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Guarding the nest with hope of seeing future turkeys

A few days ago, the grass was about four-feet tall in the field by the pond.

It was here that the first hay crop of the spring had reached maturity and it was ready for cutting. The tractor was circling the field, on the first pass, and it was tracing along a hedge of cedar trees.

Just ahead, about 10 feet from the tractor, a hen turkey sprang free, barely missing the tractor by a few feet. Just a few seconds later, the momentum of the tractor was quickly halted when the clutch of eggs was seen. It was a mere few inches of space between the mower and the eggs. Somehow, they were saved.

As if being a farmer isn’t difficult enough, to worry about the drying days and whether rain will ruin the crop, unexpectedly discovering this nest had now caused a new set of worries. Where this turkey had found a safe place in a tall field of cover, we as a farm had taken down the field, thus opening the nest to the many possible outcomes. Included in these outcomes are those of predators such as snakes, hawks, coyotes, and opossum’s and their fondness for turkey eggs and young turkeys.

Discovering this nest of turkey eggs was an accidental human discovery. Thus, concern and worry became a very much human action. We thought about placing grass around the eggs, to hide them. We thought about actually placing a metal cage around the eggs at night, to deter predators. This idea sounded really good until I went to the nest that night. It was dark and I had no expectation that the hen would be on the nest, until she flew straight-up in a panicked way and nearly knocked me, in her bursts to escape.

With options limited and not wanting to disrupt the field and nest, we settled on placing hay bales along the area where the nest was found, more or less to prevent a coyote from walking by or a hawk from having easy access. It wasn’t the best idea, but it was an idea that seemed somewhat natural.

For seven days, sometimes four and five times a day, we checked the nest. The hen was on the nest almost all day and night and if we spooked her, we would count the eggs, one-dozen of them, to make sure nothing had found a meal. Our check’s even included an early morning ride to the nest by my son to make sure all was well before he went to school.

Late this past Saturday, I went to the nest to check and make sure none of the eggs were missing and to see if the turkey was still using the nest.

I had arrived from a direction that I usually don’t take and went straight to the nest where I discovered a very much empty nest of turkey eggs.

I found a few feathers and the area where the nest had been, but I did not find eggs. Immediately, I was saddened as a human becomes sad over their actions that unintentionally affect nature.

Already, we have difficulty hunting turkey with the presence of coyotes and their survivability is so very much tedious. I dismissed the absence and absence of egg shells, as the likely culprit being a snake. Perhaps, I cursed the snake for this. Yet the following day, while working in this field, the eggs were surprisingly discovered. They were some fifteen feet away and each of them had an opening, where by opinionated assessment, the poults had hatched.

There was some elation in this moment on my part, I was very happy that the eggs were at least still intact and had not been an easy meal to a host of predators.

Yet, immediately and since, there began a since of wonder about what the outcome was and remains for the hen, the young poults, and nature itself. Likely, there will never be a mechanism to follow-up and know if these turkey’s survived.

As I explained to my kids, imagine the hard work the hen must have in keeping them safe, knowing she is likely just as easy a meal, too. Whether these birds hatched healthy or met some demise, I was at least relieved to see evidence that we had protected them for a week, even if our protection was in effort.

Nature has a way of being nature. When we as humans interfere and create accidental unnatural events, it is within our nature as humans and humans that hunt, to worry and wonder. In this case, the outcome of the hatch will always be part of my wonder of nature.

Enjoy your time outdoors.

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