Most of us envision our Christmas dinner with the usual domestic turkey, browned to perfection, steaming on the platter. Other options may be roast duck, goose, chicken, or even a ham. However, my friend Dwight Hughes from around the country corner prefers his turkey to be ‘wild.’ According to Dwight, there are plenty of these critters roaming our local countryside. Just two days ago, I followed a lone set of wild turkey tracks in the snow at the back of our property. Dwight knows that the wild turkey has eyesight akin to that of a hawk. Therefore, hunting them successfully can be challenging. The hunter needs to be extremely well camouflaged and have the patience to remain unmoving for hours on end. He also needs to have the strength and endurance to hold his arms outstretched around the shotgun for an extended period of time. If the hunter is lucky, patience will pay off. Remember, the turkey is alert, cautious, has the keenest of eyesight, and in its natural environment, has the edge. Dwight’s mother Leona recounted the first wild turkey her son ever brought home. Like the pioneers of our area, she and her husband Don scalded that bird and hung it over a beam in the shed. The scalding allowed them to pluck the feathers cleanly from the skin. Then Leona had the pleasure of cleaning the innards, which she stated, “wasn’t too bad.” Unlike the pioneers, they froze the bird and saved it for Christmas. Their son-in-law Steve stuffed and roasted it to perfection. All accounts suggest they couldn’t tell the difference from a domestic turkey. I can smell it now! How special that Christmas must have been for the Hughes family. Most of us have neither the time nor the patience to create such a traditional experience. And so, off to the grocery store we go.
Gifts for the birder on your list Your local hardware store stocks a good variety of gift ideas to enhance the backyard viewing for the birder on your Christmas list. There are tube-style finch feeders (for finer finch feeds), tube-style feeders for sunflower seed, and countless other wood or plastic feeders resembling birdhouses. There are also many designs of birdhouses for everything from the smallest of wrens to bluebirds and swallows. Hummingbird feeders are available, some pricier than others but with true aesthetic appeal. There are oriole feeders too, along with the nectar to go with both types of feeders.
For the birds! Suggestions for treating your feathered friends are also found in the local hardware. They stock all types of seeds, suet, and seed-encrusted suet balls and bells. Wire mesh feeders are handy to neatly hang a block of suet. Birds need the fat from the suet to help keep them warm. Peanuts in the shell are always a good treat for the blue jays. You can also make your own Christmas gift for the birds by taking a pinecone, loading it up with peanut butter and rolling it in some mixed birdseed.
A very Merry Christmas to all! Don’t forget to include the birds on your Christmas shopping list.