Attacked by a turkey!

As some readers of this blog know I like to take pictures, having taken pictures for the past twenty years or so. Just being in the natural world and seeing animals in the wild is really incredible, especially when one lives in a city like I do.

Last Sunday morning I was nearly attacked by a turkey as it literally flew at me with a seemingly malevolent intent. So yes, I took poetic license in describing the encounter as an attack. Let’s just say that had I been in the flight path of that turkey I would probably suffer from a concussion by now.

I was not alone in these woods as another photographer was with me, and it was him who provoked this sudden departure of the bird. He told me that he had seen a bird high up in a tree and that he wanted to take a picture. No doubt that the turkey was astonished at this biped walking towards it and the strange apparatus that was being aimed in its direction. Maybe the bird had a memory of being shot by a hunter in the past and thus reacted strongly. I admit that I am speculating here, not knowing if turkeys have a memory, but I am pretty sure that they can experience fear and must use this as a defence mechanism.

So here I was, by the side of an open trail in a small wooded area, when all of a sudden I hear a whoosh coming from behind me and travelling towards me. I turned around and saw a gigantic bird with its wings at its maximum width gliding towards me. I just had the time to step aside as it landed a few feet in front. I admit that at first I thought that it was a duck, but when I saw how big it was I knew that it was not a duck but a turkey, minus the flap of skin that hangs below the face. It was probably a male.

Imagine my astonishment at this nightmarish vision. It must have weighed at least 40 pounds. It did not land quite well so that I could see that one of its legs had been slightly hurt, but this did not stop the bird from beginning to peck at the ground, picking up bits of food.

I immediately snapped out of my self-induced coma and began shooting pictures, and no doubt that the bird was thankful that they were not bullets. It looked at me strangely, cocking its head at strange angles and eying me warily. I had not moved much from where I had been at the beginning but now decided to move in its direction. I was slightly fearful as I had seen its feet and legs and thought that they could probably inflict some pain to me if I got too close to it. Visions of the bird slashing my stomach and spilling my guts swirled in my mind, no doubt due to having seen one too many sci-fi movie of that kind.

There was no light in the area but I still took pictures, amazed at my good luck. The other photographer had the good sense of staying behind me and was following me. No doubt he probably thought that if the bird attacked me he could take a great picture; me on the ground having my eyes pecked out and my guts in my hands, begging for help or a swift final mercy kick to the head. Visions of that swirled in my head as well.

Eventually the bird walked out of the wooded area and was still seen walking slowly in an area that looked more like the great plains with its flat surface. Other photographers saw the bird and even one told me that the bird crossed the main road separating the garden area from buildings. No doubt that if foxes or coyotes had seen it that would have made a great dinner for them. Visions of that swirled in my head as well. I think that I had too many visions that day. Perhaps after all the turkey did sideswiped me as it landed…..


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The E.P.A against clean air?

In a move that is unprecedented since 1970, the E.P.A, the regulatory body in charge of setting policy for the environment in the United States wants the state of California to dumb down legislation aimed at reducing car pollution. This roll back of Obama-era rules was not unexpected from the Trump administration.

California since 1970 has the ability to set its own rules concerning car pollution but the present administration is contesting that. If it wins in court it would mean more pollution from cars instead of less and a setback for clean air. Naturally global carmakers are happy of that move from the Trump administration.

More pollution also means more greenhouse emissions from cars and it will result in more climate change gases in the atmosphere. Once again, the Trump administration takes the side of big business and the climate will suffer. Naturally this attempt to weaken clean vehicle standards will affect the whole country as California often sets the standard that is adopted by other states.


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Crisis in the oceans.

A new report just issued on plastic in the oceans says that the amount will treble in a decade unless measures are taken. Some have sounded the alarm as the oceans are under threat as well from climate change and pollution.

We are now exploiting the oceans in areas that were never explored before. We are now exploiting wind farms offshore and oil and mining industries are spreading in the oceans. Regulation to control this commercial growth is often lagging.

The report predicts that industrial growth in the oceans will come from aquaculture, offshore wind farms and fish processing. An increase in wild fish is also predicted. One has to question this affirmation as already 90% of global fisheries are at levels that are not sustainable.

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Conflicts with water.

A new study has concluded that by 2050 5 billion people could suffer from water shortages due to climate change and increased demands for water. What is worse, conflicts could erupt if stresses to rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water are not addressed.

The report says that change is possible, especially in the agricultural sector, but only if the change is towards nature-based solutions. In other words, more trees and soil and less concrete and steel whenever possible.

Global demand for water has increased six fold over the past 100 years and continues to grow at a rate of 1% per year. As more people are added to the world population the strains on water will continue to grow.

Naturally, demand for water will grow more quickly in developing countries. When one adds climate change to the mix the stress on the world climate will make some areas of the globe wetter and other drier.

Droughts and soil degradation will continue to increase in the future and water scarcity will increase in such areas. Cape Town residents are already facing challenges in that regard as well as in Brasilia where people see their taps turned off once very five days due to the dryness of the climate.

The water quality as also declined. Pollution has increased in every river of Africa, Asia and Latin America and will continue to decline in the future. Agriculture is the main culprit with industrial and municipal wastes a close second.

Clearly agriculture has to change in these areas. Greater use of rainwater could help as well as regular crop rotation to maintain soil cover. The study concludes that practices for saving water exceed the projected increases in demand for water over the years. There is a real need to change practices in the management of water as not changing could lead to war and civil unrest in countries hit by droughts and poor quality of water.

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The hawk and the chipmunk.

As a photographer there is nothing that I like more than being surprised by the animal world. Last Monday I was very surprised. It was one of those days when you feel Spring is in the air but Winter is still present. It was a cloudy day with very little light and yet as I was about to exit the garden it had been a good day; I had seen hawks everywhere, hunting for birds and chipmunks. One such chipmunk had escaped the clutches of death when the hawk swooped down on it and missed it. A close call for that one.

Here I was, entering a small wooded area just before exiting when my eye was attracted to something moving to the right of me on the ground. I slowly advanced and could not believe my good fortune; it was a hawk eating what looked like a chipmunk. I approached cautiously, not wanting to scare away the bird and taking several pictures at the same time. I was trying to get in a better position when abruptly the hawk flew away and behind me. I thought that I had lost it but still attempted to find it in the small wooded area. I did not want to lose a good subject.

As I was looking into the area I spotted the bird and its prey, squarely in front of me, on a branch and still eating the chipmunk. I knew that it was a chipmunk by the long black line on its back and the short tail. I did not try to get too close but was finally able to get into a good position. I took many pictures and could not believe my good luck as it was the first time that I had seen a hawk eat a chipmunk. Not much there to eat I thought. The hawk was very thorough as it first ate the head, always nutritious I hear, and then embarked on eating the organs of the squirrel. I did not stay till the end, knowing that the bird would not waste anything. I left it in peace and exited the garden after reviewing my pictures and knowing that I could not do any better. A fitting end to my day.

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The browning of lakes.

A new study seems to show that as the permafrost is melting more northern freshwater lakes are turning brown due to an increase in organic carbon into the water. This phenomenon is a global thing but the rate in the North is extreme.

Organic carbon is very good at absorbing sunlight but it is not a good thing for aquatic systems because sunlight cannot penetrate the water and thus phytoplankton can’t propagate as it needs sunlight. And that means as well that insects and fish will not have anything to eat.

The local people will be affected as there will be less fish of a lesser quality and the quality of the water to drink will be diminished. More money would have to be spent to have drinkable water.

The study ends by saying that with increased rainfall and extreme weather events the browning of northern lakes will only further increase.


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Warming seas are endangering King Penguins.

A new study published in a magazine seems to show that King Penguins are in peril as it warns that 70% of the 1.6 million breeding pairs could be affected in this century. The stark warning is that either they will move from where they are or they will disappear.

It seems that the largest colonies of these birds will be too far away from their sources of food. Researchers used models to predict which islands that harbor the penguins will be able to sustain them and which will not be able to.

By 2100, half the King penguins on the Crozet and Prince Edward islands in the Indian Ocean will lose their habitat. The 21% that presently rest on the Kerguelen Islands as well as those on the Falkland and Tierra del Fuego islands would see their nesting grounds altered and would have to find food further away or relocate.

The scientists admit that some islands will become more habitable for the penguins but these King penguins do not nest on ice and so their choices will be more limited.

A 70% loss may be a conservative estimate as the fish and krill that the penguins feed on will also be affected by the warming seas, and so this will mean less food in the years to come for the penguins. As the models indicate which islands will be better for the penguins conservation measures can be taken to limit tourism in those areas as will as reduce fishing.

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