I have spent about 99% of my mornings in the past few weeks photographing the Eastern Wild Turkey during their mating season. The gobblers have now gone from spending most of their time in bachelor groups to usually being seen with a flock of hens in the mornings, although I still often see them without the hens in the evenings. Mornings are more productive for good photo opportunities as the birds are much more likely to strut and gobble. Later in the spring, it will become more common to see the birds strutting in the evening.
On Wednesday morning I photographed and filmed a group of mature birds gobblers strutting and gobbling directly in front of me as the first faint rays of the early morning sun casting a golden glow over the meadow.
|Mature Gobblers Strutting|
Suddenly I looked to the left and noticed another gobbler standing by a solitary hen that was lying on the ground. It is quite rare to see this, and I began filming them with the Canon XL-H1 video camera. I let it run unattended while I took a series of stills of the action. As luck would have it the sun went behind a thin veil of clouds during the entire time that the following action took place. The photos from this series were not as good as those of the gobblers as the birds were further away and the increased distance combined with the murky light, resulted in the photos not being as dramatic and sharp as I would have liked.
Soon, he walked to the hen and stood on her back. This continued for at least ten minutes.
|Standing On Her Back For Over Ten Minutes|
During this time I frantically took still photos and periodically checked to see the the camcorder was working correctly, at one point putting the 70-200mm f2.8 lens on it, which with the EF adapter gave me an effective focal length of over 1400mm. This should yield dramatic footage.
Finally the birds completed mating, with the actual process only taking a short time. I have photographed turkeys since 1974 and do not recall having seen or photographed this before.
With mating completed, the gobbler jumped away and the birds ran about, circling each other and then left the meadow.
|With Mating Completed, The Gobbler Leaves|
I have found that observing and photographing nature is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. If one is in a hunting type situation they may observe wildlife behavior to a certain extent, especially of species they are not hunting on that particular day, but they do not get to witness some of the most interesting aspects of wildlife behavior as their attention is devoted to setting up a successful shot. Often the animal is either shot at or taken before anything especially noteworthy happens.