Thursday, April 8, 2010

Eastern Wild Turkeys Mating-A Morning To Remember

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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.
Standing Guard

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.


Barbie ♥ said...

Hi Willard - I can tell you are a perfectionist because these pictures are FANTASTIC!!! Hard as it is to believe, I photographed this same scenario a few years ago on Easter Sunday (in snow flurries). My camera was a Sony point and shoot with a tele attached and I had no clue what it was until I saw it later!!! Here is the link if you'd like to see it. When you look at my pictures - you'll know how GREAT yours are ;-) I know your heart was pounding at such a secretive capture - well done Willard!

SaraG said...

Oh wow, Willard, those are just amazing photo's!!
Great great photo's. I can't wait till John gets off work so I can show these to him. He is getting ready for turkey hunting season here. It starts in a couple weeks I think!!

imac said...

Wonderful Willard.
They look like aliens,lol.

Kritter Keeper at Farm Tails said...

i exclaimed out loud when i saw the male standing on her back and my husband thought something was funny! couldn't help myself. you have out done yourself! what a blessing to see! thank you so much for sharing these amazing pics!

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Fantastic series.Jake and I have often said that it is much more difficult to shoot a bird or animal with a camera than with a gun.Jake has done both,so I guess he should know. :)

Camconative said...

Fabulous shots!
The turkeys are gobbling heavy here in Cameron County, but my schedule hasn't allowed me to get in the woods at all :(

V.L. Locey said...

Fantastic shots! I`ve never seen wild birds breeding only our domestic turkeys,so this was a treat!

Brad Myers said...

What a great encounter Willard. Between this and the earlier show the "Toms" put on for you and Coy made for an exciting year even if you didn't go out again. I have to admit I am a little jealous. I can't wait to see some of the video footage now.

Anonymous said...

I never saw this before either, Willard. We used to raise turkeys and I never saw them mate. I guess I was too young back then during the war, but it is all new to me. Beautiful photos.

Unknown said...

Good photos and great explanation. Nature is wonderful to watch

Peggy said...

Wow Willard! I can't imagine how amazing it was to be there! I think I say that alot to you! You capture such unique, exciting moments most of us will never see in a life time, although I hope I am wrong! thanks forsharing this, as I learn such interesting behavior just coming here to your blog!

Barbie ♥ said...

Hey Willard - thanks so much for your comment on my blog! My camera was so bad - I had no idea what I was capture until I got them home and on the computer - funny.

Misty DawnS said...

WOWWWWWWWWW - that is outstanding! I'm thrilled that you were able to experience and record this!