January 2, 2012

A Walk in the Woods: The Line Dances of Turkey Tracks

It is thought that Benjamin Franklin had wished that our national bird was the wild turkey and not the bald eagle. I too wish this were the case; the wild turkeys of my neighborhood are beautiful and silly, rotund and elegant; they are very social, hanging out in groups of young and old. They seem lumbering, pecking their way across the fields, but can take flight in a quick whirr when they feel threatened. An eagle inspires awe, a turkey smiles and laughter, at least for me, and which is better? I photographed this tom turkey a couple of winters ago, on my front lawn.

Another benefit of wild turkeys are the tracks they leave as they walk about, their three long toes marking distinctive patterns in the snow. They make beautiful sinuous lines, one footstep in front of the next.

Deer tracks, like small hearts, are shapes, while the turkey draws with line.

Here the lines curve at the top edge, a compositional decision necessitated by the turkey running into a bank.

And here the all-over dance of several turkeys, random and exuberant, contrasts with the heavy certainty of a truck tire, lightened by its graceful, symmetrical treads. It's a perfect image of human manufacture and wild life.


  1. I just "pinned"and tweeted the turkey and tire tracks photo. What a beautiful graphic and mix of man and nature!

  2. Turkeys are elegant birds. They are quite the characters.

  3. If you haven't yet seen it, you should watch "My Life as a Turkey" on PBS. It was weirdly compelling and beautiful.


  4. Thanks for the nice comments; I can tell you all love these birds too.
    Deb, I'm going to have to look and see if that PBS show is available streamed, so I can watch it on my tv.

  5. That last photo of the turkey tracks and the tire is too wonderful. Such an interesting juxtaposition.