Tulip Trees and Turkeys    I have both!

a nature and wildlife blog ...

This morning … on day three … on Flickr.
An excerpt from my upcoming column, “From Fourth Neck,” that will appear on Thursday in the Western Edition of The Southampton Press:
"The newest delight in my garden is an Eastern box turtle that can be found in the afternoon quietly resting in the shade of my Kousa dogwood, nestled underneath day lilies and hydrangeas. And, in the early morning, he or she hangs out by the pond with my stone turtle!"

This morning … on day three … on Flickr.

An excerpt from my upcoming column, “From Fourth Neck,” that will appear on Thursday in the Western Edition of The Southampton Press:

"The newest delight in my garden is an Eastern box turtle that can be found in the afternoon quietly resting in the shade of my Kousa dogwood, nestled underneath day lilies and hydrangeas. And, in the early morning, he or she hangs out by the pond with my stone turtle!"

The Summer of 2009 …

I know that I promised to write more but a sweet little collie puppy named Christie got in the way.

This summer flew but there were some wonderful moments in my garden. Here are a few excerps from my column "From Fourth Neck," published in the Western Edition of The Southampton Press:

July 16th: As I walked out onto my terrace late last Wednesday afternoon, there, lying still on the bricks next to my prized yellow hibiscus, was a female hummingbird. Her fragile beauty and delicate wings were absolutely breathtaking. When I gently picked up this marvelous bejeweled treasure, I felt a faint heartbeat.

Warmed in my cupped hand, her tiny heart began to beat faster and her wings began to flutter—and then, just as suddenly, they stopped. As tears filled my eyes at the thought of losing her, I felt her life force return. And, when I opened my hand, her wings were beating stronger and, this time, I could hear a distinctive “hum.”

As I set her free, I watched in awe as she quickly flew up into her favorite old pine tree in my woods.

Two days later, as I sat quietly on my chaise lounge, she reappeared and hovered for quite a while, just 2 feet in front of me, unafraid, flying up, down, sideways and backwards. She was so close that I could almost touch her.

Was this very special, tiny visitor putting on a spectacular aerial show just for me? Was she saying “thank you for helping me?” I truly believe that she was!

August 13th: The early morning has always been my very favorite time of the day. Still, my 4-month-old collie puppy, Christie, takes it to the extreme. She wakes up at 5:15 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to have breakfast and play!

But there is a proverbial silver lining. My hummingbirds are also hungry early and while Christie and I “play” on the terrace, they are “dining” on the flowers in my pots. They fly all around us, so close at times that I can hear their distinctive hum and almost touch them. What an exquisite treat!

August 27th: It seems that this summer just flew by. One minute I was anxiously awaiting those lazy, hazy days, and the very next minute I found myself writing the last column of August. Did my puppy, Christie, take up so much of my time? Or did the cold, wet weather have something to do with it?

The unequivocal stars of my garden this year were the bejeweled hummingbirds. And while you cannot really call them “stars,” my big, loud bullfrog and my very vocal chorus of peepers made quite an impression on my nighttime visitors. Mama Turkey returned late in the season with only two poults and the ring-necked pheasant with his animated distinctive calls deserted me in July.

Catbirds, cardinals and American goldfinches dominated my feeders while George, the groundhog, was nowhere to be found. And each evening at around sunset, a 10-point buck peruses my garden while his subordinates—a pair of six-pointers—await his commands.

“Heaven” is the only word I can think of to describe my garden and the “wild friends” who visit!

September 10th: My collie puppy has made me fall in love all over again with the very early morning. To see our dark, clear, starlit East End sky slowly fade to a dusky dawn and to hear my songbirds awakening trill is truly awe-inspiring!

September 17th: My hummingbird has not been around these past few days and I suspect that she has already left for her long flight to Costa Rica. It seems that my garden is a little less magical without her.

October 15th: My flowers may be slowly getting ready for their long winter’s nap, and my hummingbird may have left for the warm and sunny clime of Costa Rica, but my garden is still surprising me with the most beautiful of gifts! Magnificent dragonflies and damselflies abound, skimming over the lilypads and dancing among the buff-colored inflorescences of ornamental grasses and the dark seed-heads of echinacea and rudbeckia. And their amazing colors—bright fuchsias, electric blues and iridescent greens—glittering in the sparkling fall sunshine absolutely fascinate me.

October 29th: Mother Nature, with her broad paint brush, has, seemingly overnight, transformed my garden into a golden wonderland filled with warm hues of orange, burgundy and rust. The birds of summer are gone and I am slowly welcoming back my winter friends—black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, nuthatches and woodpeckers. Bright red cardinals and bold blue jays abound, their feathers gleaming in the autumn sunlight, adding to nature’s marvelous tapestry.

And as I walk along my woodland paths with Christie, my 7-month-old collie puppy, I am enjoying her fascination with the falling leaves, the twittering birds, and the scampering squirrels as they noisily gather acorns for their winter nests.

Wild Turkeys …

It is so very beautiful here on the East End of Long Island. I wake up every morning happy to be alive, thrilled to hear the magnificent songs of birds of all feathers, sizes and shapes. Before I feed Misty and Pablo, and before I even have my first cup of coffee, I fill the cracked corn dish on my front woodland path for the turkey family that visits several times each day. How exciting to watch them. How good to know that their reintroduction to the South Fork of the Island was successful and they are not only thriving but enjoying their breakfast on my front lawn!

I write a social column, “From Fourth Neck” for the Southampton Press and, from time to time, I do additional pieces for “The Press Box.”

Wild Turkeys
By Maria Daddino

Early morning might be my favorite time of day, but this is ridiculous! It’s dark and cold. And here I am stumbling around on my front lawn, in my nightgown and robe, heading into the woods with a bucket of cracked corn.

Didn’t I make a promise to myself that I would never do this again?

I thought back to the blizzard of 1996, when, in the middle of that storm that dumped more than 2 feet of snow, I wandered around my backyard looking for my wild ducks. When I finally found them, they looked at me wide-eyed with disbelief. They had a “What is this crazy lady doing out in this blizzard?” type of look. They weren’t even hungry and were, seemingly, warm and cozy in their own little igloos, sheltered underneath the huge miscanthus grasses that I had planted by the dock.

As I trudged back up the hill, my arthritic knees buckling and giving way now and then in the deepening snow, I just hoped that I wouldn’t fall. No one knew that I was outside, and I didn’t think to take my cell phone with me. I could just imagine my kids sadly shaking their heads as they read the headlines: “Duck lady found frozen in the snow”!

After that debacle, didn’t I swear that I would never ever again be “enslaved” by any little creature, be it furry or feathered? This time, though, it all started rather innocently. It was August when I heard strange but somewhat familiar sounds—sounds that I just couldn’t place. Could it be “gobble, gobble” that I was hearing? Sure enough, when I looked out my window, two families of turkeys—two mothers with eight offspring of assorted personalities and sizes—were patrolling my back garden. I was thrilled.

What made my visitors extra special was that I had closely followed the story of their reintroduction to Long Island. By the early 1900s, the eastern wild turkey had all but disappeared from Long Island and, in fact, from the entire Northeast. In 1993, turkeys were reintroduced here and, like most of our East End visitors, they evidently loved the amenities of our Hamptons lifestyle.

Contrary to the critics of the reintroduction program, the turkeys made themselves right at home, thriving in our oak forests and dining upon such delicacies as acorns, nuts, grain, mice, shrews, insects, and sometimes even gypsy moths and ticks.

To have these special visitors coming daily to my garden for breakfast and dinner was an awesome experience. I imagined them walking and flying for miles just to get to “Maria’s 1-acre nature preserve.” I did my best to make them feel right at home.

Turkeys sleep high up in the trees and come down just after first light for breakfast. By that time, the deer have eaten all the cracked corn. And that’s how I came to find myself, in the pre-dawn hours on an early fall morning, tramping through my woods preparing breakfast for a family of five turkeys.

A few weeks have passed since that cold October morning and today, as I walked into my woods with my bucket filled to the brim with cracked corn—after all, it is Thanksgiving Day for “everyone,” and not just people—I reflected on the meaning, to me, of this most special holiday.

My dinner table will be overflowing with the bounty of our wonderful East End farms. My grandchildren’s big brown eyes will be sparkling with excitement when they see the great big turkey that will be the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinner. I will be surrounded by those I cherish and who are most dear to me.

And as we all bow our heads in appreciation of the abundant blessings we have received from above, I will be most thankful for family and friends, health and happiness, and for the very special turkey, the symbol of a plentiful harvest, that graces my table and feeds my loved ones.

I will also be profoundly grateful for the endearing little turkey family whose wild beauty fills my heart and whose very presence nourishes my soul.

Maria Daddino writes the “From Fourth Neck” social column for The Southampton Press Western Edition