Shakespeare & Company A Body of Water June-July 2024

THROUGH THE WOODS: A weedy summer



Adult deer sometime vie with turkeys for insects to feed their young. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

WE ARE WELL into our summer season, with fall not far away. Most of the birds have nested and their offspring are now foraging for themselves. I live off the road and back on the edge of a field so I let most of the back lawn grow up as it pleases with no pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers. This is probably distasteful to many, but there is a beautiful variety of vegetation and great cover and food sources for wildlife. The top layer is the three-foot-plus tall daisy fleabane. It has many branches on stiff stems and each is covered in beautiful half inch white daisies with yellow centers. Here and there were accents of very sturdy dark green curly dock which is turning a deep mahogany brown and is covered with seeds. There are a few purple topped thistles, yellow “butter and eggs,” timothy grass stems, and underneath a great variety of color and shapes of clovers, golden birdsfoot trefoil and many more.

It is a tangle which is difficult to walk through. The flowers are attracting more butterflies, moths, insects, and even hummingbirds than any planned flower garden. So far, there are no monarch butterflies this year but there is plentiful milkweed waiting to host them. There are black, and Yellow Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, orange Fritillaries, and lots of smaller butterflies. A curious fawn fed under the back windows looking up and munching a mouthful of clover. Its mom was not happy and eventually the wayward child came back to her. Several families of wild turkeys glean the field each day. The young poults are growing fast and are the size of chickens. In the beginning of the season the hens would chase each other away from their young, now they are working together and seem to be sharing guard duty as they eat.

They eat many insects like ticks, grasshoppers and an occasional butterfly, but also vegetation. This includes flowers and the tender green undergrowth. References state they will eat most anything they can swallow including salamanders, worms, nuts, and berries. Depending on the season, about 90% of a turkey’s diet is vegetation. The hens are very protective of their young and don’t flinch from leaping off the ground and flapping their wings at the curious fawn chasing the poults.

One evening an adult deer was deliberately baiting a hen turkey and there was quite a confrontation. The poults flew several feet above the ground for about 20 feet to get out of the way, and “mama” attacked the doe! Things calmed down, and all peacefully shared the field.

An eastern bluebird family is hanging around and perching in a crab apple tree. The adult males are a breathtaking, gorgeous blue. There have been ruby-throated hummingbirds, indigo buntings, common yellow throat, and Savannah, song and field sparrows. Some have been eating the curly dock seeds. While this weedy summer is probably not for most people, especially in a public area, it has been most rewarding and interesting, and particularly good for all the creatures of the area.

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