To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the reserve. The guest blog and photos today are brought to you by M.L. Christmas and her recent adventures to the Reserve and Ted Harvey Wildlife Area. Enjoy! (Maggie Pletta, DNERR Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)
GO TERPS! (Follow That Turkey!)
If ever one needed a good reason to drive carefully while at DNERR and its environs, here is living proof: my experience this week when paying a special visit to the St. Jones Reserve and the adjoining Ted Harvey Conservation Area. The object of my visit had been to take photos of a field of sunflowers I’d heard were blooming near Kingston-Upon-Hull, the latter structure an occasional destination for the Reserve’s Nature Walks. I was successful in photographing both, and descriptions of the sunflowers, and of that deteriorating historic home, will be given in future blog posts.
Back to the matter at hand: first, the sighting of a lovely, little turtle, at about 3-3½” long, near the middle of the road and headed to the other side. In fact, a beat or two had passed, while driving, before the thought had registered: “Was that a turtle?” I reversed the car very cautiously in order to check. No other vehicles were coming along that stretch, so I got down on my knees and elbows, right in the gravel of the roadbed, the rocks and grit digging into my forearms, in order to have the polite and proper face-to-face view. That also put my face below the looming perspective of my car tires. I shuddered at the realization that a grievous catastrophe had been avoided, on my first pass, by mere inches. So unobtrusive was my slow-moving friend that s/he nearly blended in with the rest of the random, rocky, seemingly inanimate shapes in the road.
Back in the car, and continuing slowly on my way, only a short distance farther along, a Wild Turkey ran across the road, headed in the same direction the turtle had gone! Wow! We were aware turkeys have been re-introduced in Delaware, and we caught a glimpse of one in rural Maryland in the last few years. The turkey was a stunning sight on top of what had already been a stunning sight. I haven’t seen a turtle in the wild, in Delaware, in years. And the Wild Turkey? For me, in Delaware, that was a first. The head was an impressive blue-gray blur as (he? she?) crossed the road at a run.
This encounter gave me a greater appreciation for just how big Wild Turkeys are. I have seen them before, mostly in the Midwest, but only from a greater distance, and certainly not at eyeball- and road-level from the driver’s seat. Needless to say, s/he was well out of view from the car by the time I rolled the short distance forward and came alongside where s/he had darted into the woods.
Once home, a quick Internet search revealed the fact that Delaware is home to over a dozen turtle species, including Diamondback Terrapins, Bog Turtles, Eastern Box Turtles, Musk Turtles, and of course the infamous Snapping Turtle. I’m not sure what species that carapaced pedestrian was, but thankfully for me, the tip of my nose still being intact, I can attest s/he was not a young Snapper out for a stroll.
As for the Wild Turkeys, a July 1, 2015, DNREC press release says it all. Reintroductions in lower Delaware were made from 1984 into the 1990s, and “Delaware has a healthy statewide population estimated at 6,000 birds.”
My breathless e-mail to Maggie Pletta, DNERR’s Education Coordinator, received a reply confirming DNERR is indeed home to various turtles and Wild Turkeys, in addition to the customary birds and fish and fiddler crabs.
The things one sees when one least expects them! So, when visiting at DNERR, or at the Ted Harvey Conservation Area, be sure to stay alert and to share the road! Watch out for terps and turkeys! And if you see any Wild Turkeys, please report your counts to DNREC Fish & Wildlife, per the information given in their press release.
Text and photos by M.L. Christmas
M.L. Christmas, MSM, is a freelance writer/editor living in the Dover area. She has written dozens of articles for newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and websites. Her work has appeared in local, regional, national and international publications and other venues, and she has written in tones ranging from scholarly to humorous, depending on the audience. She is a longtime member of Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women. Her approach to nature writing, she says, is part Henry David Thoreau and part Dave Barry.