Sights and sounds in the turkey woods
June is here but it was a good May and full of memorable moments in the woods. The last week of a rather quiet turkey season, I was sitting in a favorite calling location when I had the good fortune to run into one of the least seen birds of the forest, a male scarlet tanager. There's no mistaking one, either. The bright red feathers and black wings of the male make it stand out against the green of the woods, and this one was no exception. Tanagers build their nests high up in the trees and prefer staying there so it's not often they're seen when the trees are in full foliage.
The tanager's scarlet attire is only worn in the summer when it heads up here from somewhere in South America, Colombia and Bolivia – I think. In the fall, the bright red males ditch their colorful plumage and change into their travel suits, which are a more demure blotchy red, green and yellow. I'm told tanagers eat berries and some wild fruits if they can find them, but mainly they feed on caterpillars and other insects, making them welcome guests for woodlot owners.
The turkeys were the reason I was in the woods, but there is always so much else to see and hear even if they don't make a sound. In addition to seeing the tanager, I came upon a whole bunch of wild pigs. Walking to one of my favorite calling locations, I discovered an area they had just rooted up and at first thought someone recently ran a rototiller through the area. As I stood there looking at the uprooted rocks and turf, I heard them. I don't know what they were doing or how many there were, but the squealing was nonstop for several minutes and then it stopped. The foliage was thick and the pigs were stealthy so I never did get a look at them. Turkeys and pork chops sounds like a good combination. Now, all I have to do is to get lucky next season.