Turkey survey could use your help

Nature Talks
February 19. 2012 6:06PM

FOR SOME of our readers who counted every bird they saw on the weekend of Feb. 11 and 12, another survey count may not be too welcome. However, the 'count' I am encouraging you to consider has been in existence for the past four years and continues to require a continuous flow of information. The good news is it concerns only one species of bird - the wild turkey. This year's winter turkey flock survey began in January and continues until March 31. According to my good friend, Ted Walski, biologist for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and project leader of NH's Wild Turkey Program, New Hampshire's citizens responded to the survey request statewide last winter. They reported 1,500 turkey flocks that totaled 27,000 turkeys! That's an amazing story when one realizes that the wild turkey program began just a relatively few years ago in 1975.

In that year, New Hampshire's Fish and Game Department received 25 wild turkeys in a swap with the state of Virginia for some fishers. The release of those turkeys has resulted in the reality that wild turkeys can now be found in all of New Hampshire's 10 counties.

Ted Walski explained: 'Our citizen survey is designed to fill gaps in Fish and Game's existing winter flock data collection efforts. For parts of the state, especially eastern and northern New Hampshire, we could benefit by additional sighting reports. This reporting system will allow the public to contribute important information to our understanding of winter turkey status in an inexpensive, efficient and hopefully enjoyable way.

'Knowledge of the status of wintering turkeys is particularly important to New Hampshire because of the challenges of severe winter weather and limited natural food supplies.

New Hampshire now has an estimated 45,000 wild turkey population. Wild turkeys had disappeared from our state by the end of the mid-1800s because of over-hunting and habitat loss from extensive land clearing.'

The NH winter turkey survey is not difficult to participate in as wild turkeys tend to gather in large flocks at this time of the year and thus are easy to see.

Basically, Ted's request simply asks that whenever anyone comes across a flock of wild turkeys they do their best to count them and also note down a few observations such as: what they were feeding on (acorns, beechnuts, bird seed under bird feeders, corn silage or other matter) the type of habitat (woodland, pasture, farm field, near farm buildings or yard) and the date and town where the flock was seen. A report can be completed by computer or forwarded by mail.

The Department's Internet address is: http://www.wildnh.com. A great deal of information is available at that site, including information on the wild turkey winter and summer survey.

Anyone who wishes to learn more about the turkey survey should write to: Ted Walski, Wild Turkey Project Leader, Fish and Game Region Office, 15 Ashbrook Court, Keene, NH 03431. Phone 603-352-9669.

The complete winter and summer turkey questionnaire can be found at: http://www.wildnh.com/turkeysurvey.

Ted concluded: 'Turkey research is funded by the Federal Wildlife Restoration Program supported by the sale of firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing supplies and motorboat fuel. The Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state's fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats.'

Now to answer several letters.

Some time ago a Henniker reader inquired: 'Do squirrels pull hair from themselves to line their nests?' In researching the subject, I have found no reference that tells of squirrels doing that. Readers?

A long-time reader from Henniker wrote: 'I saw a mink scoot through our yard on its way to Amey Brook one Sunday.

'In our side yard is a platform feeder where the seed has been covered with dry grass. (Photo enclosed) I would guess a red squirrel was the designer as a way to hide the seed. What are your thoughts?'

I am not surprised at this example of red squirrel behavior even though I have not known of it before. Red squirrels have been known to make a large cache of cones (especially hemlock) in the woods and disguise the pile with other material.

An Exeter reader reminisced about Thanksgiving and Christmas as being very special days during his youth and they remain so. He concluded by noting (12/26/11): 'Yesterday we saw 3 bluebirds at our feeder. We rarely see bluebirds as we are surrounded by trees.'

This may a good winter for both bluebirds and robins.

A Lincoln reader who was brought up in Keene, inquired: 'Do you live on the farm in West Swanzey?'

Yes. I began farming here 70 years ago, specializing in poultry and dairy and continued until 1966. My mailing address (PO Box, W. Swanzey) was changed some time ago, but not my residence. My mail is now delivered from the East Swanzey Post Office (so called), now located in Swanzey Center. A lovely, complimentary letter from a reader in Rumney, closed with the following: 'I have a great backyard for birds! (and bears, coy dogs, moose, deer, fox, and pesky squirrels!)'

Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.

Nature Talks

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow our RSS feed
Union Leader app for Apple iPad or Android *
Click to download from Apple Apps StoreClick to download from Android Marketplace
* e-Edition subscription required