agitated by the wheels of the bike. Shortly the two males began to make a curious sound and advance on the 10 speed and its rider in a way sincerely evocative of birds intending to take a bite out of something and soon. The student sensed a problem developing and beat a hasty retreat. Meanwhile the turkeys now seemed less cool and disinterested. They returned to the postal worker and her cart but now making that sound again and seeming unusually interested in the wheels of her cart. She was cool but concerned. It seemed that she felt it would be a mistake to move to quickly or show concern on her face so she kept an interesting but probably very insincere smile showing. She slowly rose and began to stroll away from the park bench. The two turkeys were following closely, their eyes on the wheels and making that curious vocalization again. As she tried to maintain a calm but determined stride, the turkeys began to speed up and decrease the distance between them and the post woman. That’s when I, who had been fairly close to the whole scene began to consider that I was in the flow of action if the big birds began to really accelerate. I decided to adopt a determined pace away from the postman, birds and all.

 When she got out to the outer concrete sidewalk on the edge of the greenway, the two mercenaries spun and began to follow a gentleman who was just passing by. Much to his surprise, their attention was now focused on his attaché case. As they drew closer, he became first surprised and then increasingly concerned, soon pulling his swinging briefcase closer to his side and then assuming a spirited walk toward the street and passing traffic. (I don’t have a photo of this as I was motivating across the green with a purposeful stride.) And then, suddenly the males stopped, turned to one another and seemingly congratulated themselves on having evicted several Homo Sapiens from their little fiefdom. Did I see a turkey “high five?”

Although this was the first time I’ve seen this behavior, I’ve now added Wild Turkeys to my list of species that may exhibit Intermittent Explosive Disorder. I’ve put this into my field notes and I will no longer lay down on the ground to get a better shot angle on them. I will also not stand next to one in an elevator.

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July 2009

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All Photographic Images ©Arni Cheatham, Segami Images and Eyes and Ears, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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