In this, the last episode of Unique Birds of the Wind River Canyon, we will be discussing the largest birds to ever "walk" into the canyon. In fact, they are the largest wild bird in North America, and when these two came into our lives it was absolutely, crazy nuts. I'd spotted a group of Wild Turkeys moving through the Fall before, and got one good picture in the middle of a nasty storm. They had never been seen in the Wind River Canyon, but these were Wild Turkeys, and they were in my yard! All too soon they were gone, and we thought that was that.
The following Spring two Wild Turkeys just showed up at our cabin and started eating the sunflower seeds, so I carefully tiptoed and threw out some more. I had a knockdown match with a male during mating season years earlier: The rich lady with the mansion wanted him and his harem out of her yard, and he didn't want to leave; he left me with some well deserved welts on my belly. So I approached these two with lots and lots of caution. Using the same techniques one would use to approach a dog, I moved slow and low and never made eye contact....at first.
The two Wild Turkeys were gone after they were full, but were back that same afternoon; this was my one chance to snap some photos, or so I thought at the time. My heart was racing at a thousand miles-an-hour as I got so very close, and they seemed almost tame! The next morning they were at our backdoor looking for food. They came around every single day, sometimes twice; and this went on daily for six months. They nearly got killed in the roadway several times as I held my breath, but somehow the "geniuses" survived a Summer in the canyon, and I got acquainted with two of the most amazing creatures on this planet.
These two Wild Turkeys were friendly and even lovable. When I would see them coming down the driveway all I had to do was shake the cup of seed, and they would run over to me and make sounds that seemed to indicate they were happy. Cracked corn was also one of their favorites....they were almost members of the family----heck, we saw them more than family.
We had picnics that Summer with those two Turkeys; as invited guests of course. And I got to photograph Wild Turkeys from three feet away, nearly every day! I shot some video and got some portraits, and sat mere feet away as they slept under a juniper in the heat of the afternoon. But when the weather started to turn colder, they were gone. They didn't return last summer, and they were missed by everyone. Ben Franklin was right....they're really cool! Early last year, early in the month of May, I was outside with a camera on a cold afternoon when I heard a familiar squawk. Not a squawk that anyone had ever heard in the Wind River Canyon mind you, but a bird sound that reminded me of the Blue Jays of my youth in Ohio; but here in the canyon? It couldn't be. And it wasn't----he was lighter blue and even noisier; I didn't even know what species he was. I shot away with my camera, and at one point was standing on top of the picnic table for a better angle, in dim, lousy light. I got the frames I wanted and more, as he stuffed himself for his voyage to who knows where.
That night as I uploaded the picture files I looked him up, turns out he is known as a Pinyon Jay. Not exactly rare in Wyoming, but never seen around here. Will he return this May? Will we see him again someday? No one knows for sure, but I'll keep an eye peeled.
And that's it for this three-part series about Unique Birds of the Wind River Canyon, I hope somebody learned something. I've been spending quality time with one of the most beautiful birds in Wyoming this week, the fabulous Mountain Bluebirds. So, next week my Wind River Canyon Blog will contain two brand-new photographs of the bluest thing flying anywhere.
These magical moments are brought to you by Mother Nature and lots of luck. I would like to take this time to thank all my regular readers----please pass on all that you have learned.
Wind River Canyon Blog and all images by Michael John Balog, Hogbats Photography, Wind River Canyon, Wyoming----all rights reserved.