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.