Wild turkeys aren't uncommon in the Quad-Cities, but still, Peter and Karen Metcalf of Bettendorf were surprised when one landed on their deck, attempting to eat at their bird feeder.

The Metcalfs live near the border with Riverdale/Scott Community College and have about an acre of woods behind their house. It's a prime spot for deer and turkeys, and Karen recently heard the yapping of a coyote. The bird feeder, stocked with black oil sunflower seeds, attracts "all kinds of beautiful birds," Karen said.

Now they can add "wild turkey" to that list.

Karen also said that she and her husband have seen male turkeys displaying at each other — that is, strutting, puffing, and spreading their feathers in a wide fan. "Quite a sight sight!" Karen said. "Amazing what goes on in parts of Bettendorf, despite all the development."

MARIMO MOSS BALL: Martha Smith has been teaching people (including me) about plants for years, but now she's come up with a new one.

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, she's going to teach a workshop at the University of Illinois Extension office in Milan on marimo moss balls. These are a rare species of filamentous green algae that grows underwater and is known for its unique round shape and smooth velvety texture.

In nature, these moss balls can only be found growing in a few lakes, including in Japan, Iceland, Scotland and Estonia.

The balls are very popular in Japan, Smith, a horticulture educator for Extension, said. They are regarded as good luck charms and because they live so long — 200 years or longer — they often are kept as family heirlooms, passed down to children and grandchildren, according to her research.

Smith had never heard of them until a co-worker recently came back with one from an arts fair in Rockford, Illinois.

She has been able to secure a quantity of moss balls from a supplier in Indiana and has scheduled the workshop for noon to 1 p.m. The $10 charge includes two moss balls, a glass container and rocks and shells for decorating.

Class size is limited to 20 and Smith told me last week that 17 people already were signed up. If you'd like to take your chances at getting in, call 309-756-9978. Otherwise, consider this another example of the wonders of nature.

A final thought: I hope the suppliers are propagating these balls themselves, not tearing them out of lakes.

SQUIRRELS BURROW INTO PUMPKINS: I've been amused watching the squirrels on our deck go after our fall-themed pumpkin display.

First they chew at the outsides of the pumpkins, leaving deep scratches in the walls. Finally the scratches break through to the inside and — aha! — they find even better stuff. Seeds!

They proceed to pull these out, sticking their heads inside the pumpkins until half their body has disappeared. Then, rapidly, they pull back out, look both ways to make sure no one is gaining on them, then chew  furiously and leave scraps all over the sidewalk. Cute.

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