By Linda Schifferle
My husband and I reside on the border of the Great Baehre Nature Preserve in Amherst, where we are frequent observers of wildlife including wild turkeys.
Occasionally we clearly hear their gobbling calls echoing through the woods. They have visited our front and backyards, and once this season a hen and several turkey chicks pranced through our property, taking a break to forage below our bird feeders.
One morning a group of gobblers lined up diagonally and carefully strutted in full plumage hoping to win the favor of a hen perched on our fence nearby. They are fascinating wild birds.
About a mile east, there is a wild gobbler I have seen at times at the intersection of Paradise and West Klein Road. He has a noticeable limp but carefully and bravely walks or stands at attention as the traffic moves. I became aware of the limping turkey of Paradise over the summer, as I was behind traffic stopped four ways. Two construction workers were walking into the roadway and the motorist ahead of me exited the driver’s seat and walked around to the passenger side of his vehicle. I leaned over to see a bearded turkey pecking at the sidewalls of both tires. Eventually the gobbler was shooed off the roadway and I chuckled to myself as I drove away.
The next time I noticed the turkey, it was during a torrential downpour. He was standing motionless at the crosswalk, where he displayed determination to remain at his post watching traffic straight ahead. I wondered if he had a shelter somewhere, or a brood of chicks that he had sired.
Other times I have observed him walking on the shoulder of the road, or attempting to cross the road to a pond nearby. Once he was sitting peacefully under a grove of trees. Sometimes he stands on his strong leg, storklike, peacefully scanning the roadway.
On a few occasions I have attempted to photograph him. Once, I pulled over to the shoulder and approached him on foot. While focusing my camera, he slowly limped away avoiding my efforts by turning his head while screeching a sharp warning. I retreated to discourage him from fleeing into traffic.
This past weekend I wondered where he might be with the drastically cold temperature drop. To my surprise and amazement he was walking toward my vehicle in the middle of the road between the two opposing lanes of traffic. I slowed to almost a stop as an oncoming Amherst Police car whizzed by. Wondering what was in his mind this chilly Saturday morning, I hoped he’d make it to his destination without a catastrophe.
On my way back some hours later, I didn’t see any evidence of road kill and was thankful .
That day and every day I see him still at his post alive and limping along I am thankful. I believe that the Paradise turkey brings a spirit of joy to the community whose residents by necessity must be vigilant to avoid colliding with him.
Every time I see him, I give him a thumbs up because he’s still on his journey and alive.
His survival provides a barometer of feelings for my day, and others I imagine.
My encounters with this turkey of Paradise provide inspiration to keep on moving along in life, whether it’s precarious, risky, hot, cold, stormy, ordinary or interesting. He teaches that one must learn to navigate whatever our domain is and make the best of it, because every day is a gift of life.
Linda Schifferle, of Amherst, is thankful for a special turkey.