It is late in the year and something a bit different is occurring in nature in our area. We are seeing more wild animals than usual and it is because there is less of their natural food available in the woods. There are few acorns or beechnuts from the trees, which is a great source of food is for deer and wild turkeys this time of year. We have had some strange weather the last couple of years. Last year we had virtually no snow, but the year before we had record amounts of snow. I don’t remember having so much before and I grew up here, in Vermont. The heavy snow killed off many turkeys. They just can’t manage walking through the deep snow to find food, and the same is true for deer. So, it has been nice to see their numbers come back.
This is the usual time of year we put out our bird feeder. I like to use black sunflower seeds. I know that they have more nutrition for the birds. This is the first time that I have ever seen turkeys begging for food at our feeder in the fall. I have seen them on a number of occasions come to a feeder in the dead of winter when they have no other options, but this is unusual. It is sad to know that so many animals will starve this winter, but one thing that is good about this is that we get to watch their behavior closely. My feeder is only about twenty feet from my kitchen window. At first there were seven birds coming, then double that, then twenty and now, as of today, there are twenty-seven. That is a lot of birds. My lawn looks like a barnyard! The grey squirrels, woodpeckers and chickadees are not very happy about them showing up each day.
Turkeys are a very cautious bird, leery and aware. They join up together this time of year for protection from predators for the long winter months and then split up again into female groups when the chicks come and small groups of young males called Jakes and the big gobblers are on their own usually. But this time of year is when you see the large flocks of turkeys. It is so much fun to see them for me.
Each morning I watch at just barely light, they come down from their roost and one by one join up together. They hang back for a long while and I can tell that they really don’t want to be so close to where we may be, but their hunger is stronger than their fear. Finally there is one brave bird who makes the move, out of his comfort zone to do what is necessary. He runs to the feeder and begins to eat. The others watch him and wait. He is so very uncomfortable being there alone but is getting his needs met by braving it and getting it for himself. It is a matter of knowing by his nature what is best for him and he has evidence that no one is going to hurt him so he remains. He still watches the windows and doors of the house just in case there is danger and then he calls out to the flock to come join him, because he is really much happier being around others. When the door opens and Georgie (our pug) is let out for her morning pee break, they react in their natural way to danger, which is the fight or flight response. They run, cluck and burn off the stress hormones and when they observe there is nothing left of danger around, they resume their normal behavior of feeding. That is what animals do.
We humans are a bit more complicated. We have developed unnatural responses to many everyday things and worse yet, to our thoughts. We don’t have to have our physical safety challenged to go into a fight or flight response. All we have to do is think a thought that we have thought thousands of times, which causes us to live in chronic fight or flight. We do not run off the stress hormones, we do not observe that we are in no physical danger, we just keep reliving an old story in most cases.
So do be like a turkey! Be aware that when there is no danger you do not have to trigger the fight or flight response. This response harms us mentally and physically in many, many ways. It is why we have so much chronic disease addictions and unhappiness. How do we “run off” our stories that we keep re-running? We learn how to dissolve those thoughts. It is possible to live a life without the thoughts and to be peaceful in our minds and with our bodies. And when Georgie does come outside, run!