A brush turkey at the home of wildlife photographer Gerry Pearce in Davidson, Sydney. (Pic: Joel Carrett/AAP)
A brush turkey at the home of wildlife photographer Gerry Pearce in Davidson, Sydney. (Pic: Joel Carrett/AAP)

Beware, brush turkeys are winning the war

I STUBBED my right foot big toe very badly recently.

It was worse than your run of the mill stubbing for three quite disparate reasons.

Firstly, in injury terms, I lost about a quarter of the nail from the actual stubbing and then quite a bit more blood from a simultaneous laceration caused by a loose tile on the doorway.

In terms of lessons to do with not putting off until tomorrow what can be done today, it was an irritatingly salutary one given how many times I've thought: "must do something about that tile before someone trips and hurts themselves".

And, thirdly, as I worked to stem the bleeding and bad language, I had to face up to the fact that the scrub turkeys are winning the war at my place again.

You see, from my kitchen window, I'd seen there were two of them mooching, like they uselessly do, on my newly Sikkens-coated back deck and I'd dropped the potato I was peeling like a hot … well, into the sink, and tried to race through the sliding doors on to the deck, waving my arms and bellowing "gwaaaaaan, gerrrrrout, grrrrrrrr". Which is when the injury occurred and my shouts turned to "ghaaaaaahhh, faaaaaaaaark".

Later, when I explained the situation to sons Nos. 2 and 3, around for one of our regular family dinners, all they said was I was going the right way to alarm the neighbours who'd be warning their children to stay away from "the mad woman at No. 46 who chases turkeys".

Scrub turkeys, also known as bush or brush turkeys, showing a blatant lack of respect. (Pic: Marija Popac/Facebook)
Scrub turkeys, also known as bush or brush turkeys, showing a blatant lack of respect. (Pic: Marija Popac/Facebook)

Well, no thanks for the sympathy, boys, and pass the gravy. But, also, guess what? With the score early in this year's breeding season standing at Turkeys one, Wenham nil, I don't care what the neighbours think and I say let the new battle commence.

The last time I wrote about scrub turkeys was exactly two years ago, after I'd had a stretch of garden accidentally dressed with forest mulch instead of the desired, heavy duty, turkey-resistant curly bark. I woke the next morning to find five of them gunk-gunk-gunking to each other in glee as they grubbed and kicked up a storm in the peaty seed and insect-rich dressing. My astonishment had turned to rage when another two, with a great whop whopping of wings and extra loud gunks of excitement flew off my roof to join them.

It wasn't just that garden bed they laid waste to, it was (and is now) the planter box in the carport and everywhere I rake, sweep or leaf blow.

Another interloper hoping to become a housemate. (Pic: Melissa Galland/Facebook)
Another interloper hoping to become a housemate. (Pic: Melissa Galland/Facebook)

It happens like this: wield blower, broom or rake; take a final admiring look at how neat everything is before retiring for the day; get up the next morning to find crap all over the paths again; and repeat.

If the response to that August 2016 column was anything to go by, there are a very great many of us down the eastern seaboard sorely tested by scrub, bush or brush turkeys - call them what you will - and who've had to take drastic measures to protect their garden and sanity.

I was offered a great deal of turkey-thwarting advice ranging from get a dog (which I know would be just the sporting ticket if I had a fence … I have a cat but she's on nodding terms with the turkeys), laying out chicken wire where turkeys habitually scratch (a very popular suggestion, as was placing old mirrors all around the place), installing sensor sprays and/or keeping high-powered water pistols handy, placing obstacles (a wheelie bin, someone suggested) and moving them about on the routes around the garden the turkeys take, using a possum trap to catch them for relocation, scattering some big rubber snakes around, and buying half a dozen large-eyed owl or other bird statues and placing them strategically about, also while moving them regularly - another popular tip.

You may laugh, but one day they’ll be in charge. (Pic: Supplied)
You may laugh, but one day they’ll be in charge. (Pic: Supplied)

This isn't an exhaustive list, not least because it doesn't include some, er, solutions which have a certain evil appeal but which are, of course, out of the question because, as the Department of Environment and Science's website reminds us, "the Australian brush-turkey is fully protected in Queensland"!

I thought I'd start with the bird statues as being the most cost effective and least disruptive and then, if necessary, work up to some adroitly placed mirrors.

I can report that, until recently, the bird statue deterrent has worked quite well. But there's no escaping I've got slacker and slacker moving the owls (and one very realistic, vicious-looking falcon), so that, as with the loose tile, I'm now paying for it.

At one stage on Sunday there were four squabbling in a tree in my back yard, while three others were strutting casually about the lawn … until I ran out (avoiding the tile this time) and, with a bloodcurdling whoop, threw a broom, javelin-like, at them.

Noting that a landscaped garden can be "stripped of small plants and mulch by a single male in less than a day", the Department says brush turkeys are threatened by habitat destruction and while they are "prominent in some urban areas it appears that breeding success is very poor in suburbia compared to natural habitat".

Well not in my neck of the woods. And so it is I'm upping my war footing to DEFBIRD 3 which will involve moving the bloody owls around and the deployment of IEDs - improvised emulation devices - just as soon as I can pick up some cheapie mirrors from garage sales and kerbside collections. Oh, and, fixing the sodding tile.

Margaret Wenham is a Courier-Mail columnist.



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