Saturday, March 2, 2013

Winter Gobblers

Eastern Wild Turkey Gobbler: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mmF4-ISO 1000-1/2000 Sec. F4.5
When most think eastern wild turkey gobblers they think of the peak of the gobbling season, which usually occurs in April, but to a certain extent the activity actually begins much earlier.  The mature gobbler above shows little signs of interest in hens or competing with other gobblers, except that his head is perhaps a bit deeper red than ordinary for this time of year, while the gobblers below show much more coloration and their heads are slightly swollen looking.

Bachelor Group Of Mature Gobblers : Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mmF4-ISO 1000-1/640 Sec. F4.5
This can change moment by moment and the gobbler can quickly go from having a slender, dull looking head to a bright colorful head that shifts hues rapidly.  Since hens are not receptive at this time of year, this is usually brought on by the appearance of a strange gobbler or another bachelor group of gobblers.  In such a case the birds may strut, gobble, and chase each other.

Gobbling: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mmF4-ISO 1000-1/1600 Sec. F4.5
On several occasions I have seen two groups of gobblers confront each other, with the more aggressive group forming a V formation and charging the other.  Sometimes a kicking, thrashing melee ensues, but often one group gives way and flees the scene before contact is made.  This is just one of the things that make these birds so fascinating.

Some will question my frequent use of ISO 1000 in relatively good light, but I have found that setting to be so good on the 5D MK III that I often have the camera set there if I anticipate rapid action.  The bottom line is each photographer should experiment and say what is acceptable to them, but it is important to remember that in many cases the ability to shoot at the high ISO settings improves with each generation of cameras.  This is nothing scientific, but I feel safe in saying that ISO 12800 on a 5D MK III is superior to ISO 800 on the old Canon 10D.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Linda G. said...

Excellent photographs and thank you for sharing with us information on the heads of gobblers!

Ruth Hiebert said...

Amazing shots.The 5D MarkIII would be a dream camera,but I need to master my 7D first.

Willard said...

You do a wonderful job with the 7D, Ruth. That is still a great camera too. I have mine yet and have no plans to part with it.

Lindsjö taxar said...

Interesting! We dont have them here in Sweden, only on farms. Great pictures you show.

Greg said...

Terrific gobblers! I see you shot these with your long lens, did you have to use a hide as well?

Greg Douglass

Willard said...


I am sorry your comment did not post until now. I saw the e-mail notification you had posted it, but couldn't find it on the blog. It turned out it was caught by the blogs spam filter, so I corrected the problem. Now to your question about the blinds.

I usually use some type of blind when photographing turkeys as they are very shy under most circumstances although I have seen turkeys in Cades Cove that paid no attention to humans at all. On the other hand I have been around turkeys that were so wild that one had to hide in a blind with an opening only large enough to stick the lens through and they still ran if I moved the lens too quickly.

I have used the smaller blinds Ameristep blinds such as the Outhouse, and Doghouse, but my favorite is the Stackhouse, which is now discontinued. I like it because it is high enough to stand erect and wide enough that one can use both a still camera and a video camera on a tripod from the blind.