This is my 25th Nature Post for the Patch and I hope everyone is enjoying them as much as I am writing them. They have given me the impetus to explore new areas around town that I might not have otherwise gotten too and to revisit areas I've been too with a different focus. We are very lucky to have so many interesting open spaces and parks in East Brunswick and with that a wonderful diversity of habitats and wildlife to encounter. Many of these are profiled on the ever-changing Friends website at www.friendsebec.com. And if you aren't yet a member of the Friends, consider joining. It's FREE and only takes a few seconds on the website.
Membership will insure that you always know about all the cool programs we run, like the Annual Salamander Migration, Community Garden, Moth Nights, environmental lectures, Butterfly Park, the new Green Book cluband so much more. And like membership, they are all FREE!
So, on to the Wild turkey. The Wild turkey has made an incredible comeback in the northeast over the past 50 years. East Brunswick is sharing in this population explosion with sightings around town being fairly common now. Historically, Wild turkeys were abundant in New Jersey and throughout the northeast, but by sometime in the 1800's they were extirpated. I pulled my well-worn copy of the 1908 NJ State Museum Birds of New Jersey out of my bookshelf and the entry for Wild turkey reads "Long extinct in New Jersey. Letters of early voyagers show that Turkeys must have occurred throughout the State as they found "stores of them" in Cape May County." These early faunal reports give a great overview of how our populations of many species are ever-changing, not to mention they make interesting reading. According to the New Jersey Audubon Society Birds of New Jersey published in 1999, sometime in the late 1950's, Wild turkeys may have started to recolonize New Jersey from semi-wild populations in Pennsylvania. Subsequent reintroductions, formed the stock for our current population and the birds are now widespread throughout New Jersey.
While our East Brunswick parks and open spaces provide plenty of habitat for Wild turkeys, what is amazing is the frequency that they are now being seen in our more developed areas including residential neighborhoods. Once you see these huge birds walking around your neighborhood it is a sight to remember. They seem so out of place and yet they seem to be adapting quite well to our suburban landscape. I live right near the High School and they are now fairly common in my neighborhood despite it being surrounded on all sides by development. The neighborhood has lots of large oak trees and acorns are a favorite food of the turkey, so I suppose that explains why they keep coming back. Let us know if you see any turkeys around town by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Patch and share any photos you happen to get.