They Came, They Saw, They Nibbled…

My first experiment with my new toy, the Reconyx Hyperfire HC600 Trail Cam, has come to a close.

In that time, I was able to attract (in order of prevalence): Finches, a Stellar’s Jay, and some other bird I can’t identify–we’ll call him Feathered Friend Unknown #1.

Stellar’s Jay with peanut

Despite the generous helping of Cheetos, the crows avoided my feast. Apparently, Cheetos are like crack for just about everyone, but crows have very long memories, and I imagine this one might remember (or have been told by his father) about the epic drubbing one of their kind received years ago when he snuck in our chicken coop to steal an egg and was trapped there for several hours. FYI, chickens can kick the stuffing out of other birds!

I may need to relocate my camera to a crow-safe location…

In terms of food popularity, here are the rankings:

  • Puffed Cheetos
  • Dried Pasta
  • Bagels
  • Peanuts
  • Hard boiled eggs (nobody finished this)
  • Turkey Bologna (nobody did more than poop on this)

We know Americans LOVE carbs, but even our birds seem to prefer them. In fact, they ate the Cheetos so quickly I’m concerned that the woods are filled with the winged and obese, their branches bending under the added weight of the plumped and plumed. Note to self: next time try Pirate’s Booty.


My initial success attracting crows ended as soon as I set up my coop cam. Out of 2,136 frames, my avian feast earned me a mere fly-by.

This is the dream, not the reality.

As I swept the peanuts from the top of the coop late last night, I was niggled by the recollection that crows cache their food, have better long term memory than some undergrads, and are able to find their hiding places months later and without an iPhone. I have visions of my husband years from now, working his tractor, pulling the auger from post holes, revealing those peanuts germinated, that a tangle of vines the size of a roll of barbed wire with the complexity of the London Tube now lies beneath the driveway undermining the very structure.

Since removing the sugar from my diet, even the birds have benefitted. I reloaded the roof with healthier snacks (cherry tomatoes, three Newman’s ginger cream cookies, a plain bagel, a bag of ranch-flavored kale chips, and birdseed) and reset the camera.

In the first few hours of the morning, I had less than 1% of the visitors who usually fly in for breakfast. I expect Coop Cam will next show my little guests giving me the feathered finger.

IMG_1247 (2)
The “feathered finger.” A little fuzzy but you get the point.

Working out the kinks in the system, I discover the combination of a ready food supply (peanuts and roof scraps) and Tristram Shandy–“the turkey formerly known as Steve”–has drummed up some local color. A wild tom turkey appears from somewhere in the scrubby undergrowth of the woods near Comptche.



Conan the Comptche-rian

The two toms stamp, gobble, and peck to establish territorial dominance and the air is fraught with tension. Like a scene from the Ok Corral, everyone else has run and waddled to safety.

Separated by a fence, I can nonetheless see that the newcomer is intimidated. He is trying to work out in his head how big Tristram really is and if he really does, “move like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Not only is Tristam’s snood longer, pinker, but his plumage is also far more glorious. Plump, privileged by diet, breeding, and five inches of packed sand beneath his feet, Tristram impresses by size alone.

Stamping feet and feinting heads and a fence keeps anyone from real harm, but the intent is palpable. One of the barred rocks runs for cover in an old dog house. “I’ve gotta go, I’ve gotta go,” she seems to cry. A few seconds later, I hear the distinctive “bock-bok-bok” chorus she begins which is soon picked up by all the others, an instinctive gambit used when a hen is vulnerable and laying an egg. It confuses predators who don’t know which way to turn. The noise grows like a flashmob. Even the toms do their bit, punctuating their gobbling with the occasional “bok, bok” noises to reinforce the message,” Hey, these muscles aren’t just for show, baby.”

Moving closer with my camera, I note the spurs on the wild turkey. My husband had warned me, “better carry a stick in case it attacks you.” I remember our first rooster, Sawyer, and the ongoing battle for dominance as Steve walked the yard, stick in hand. His lecture on “which comes first, the sticken’ or your leg,” was met with my dismissal.

Like Saint Francis of Assisi, I carry no sticks..

On the downhill side of the coop, the battle reaches its conclusion.

I swear I hear a worried gulp as Conan the Comptche-rian assesses Tristram, sees his remarkable snood, his impressive wattle, his resplendent barrel chest reminiscent of the Kaiser Wilhelm. From his lowly position in the ditch, Conan can’t help but experience his inadequacy, despite my entreaty: “his spurs are tiny, you can take him.” Sadly, he runs for the woods like an overwhelmed voter before the primaries. I remind him of David and Goliah, of Winston Churchill and WWII, and I hope he regroups, brings his cronies, faces fear with fact.

Trumped by a Strong Display of Bravado

Thinking of Donald Trump’s reaction last night in response to Marco Rubio’s comments on Trump’s “hand size,” I wonder when this boorishness and bravado became a standing part of public discourse, am reminded once again that everything I need to know about humans, I learned from an animal.

Scaring is glaring–don’t fall for tomfoolery!

I love audiobooks, and though this isn’t one, if you’d like to listen rather than read this post, click here: 




17 Replies to “They Came, They Saw, They Nibbled…”

  1. Okay – THIS made me laugh out loud from the bottom of me bovver boots. Avian middle fingers, tom turkey posturing and oh, that glorious fly by! I’m going to savour this one for a long, long time.

    1. Thank you Carryl. I never know if I am bothering everyone with my interest in birds. It’s just so much safer to watch them and laugh at their foibles than do the same with people. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I came, I read, I listened. What a lot of high flying excitement. I will always think of turkeys when I hear chickens, ” bok,bok, bok”. Thanks for a tour of nature.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this. What a delightful journey through nature’s lane! I loved the photos you captured and shared. I was excited to hear the audio, but for whatever reason was unable to get it to produce sound on my end. Technologically challenged Via!! I’ll try again in the morning because I would love to hear the narration. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, Via. It takes a little while for the sound to play (you have to wait a few seconds for it to load) and I will check to see if the problem is on my end. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Well, I have to echo what everyone else here has said so far. The photos! (Jay and Cheeto Crow, Tiny Bird Smilebutt, Almost-America’s-National-Bird majesty, Laying Lady, Sir Turkeyspur, and The Showdown–a simply gorgeous collection!) The foibles! (“I can take ‘im!” The Bok-Bok Chorus, the carb-loading, the snood-wagging!) The instincts and indelicacies! This is one part hilarious, one part powerful/poignant. It’s so right and natural in the animal kingdom, so unseemly and undesirable (or at least pitiable) in the human realm, as if reason and higher thinking capacity should somehow cancel out our baser drives but never seem to manage to.

    I love that you recorded yourself reading this. That was a treat! This week my students have been reading their Gothic short stories aloud to groups in class, and it is amazing to be in that room–the power of ownership, the growth in confidence, even for students who are woefully dissatisfied with their own story drafts, is palpable. The first words I ever heard out of you when I met you were ones you’d written and were reading aloud to a group. The power and growth, ownership and confidence–look how far we’ve come! “Hey, these muscles aren’t just for show, baby.” 😉

  5. Thank you for reading. I’ve thought of a hundred things to fix since I did that recording, but, hey, I did it. Thank you for such an impassioned and wonderful and funny comment. I’m buoyed by your enthusiasm. Much appreciate the read and the great comments too. You must come and visit. I will make you Queen of the Fowl for the duration of your stay.

  6. I love that you included a recording with this post! It was great as is, but having the chance to listen to you read it as I read it a second time made me appreciate a notice things I hadn’t caught in my first reading.

  7. It was so fun to just listen to you read the story as I lounged on the couch in my pjs.

    I see you are still encouraging us to live without sticks. 😉

    Tell me more about Newman’s Ginger Cream cookies…

  8. Your sly surveillance of your feathered pals is so cool and entertaining. I laughed out loud at the “what came first” comment and again with the middle finger. Your stunning photos make your words ring true. Of course, I wonder if Tristram Shandy fully appreciates that size can be a liability to a long life. It was just as good in audio form!

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