Fri 23 Nov 2012
Today is my 69th birthday; that is, I am now in my 70th year. I can claim to officially be an old codger. I have outlived my mother. My beard has turned white; it’s Nature’s way of awarding me a combat ribbon for having thus far survived the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
My birthday was sunny and warm. The roads of West Marin were jammed with tourists. Tonight, however, is chilly — 48ºF at the moment — but that’s outdoors. Inside Mitchell cabin, a fire in the woodstove is warming the start of my 70th year.
Give a turkey an inch and it’ll take a mile? It is traditional for US Presidents to “pardon” a turkey so that it escapes the fate of the other 45 million turkeys eaten on Thanksgiving, which happened to be yesterday. All the same, I was a bit startled to see both of these headlines on the same screen when I checked Google News on Wednesday.
Of course, the bird takes its name from the nation although the two have nothing to do with each other. You can read an earlier posting explaining how this came about by clicking here.
Just before Turkey Day, as some people call Thanksgiving, a flock of 29 wild turkeys crossed my field in a long line.
Turkeys are native to North America but not to West Marin. Working with the California Department of Fish & Game, a hunting club in 1988 introduced the local wild turkeys on Loma Alta Ridge, which overlooks the San Geronimo Valley. The original flock of 11 hens and three toms all came from a population that Fish & Game had established in the Napa Valley during the 1950s.
Tom turkeys strut and display their feathers for a group of hens.
Wild-turkey hunting, however, has dropped off significantly in recent years, and in some parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, wild turkeys are becoming a problem not only in gardens but also on roadways. NBC Bay Area reported yesterday: “One bicyclist died when he crashed in Martinez trying to avoid a flock of the birds, according to [The Contra Costa Times]. A motorcyclist wrecked but survived when a turkey hit him on Interstate 680 last year.”
Gary Titus of Tomales has told me of driving a truck and trailer in the Two Rock area when a wild turkey suddenly flew out in front of him. The bird hit his windshield with wings spread, totally blocking his view. Gary slammed on his brakes. The truck and trailer jack-knifed and spun 180 degrees but somehow managed to stay on the road; however, tires were flattened by the skid. As for the bird, friends had roast turkey for dinner that night.
A tom turkey keeps a watchful eye on his harem.
Making sure the hens don’t wander off.
With the dominant male gobbling, the toms tend to stay in groups, often with their tail feathers spread and their wings dragging on the ground, as they strut for the hens. The tom in the foreground (without its tail fanned) was unfortunately reduced to hopping on one foot and had a hard time keeping up with the flock.
I have no idea, of course, how his other foot got injured. If he was attacked, he probably would have appreciated being armed with one of those NATO missiles.