Saturday, April 30, 2016

Strutting Gobblers and Other Springtime Wildlife

Spring, the wildflowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and the male turkeys are gobbling--what an exciting time to be afield. I have been out every morning this spring and have seen a lot of wildlife, but good close-up encounters with mature gobblers strutting seem to be harder to come by than usual.  When the turkeys are not present it is good to photograph the wildflowers.

Spring flowers add beauty to a day afield

When the turkeys are present and one or more gobblers are strutting and gobbling it makes for an exciting photographic experience.

Mature Gobbler in full strut:Canon 5D MKIII-600mm lens
One of the most desirable and dramatic photos of a bull elk is to capture him bugling and over the years I have tried to duplicate these results with turkeys, but it seems the actual act of gobbling does not look as impressive as the elk bugling.  Maybe someday I will get the perfect photo and change my mind., but for now I would say that capturing them strutting usually yields more impressive photos.  It actually seems to work better to document the actual gobbling with video as you get to see the bird go through the entire process as well as hear the exciting sound of the gobble.

Mature Gobbler in mid-gobble: Canon 5D MKIII-500mm lens

Gobbler pauses from courting to look for danger: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
 Of course the reason for all of this excitement is the hens and often some of the best activity occurs when hens are present and the gobblers are performing the courtship display.  They also strut and gobble at times when no hens are present, but it is much more likely to happen when they are there.

Hen pauses from feeding while gobblers strut in adjacent meadow: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
If you look closely in the photo below, this hen has a small beard (look just below the first green brier that goes partly across its' chest), but it is a hen nonetheless.  You can tell this by a combination of factors the most important factors being the drab coloration compared to the gobblers and the smaller size.  Few hens grow beards, but they are not exactly rare.  I usually film or photograph at least one each year.

Bearded Hen: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
Filming and photographing other species that happen along adds to the enjoyment of the day and I especially like to capture the deer doing something interesting, such as this young buck browsing.

Young deer browsing: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
When I was young fox squirrels were seldom seen in my area, but now I am likely to see as many or more of them than the grays.

Fox Squirrel: Canon 7D MKII-100-400mm IS II
With the arrival of May the trees will soon be covered with leaves and wildlife movement patterns will change to a certain extent.  Already the peak of the gobbling season is over and birds are not heard or seen as often.  Today is the first day of the spring gobbler season and this will also have a dampening effect on gobbling activity, but there will be periodic upswings in activity until the mating season is over in early to mid-June.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Ruth Hiebert said...

I enjoyed this post.Of course I love seeing the wild flowers and of course the birds/turkeys.Spring is a fun time of year.

Linda G. said...

I enjoyed your post as well. Great photos of the purple wildflower, the turkeys and the one deer.