Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Turkeys in the Sun

Perhaps the rosy light of evening enhanced the vivid hues of the turkeys’ feathers.
They strutted in the sunshine beneath tall pines near The Last Resort RV Park on the Tucannon River Road.
Perhaps as jakes, rather than jennys, they wore the looming mating season’s colorful attire.
February had arrived, after all.
“They could be a colorful subspecies,” I mumbled.
Planted Rio Grande turkeys have taken hold along the Tucannon, but Merriams and easterns also now occur in Washington.
Perhaps some bloomed brighter than others?
I didn’t know.
Neither did Darlene.
“I’ve never seen such beautiful turkeys,” she said.
Unfazed, Nora the Schnauzer strained at my window as I aimed the big lens at the birds.
Darlene had spotted them as we headed home after a lengthy drive. We began after I met a man along Mill Creek, who had seen scads of wildlife north of Walla Walla in the Starbuck area: deer, coyotes, herons, bald eagles and hawks.
So, we went.
I left town on Lower Waitsburg Road, past the golf course. Minutes later, we saw two red tail hawks standing in a field.
We passed a gaunt tree, a farm machine and a building in a wheat field beside Hart Road. Nora and I walked out for a photograph. The wind snapped-and-popped my windbreaker. It lifted Nora’s ears.
At State Route 124 near Prescott, I turned onto Smith Springs Road for a wide sweep north and west to Clyde.
Along the way, across from familiar old farm buildings, including a handsome barn, I stopped for more old-building photos and spent a few moments pondering the past.
I turned north at Clyde. I recalled watching a porcupine climb a tree at the Ayer Boat Basin once. I turned left on Ayer Road.
We drove seven miles to the basin, including a steep 4.3 miles down into the Snake River gorge.
Five cormorants perched on the docks and flew at sight of the truck. Dozens of water birds floated on calm water in a protected bay. We circled away from them and headed back up the hill, below massive, rounded cliffs and rock formations.
We stopped for Nora to whiz. Nothing moved. Well, Nora moved. And the wind-blown tall grass did..
As we drove up the hill, three mule deer clattered up a rocky slope.
We drove over the hill with the snowy Blues to the east and on to Highway 261. We turned southeast toward Starbuck and Highway 12.
Near the mouth of the Tucannon River, a deer bounded in front of us. Darlene steered one handed as I fired three frames through the windshield. One hit the mark.
We turned right on Highway 12 for 2.5 miles and turned left on the Tucannon River Road.
Along the river toward Camp Wooten, we saw more deer, raptors and turkeys than a bakery has mice.
About this time last year, we counted three bald eagles near the Tucannon Fish Hatchery area. This time we stopped at rest areas twice and drove slow without seeing a single eagle.
We turned back at Camp Wooten and spotted the vivid turkeys at The Last Resort.
From there I stopped twice to photograph whitetail deer and a drab-looking turkey that waddled down the middle of the road in front of us for about 100 yards.
Finally, we turned left at Hartsock Grade. Despite a warning to through traffic, a Honda sedan led us over the thin, damp gravel and to the pavement on the ridge top.
Deer and turkeys dotted some fields along Patit Creek Road to Dayton, but I stopped only once at the Lewis and Clark campsite.
Although we’d driven 125 miles, in almost six hours and had another 30-plus miles to go, we eschewed the usual fine dining in favor home-made grub.
“It was worth the drive to see those turkeys,” Darlene said.
I agreed.

 Don’s photos can be found online at .

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