Those of us who share our country homes with abundant wildlife populations love spring time when we get to see all the babies. Nothing is cuter or sweeter than a newborn fawn unless it is six or seven baby raccoons following their mom to the creek. On the other hand, nothing is funnier looking and yet more charming than a flock of recently feathered turkey poults as they try to catch grasshoppers as they follow their momma through tall grass.
This spring and summer provided particularly wonderful viewing moments from my dining room window that looks over Big Creek. Our outdoor watchdog passed away last fall, which meant momma deer, momma coons, and momma turkeys could safely bring their babes right into the back yard on their way to the creek to drink. Sitting at the dining room table with cup of coffee in hand, I got to watch the mothers wander the shallow creek to drink their fill or to browse on overhanging branches while their babies nursed contentedly, totally unaware I spied upon them every day.
This continued for several months, allowing me to grow more familiar with each family and to learn their favorite times to come to water or their favored pathways to and from the creek. The fawns went from spotted, frolicsome infants to adolescent does and bucks with adult coloring. The baby raccoons grew from kitten-size to adult-size critters over the summer to the point I couldn’t really tell mom from babe any longer. The young turkeys grew adult tall but haven’t yet filled out.
Because it is the wild, there was some attrition. A favorite doe lost one of her fawns to something in the wild—illness, coyote, car…who knows. Several clutches of turkeys went from many to few over the hot months. The same happened to pheasant hatches as the drought and the heat took its toll on these young families. While that brought a moment’s sadness, it didn’t ruin my summer peeping.
Recently, I had to drive cross-country to a town several counties away. This meant leaving at daybreak and driving during prime critter movement time where I would spot so many more animals than I get to at home. I saw so many adolescent families of turkey, pheasant, prairie chicken, deer, coyote, and foxes on these morning jaunts that it made me think of the weeks I spent watching the newborn creatures on our place. Like human infants, they are so cuddly looking at that stage. Of course, that is why stuffed animal manufactures create infant, not adolescent, imitation wild critters for the marketplace.
After spending two mornings looking at family after family of adolescent turkeys, coons, pheasants, deer, foxes, and coyotes, I wondered who would want a stuffed creature that looked that gawky and gangly? It reminded me of those years when our daughters went from precious, pudgy little first graders with missing teeth to awkward pre-teens whose new teeth were too big for their features and whose spindly legs and arms did not match their trunks. Then, like the creatures in the wild, our gawky cygnets turned into beautiful swans with well- proportioned bodies and attractive features.
While it was easy to watch the changes as our daughter went from adolescence to adulthood, I have to pay closer attention to the creatures with which we share our acreage. Once fall arrives with hunting seasons, wild animals go to cover so it takes a closer eye to see those changes. If I am lucky, I might see one of my grown up wild things herding adorable youngsters to water next spring.