Entries tagged with “wild turkeys”.


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It’s a strange week. At 2 p.m. today the thermometer at Mitchell cabin reached 101 degrees. Just after 3 p.m. I received a recorded telephone alert from the Sheriff’s Office saying there was a vegetation fire in West Marin but that so far no evacuations had been ordered. That was pretty vague, so I checked the fire department’s website which said: “Units are responding to the Drake Fire, a fire along Inverness Road near Limantour. Currently, the fire is approximately two acres in size with a slow rate of spread. One structure threatened.”

Sheriff’s photo of the Drake Fire.

No one seemed to know where “Inverness Road” is, but around 4 p.m. the fire department posted that the fire was in the National Seashore, was near Vision Road (not Inverness Road), was 50 percent contained, and had been held to less than three acres.

My wife Lynn, who’s the Point Reyes Disaster Council coordinator, urges everyone to sign up for alertmarin.org and nixle.com. The sheriff, via Alertmarin, has your home phone number, but you need to register your cell phones. You can hear about such things when you’re over the hill. Nixle will reach you on smartphones; she automatically received messages that way today, while I received the home robocall. And, she says, check the Marin County Fire twitter feed (you don’t need a twitter account). If you have no internet devices, tune in to KWMR on the radio for current information. 

The Drake Fire, which was started by a tree limb falling on a powerline, follows a small fire Sunday on Mount Tamalpais near Panoramic Highway and Muir Woods Road. A PG&E transformer has been blamed for that fire.

Meanwhile, the Sand Fire in Yolo County has burned 2,200 acres and as of Monday afternoon is only 30 percent contained. Smoke from that fire drifted over West Marin Sunday, and made Monday’s sunrise particularly dramatic. (Photo by Linda Sturdivant of Inverness Park)

Snake handling. As I started up our road Saturday, I spotted a  three-foot-long gopher snake stretched out across the pavement sunning itself. Lest another car run over it, I stopped, got out, and grabbed the snake around its neck just behind its head. Holding the tail out with my other hand, I carried it uphill to a grassy area and released it. The snake quickly slithered off. It was the second time in the last year or so I carried a snake off the road. This time I didn’t get at all nervous.

Different species cohabiting at Mitchell cabin. A flock of wild turkeys casually walks past a doe and young buck, which hardly notice.

A wild turkey hen guides her chicks along the edge of the field.

Dinner mates eating kibble. A raccoon and gray fox dined nose to nose on our deck last night, and neither seemed to worry the other.

A raven moistens bread in our birdbath to make it easier to swallow. God only knows where he found the bread, but then he’s always coming up with biscuits, cookies, birds eggs, and animal parts. Last week Lynn and I watched this raven kill a gopher in the grass and then tear it apart.

Protecting its nest, a red-winged blackbird (top right) repeatedly buzzes and pecks the raven (lower left) as it flies away.

“The population of the common raven is exploding across the American West, where it thrives on human refuse and roadkill,” The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. “As the large, strutting predators piggyback on the spread of human civilization, they are expanding into territories where they have never been seen in such large numbers. This expansion has come at the expense of several threatened species, including the desert tortoise, whose soft-shelled hatchlings and juveniles have been devoured by the birds.” Scientists are now trying to reduce the number of desert ravens by using drones to spray oil on their nests.

Two roof rats gobble up birdseed before the birds eat it all.

In addition to all that excitement, Lynn in the past week managed to photograph some of our more exotic wildlife:

 

An egret walking beside our driveway last Thursday.

One of our local bobcats a week ago heading toward our garden, which it traversed without disturbing any flowers.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

A bobcat seen last week from a kitchen window. The cat has taken to showing up in the fields around Mitchell cabin, hunting gophers several times a month. Our fields have so many gophers that I’m always happy to see him.

A male American kestrel perching on the railing of our deck a couple of days ago as it likewise scanned the field below for prey. The falcon eats small birds, mice and insects.

A California scrub jay perched on an oak tree near our deck. These jays feed on insects, small animals, the eggs and young of other birds, grains, berries, and nuts. They’re among the most intelligent of all animals, according to some biologists.

Displaying her impressive spurs, a wild turkey walks along the railing of our deck pecking at seeds put out for other birds. The turkeys eat so much seed and leave such large droppings that they soon became unwelcome guests. During the day when they’re out and about, Lynn closes the gate where they walk onto the deck to discourage their getting used to it as their territory.

Turkeys march uphill near Mitchell cabin. We’ve had as many as 30 at a time in recent weeks. Wild turkeys have a Goth-like drabness when seen at a distance, but when they’re seen up close, they….

are dramatically colorful. With multi-hued feathers, a bright-red wattle, and jutting spurs, they probably could be rated among the more colorful local wild birds.

And while we’ve all heard that Ben Franklin wanted the turkey as our national symbol instead of the bald eagle, the Franklin Institute says the story’s “a myth.” It apparently grew out of a letter to his daughter in which Franklin wrote that in comparison to the bald eagle, the turkey is “a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America…He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage.”

A week of cold winds with several wet days has made downtown feel so bleak that I’d been thinking of filing a complaint with county government. However, as Lynn got out of our car in the Palace Market parking lot Monday, she called back to me that there was an impressive rainbow overhead. I then got out and saw the rainbow framed by overhead lines, dangling running shoes, a utility pole, treetops, and a chimney. Indeed I was impressed by the scene’s complexity.

 

A year ago I was hit with a medical problem called temporal arteritis, which sent me to the emergency room at Kaiser Hospital in Terra Linda. As I wrote here at that time, it was a big headache, but left untreated it could have led to blindness.

Temporal arteritis amounts to inflammation of an artery that goes through the temples (hence the name “temporal”) and feeds blood to the eyes. The problem is common enough that rheumatologists have developed a standard treatment using the steroid Prednisone. The cause of temporal arteritis is unknown, but it mostly hits us older folks.

Well, the Prednisone worked in that it took away the headache, but I had to consume it every day, and that itself produced temporary problems ranging from less-focused thinking to a loss of balance. I began taking increasingly serious falls. The worst was on Memorial Day when I fell to the ground from a standing position. I landed on stainless-steel metal and badly bruised the right side of my ribcage.

I had just about recovered from that fall when today I stumbled on my deck and landed on the left side of my rib cage. What a pain! As a result, I’m taking it easy on myself, which is why my posting this week consists of photos from my collection— not ruminations. Most of them have appeared here previously.

Gray squirrel at my birdbath.

The raccoons around Mitchell cabin are amazingly adventurous. These walked right in when I left the kitchen door open.

Three animals who seldom hang out together in nature — a possum, fox, and raccoon — were convinced to eat peaceably together when I scattered honey-roasted peanuts on my deck. Animal populations, however, go up and down, and I haven’t seen many foxes or possums around Mitchell cabin recently.

A blacktail doe takes a rest behind my woodshed.

Two does and a flock of wild turkeys forage side by side uphill from Mitchell cabin, both species seeming oblivious of the other.

Two years ago, a lone peacock began keeping company with the turkeys. It’s pretty but its calls sound like a woman in distress.

Coyotes can often be heard at night howling around Mitchell cabin. Getting a chance to see one is far less common.

It’s far more common to see bobcats. Here one takes a rest while hunting downhill from the cabin.

A mother badger with her kit. The most ferocious predators near the cabin are badgers. Even a bear would be no match. Badgers live in burrows up to 30 feet long and 10 feet deep, for they are remarkably efficient diggers thanks to long claws and short, strong legs.  Although they can run up to 17 or 18 mph for short distances, they generally hunt by digging fast enough to pursue rodents into their burrows.

Lost in thought, a gray fix sits on my picnic table.

Jackrabbits, of course, are always around. Jackrabbits, which are also known as black-tailed hares, avoid predators by using “an element of surprise and escape that works well,” Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens notes in his Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula.

“When a potential predator is detected, the hare will usually take shelter in the shade of a convenient clump of vegetation or behind a rock and freeze motionless. If the predator approaches very closely, the hare leaps into stride, zigzagging across open country until it finds shelter.”

Two young does graze beside Mitchell cabin. To me all this is my home on a hill, but it could just as easily be a zoological garden.

 

 

 

Here is a gallery of my bird photography, as was promised two weeks ago. The photos were all shot at Mitchell cabin or around it.

One reason Mitchell cabin gets quite a variety of birds and other wildlife is that its fields come within a few feet of a neighbor’s stockpond, where numerous creatures show up daily to drink or hunt. Here a common egret wades through shallow water, looking for frogs, small fish, or insects.

While it’s hunting, a great blue heron will repeatedly stand motionless and then use lightning-fast strikes with its sharp bill and long neck to catch gophers in Mitchell cabin’s fields or frogs and fish in the pond.

The cabin is under the commute route for Canada geese which travel daily between the Point Reyes National Seashore and the Marin French Cheese Factory’s ponds in Hicks Valley. It’s easy to tell when they’re coming; they honk as much as Homo sapiens commuters stuck in traffic.

A flock of tri-colored blackbirds swoop down onto the deck railing when Lynn or I spread a line of birdseed along it morning and evening. Many of the blackbirds nest in reeds at the pond.

Even after they’ve grown old enough to feed themselves, young blackbirds for awhile still want to be fed by their parents. Once in awhile the parents do oblige them, but over a few days, they wean their youngsters. (Photo by my partner Lynn Axelrod)

A tom turkey struts his stuff. In 1988, a hunting club working with the State Department of Fish and Game introduced non-native turkeys into West Marin on Loma Alta Ridge, which overlooks the San Geronimo Valley. By now there are far more turkeys than turkey hunters, and their flocks have spread throughout West Marin.

A little more than a year ago, a lone peacock showed up and soon began hanging out with a flock of wild turkeys. Months later, he can still be seen bringing up the rear as the flock hunts and pecks its way across the fields.

A  male quail. Male and female quail both have crests. The males’ crests are black, the females’ brown.

The Eurasian collared dove is a native of the Middle East that spread across Europe in the 20th Century, according to the Audubon Society. In 1974, it was accidentally introduced into the Bahamas. In the 1980s, the doves discovered the US was only a short flight away and began taking trips to Florida. In less than 30 years, the doves have spread throughout most of this country.

California western scrub jays show up immediately when we put seed on the railing.

A California towhee freshens up in the birdbath on the deck.

Rufous-sided towhees are among the most colorful birds that show up for birdseed.

A purple finch chews a sunflower seed it found among other seeds on the railing.

The presence of golden-crowned sparrows is often announced by their song, which sounds like Three Blind Mice in a minor key.

Oregon juncos keep a close eye on Mitchell cabin’s deck, and it’s never long after we put out birdseed that they begin showing up. They’re less skittish than most other birds and will sometimes begin pecking seeds off the railing before we’ve departed.

A female hummingbird. Hummingbirds drop by for drinks whenever we have flowers in bloom.

American crows, which are native to North America, are considered intelligent birds. Here, for example, they demonstrate their mastery of jitterbug.

A crow skins its caterpillar dinner in the birdbath.

Redtailed hawks dine on reptiles, small mammals, and birds. Their call is a two-or-three second scream which trails downward. Redtails are monogamous and typically reach sexual maturity at age two or three and can live to age 21 in the wild.

When I spotted this great-horned owl in a tree 200 feet or more from the cabin one evening, I decided to try photographing it. However, the light was so low that when I triggered the shutter, the little flash on my old-fashioned Kodak flipped open and fired. To my amazement, the flash was reflected in the owl’s eyes despite the bird’s distance from me. With eye shine (see tapetum lucidum) like that, it’s no wonder owls can see well in the dark.

Two buzzards warming themselves in the morning sun.

This gallery doesn’t include all the birdlife around Mitchell cabin, of course, but it’s a sampling of our avian neighbors. They’re not the only reason I enjoy living where I do, but they’re a big part of it.

The autumnal equinox of 2014 is upon us. Fall has begun. If we were in Great Britain — still including Scotland, hip, hip, hooray! — we would probably say that “autumn” has begun. Transatlantic linguistic differences, you know, old chap. Sort of like “truck” v. “lorry.”

Until the early 1600s, the English name for the season was “harvest,” but as more and more people moved off the farm and into cities where there was no harvesting, they began to call the season “fall of the leaf.” After all, it’s the time of year when leaves fall from trees. Eventually, the phrase was shortened to just “fall.”

From what I read, the word “autumn” is at least three centuries older, but its origins are unclear. However, the French word for “autumn” is “automne,” so that may be a clue.

The cold-blooded countenance of a Western Fence Lizard.

The mostly dry, mostly sunny days of summer’s end were welcomed by a cold-blooded crew of Western Fence Lizards that daily warm themselves on the railroad-tie steps leading up to Mitchell cabin.

I’ve seen as many as three lizards at a time on the steps. Some scoot out of sight the moment they feel the vibration of my tread, but some don’t move at all, forcing me to be careful I don’t step on them. Actually, I don’t think that’s likely. Their staying still as long as possible is probably a form of camouflage they would abandon if I got too close.

The Western Fence Lizard diet mostly consists of insects and spiders.

Their nickname is “blue bellies” because of the color of their undersides, which can be seen when the males do pushups. It’s their equivalent of pumping iron in order to impress females and intimidate other males.

A Pacific tree frog right after I rescued it from my hot tub.

When I opened the lid of my hot tub Thursday to check the amount of chlorine and other chemicals in the water, a tree frog that had been hiding between the lid and the top of the tub took a flying leap into the caldron.

At 104 degrees, the water is hot enough to quickly kill a frog. I’ve seen it happen. This time, however, I had a sieve with me and was able to scoop the frog out in time to save it.

Autumnal raccoon kits begging at the kitchen door.

Three raccoon mothers and their kits show up immediately after sunset each evening to dine on whatever rations we’re willing to provide — slices of bread, corn chips, peanuts etc.

The kits are curious enough about the source of this bounty that they’ll sometimes take a step or two into the house when Lynn or I open a door to toss them their rations. However, most of the raccoons back away the moment we get close. The exception is one mother who sits beside the door and uses her front paws to unhurriedly take slices of bread directly from our hands.

Four wild turkeys uphill from Mitchell cabin.

It would be fun to be able to call them turkeys in the straw, but they’re really turkeys in the hay. Straw is basically grass with its seeds removed.

In 1988, a hunting club working with the State Department of Fish and Game introduced non-native turkeys into West Marin on Loma Alta Ridge, which overlooks the San Geronimo Valley. By now, however, there are far more turkeys than turkey hunters, and their flocks have spread throughout West Marin.

A turkey pauses to dine on grass seeds.

A jackrabbit likewise dines on grass uphill from Mitchell cabin.

Jackrabbits, which are also known as black-tailed hares, avoid predators by using “an element of surprise and escape that works well,” Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens notes in his Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula.

“When a potential predator is detected, the hare will usually take shelter in the shade of a convenient clump of vegetation or behind a rock and freeze motionless. If the predator approaches very closely, the hare leaps into stride, zigzagging across open country until it finds shelter.

Jackrabbits have been clocked running at up to 36 mph for short distances.

“The effect on the startled predator is momentary confusion, which may afford the hare the advantage it needs to escape.” Their smaller cousins, the cottontail rabbits, prefer brush to open land. They have “poor running ability,” Evens explains, and “frequently fall prey to foxes, bobcats, weasels, hawks, and owls.”

A four-point buck, probably about a year and a half old, also forages in the grass uphill from Mitchell cabin.

“Columbian blacktail deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) are the subspecies of blacktails native to the Bay Area,” Bruce Morris writes for Bay Nature. “According to the California Department of Fish and Game, there are now approximately 560,000 deer in all California, about 320,000 of which are Columbian blacktails….

“Blacktails have a typical lifespan in the wild of seven to 10 years, but they can survive in suburban habitat for as long as 17 to 20 years if unmolested,” Morris adds. “Suburban deer have minuscule home ranges, measuring three or four blocks for females whereas wild deer inhabit territories that extend for several miles.”

The other day I was walking up the front steps when I was so startled to see a deer right in front of me that I tripped and started to fall forward. Fortunately, I was able to catch myself and spring back, so I didn’t land on my nose. I’ll try to remember that sequence on Nov. 2 when daylight savings time ends and I have to reset the clocks.

As a regular reader of The San Francisco Chronicle’s Jon Carroll, I recognized an echo of the divine in his March 5 column, which was headlined: My legs are frozen and I can’t get up.

The column, which focused on his cat named Bucket, asked: “Do you inconvenience yourself just to please a cat? ….Do you allow your legs to freeze and tingle because the cat on your lap does not feel like moving just now?”

Indulging cats in this way is not another sign of modern Americans’ excessive solicitude toward their pets, many of which are better fed than impoverished citizens in some African countries. Rather there is historical and religious precedent for being especially considerate of sleeping cats.

I’m thinking, of course, of a cat named Muezza that, according to Muslim lore, belonged to the Prophet Muhammed. Legend has it that one day when Muhammed heard the call to prayers, he went to put on his robe only to find Muezza asleep on a sleeve. Rather than disturb the cat, Muhammed cut off the sleeve and wore the mutilated garment to the mosque.

An India peacock walks next to Mitchell cabin.

As has been noted here previously, a lone peacock showed up on this hill several months ago and eventually began hanging out with a flock of wild turkeys. He can often be seen bringing up the rear as the flock hunts and pecks its way across the fields.

Occasionally, however, the peacock gets separated from the flock and begins its shrill cries as he searches for his companions.

A peacock by the chimney.

Last Wednesday Lynn repeatedly heard the peacock’s cries coming from somewhere near Mitchell cabin. We both went out on the deck and scanned the fields uphill and downhill but saw nothing.

Eventually we went indoors only to hear more of the peacock’s cries, which always sound a bit like anguished screams. So we went back outside, but again we couldn’t spot it. I was about to go indoors when I heard some scratching on the roof. I looked up, and there was the peacock looking down at me.

After a minute or two, the peacock flew awkwardly to the ground (they’re not good at flying), crossed a field, and departed with a stately strut down the driveway.

Another colorful visitor during the past fortnight was this tom turkey. The wild turkey could be heard gobbling after a disinterested hen he was pursuing. The gobbles were noisy, but they didn’t compare to the peacock’s screams.

This bobcat, like the peacock and turkey, is a regular visitor to Mitchell cabin. Unlike the birds, however, it seldom makes a noise. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor Didi Thompson called to let me know the bobcat was in my field, and I was able to shoot this photo of it, as well as several others.

Shaili Zappa Monterroso arrives at Larkspur Landing after taking a Golden Gate Ferry from San Francisco.

One visitor last month who doesn’t drop by Mitchell cabin all that often was my youngest stepdaughter Shaili, a student at the University of Minnesota. Shaili grew up in Guatemala and lived at Mitchell cabin during the months I was married to her mother, Ana Carolina Monterroso.

Shaili turned 20 while she was visiting and is seen here celebrating with Lynn.

Although her first language is Spanish, Shaili speaks better English than some of my friends who grew up here.

Of recent, I’ve noticed people having trouble with homonyms, words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things: sum and some, weight and wait, wear and ware, or there, their and they’re.

Homonyms are one reason why it’s better to get news from newspapers than from radio or television, for it is obviously easier to distinguish between written homonyms than spoken ones. This is particularly important when it comes to one’s “burro” or his “burrow.” A “burro” is an “ass.” A “burrow” is a “hole in the ground.” Listening to the radio, it’s sometimes hard to tell one from the other.

Watching wild animals is a lot like watching people. We form judgements about their dispositions based on their movements.

The lone peacock that showed up back in November is still around, as can be seen in this photo shot from the deck of Mitchell cabin on Jan. 29. The type of peacock we have in California originated in India. It was introduced onto the US mainland in this state back in 1879.

Three months after I first noticed, I still see the lone peacock finding companionship in a flock of wild turkeys, which seems fine with them.

The bobcat I mentioned a week ago is also still hanging around Mitchell cabin. Leaning out my kitchen window, I shot this photo of it hunting rodents on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

However, I wasn’t the only one watching the bobcat. Lynn pointed out to me that the blacktail buck at left was also interested in it.

Before long the bobcat disappeared into a patch of coyote brush. The buck cautiously approached the clump of brush and sniffed around but didn’t seem particularly concerned. The bobcat didn’t stir. Apparently it wasn’t about to attack a standing buck.

Before long other deer began arriving, and right behind them were some more wild turkeys. The horse at the right then showed up to watch what might be happening.

I too started wondering what would happen when the turkeys began pecking around the edge of same patch of coyote brush the bobcat was in. Bobcats will eat wild turkeys, but this one continued to lie low.

The deer meanwhile crawled through a barbed-wire fence to join horses grazing in the field beside Mitchell cabin. For one sunny afternoon, there was peace in the world of peacock, wild turkey, bobcat, deer, horse, and human. Like the young doe seen here watching me, everyone watched someone else, but no one bothered anyone.

They were also au naturel, of course; if they hadn’t been, that would have been the topic of this posting. In any case, here for the third week in a row is a small gallery of new wildlife photos shot at Mitchell cabin.

A lone peacock has been hanging around this hill for almost a month. One or twice I’ve heard him scream, but for the most part he’s been unusually quiet.

I don’t know where this wanderer came from. Is he an escapee from somewhere? Perhaps he’s a remnant of a flock that once congregated near Nicasio Square. Whatever the case, the variety of peafowl seen in West Marin originated in India and were introduced into California back in 1879.

The Indian peafowl belong to a family of birds called Phasianidae, which includes West Marin’s wild turkeys.

Family members have now taken the lonely peacock under their wing, and he has become a member of a local flock of wild turkeys. Their companionship seems to have bolstered the once-shy peacock’s self-confidence, for just last week I saw him boldly scanning the world from atop a neighbor’s fence post.

A coyote has begun showing up on the shoulders of Point Reyes Station’s heavily used levee road. It’s a bit unusual but not altogether surprising. For much of its length, the levee road is what separates US Park Service-owned Olema Marsh from the county park at White House Pool. My partner Lynn and others had reported seeing the coyote along the road, and on Tuesday, I finally got a chance to see it for myself. Which gets us back to wild turkeys.

While Lynn and I watched from our deck last Wednesday, a flock of wild turkeys in a neighboring field drove off a different coyote.

When the coyote approached the flock, which was hunting and pecking in the field, the turkeys rather than taking flight turned and confronted him en masse. This stopped the coyote in his tracks. Wild turkeys are big, aggressive birds, and when the flock held its ground, the coyote apparently realized there would be no easy pickings. A couple of large toms followed by the rest of the flock then advanced a step or two toward the coyote, which turned tail and trotted off.

Later that day I told this story to LeeRoy Brock of Point Reyes Station, retired chief ranger for the National Seashore, and he told me he’d once seen a flock of wild turkeys chase away a blacktail buck.

The week’s rainstorms have filled the two stockponds near Mitchell cabin, and yesterday Lynn and I saw a Great egret hunting in the closer pond. Nor was the egret alone. I also spotted a Green heron taking cover in the reeds.

Although it was drizzling at the time, the egret in its red and green surroundings provided an unexpected bit of yuletide cheer.

Great egrets hunt primarily for frogs and fish although they also eat insects, small reptiles, and an occasional small rodent. Their hunting consists of slowly stalking their prey or of standing motionless, waiting for their prey to approach them. Once their prey is within striking distance, the egrets spear it with their sharp bills.

Gray foxes, which show up at Mitchell cabin in the evening, continue to fascinate me, as regular readers of this blog know. These days, at least one fox drops by almost every night, sometimes accompanied by a second.

The foxes are so comfortable around the cabin that during a break in the storms last Monday, this fox chose the picnic table on our deck for a snooze in the sun.

Gray foxes tend to be nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and twilight). That no doubt explains why this fox was so inactive during the middle of the day, which was fine with me. I believe in the old saying: “Let sleeping foxes lie.”

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.

When one talks turkey, he may sometimes be speaking about the country, the bird, or an inept person or performance.

Leaving aside Turkey, let’s talk about birds and inept people.

A wild turkey marches along my railing.

In the past week, a flock of wild turkeys, which is often seen in the fields around Mitchell cabin, has begun making almost daily incursions onto my deck in early morning and late afternoon. They come to eat the seed we put out for smaller birds, and their pecking and gobbling are loud enough to awaken us from a sound sleep.

But the real problem is their leaving piles of poop all over the deck and railing. For those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with turkey poop, it sufficeth to say the volume can be intimidating.

Wild turkeys are usually fairly skittish, but this past week they’ve been so absorbed with eating that I have been able to join them on the deck to take their pictures.

Male turkeys, which are called Toms, have a large, featherless, reddish head, red throat, and red wattles on the throat and neck. The head has fleshy growths called caruncles.

When males are excited, a fleshy flap on the bill expands. Along with the flap, the wattles and the bare skin of the head and neck all become engorged with blood. When a male turkey is sexually aroused, its head turns blue. When it’s ready to fight, its head turns red. Or so I’ve read.

A wild turkey flies from my deck to join the rest of the flock in a field below. Perhaps it heard me laughing at a turkey in The (London) Time’s Literary Supplement, and that drove him off.

The Times Literary Supplement last year commented on a review, which had appeared in Scotsman magazine, of the novel Kill Your Friends by John Niven. The Times Literary Supplement wryly noted that the critic for Scotsman “could think of no higher praise than ‘bed-wettingly funny.'”

Turkeys hunt and peck their way across my fields, looking for insects and seeds.

And here are two slightly risque jokes that also come from The Times Literary Supplement. They’re funny but not bed-wettingly so:

“A six year old and a four year old decide to start swearing. ‘When we go down for breakfast,’ the older brother says, ‘you say hell and I’ll say ass.’ Downstairs, Mom asks the younger what he’d like for breakfast.

“‘Hell, I think I’ll just have cornflakes.’

“Mom whacks his head and sends him back upstairs, to the horror of his brother. ‘And what do you want for breakfast?’ she says.

“He starts to cry. ‘You can bet your ass it won’t be cornflakes.'”

• “A young, country priest is accosted by a prostitute on his way through town. ‘How about a quickie for £20?’ she asks. The priest hurries on. He meets another prostitute. ‘£20 for a quickie, father?’ Bewildered, he heads back to the country. There he meets a nun.

“‘Pardon me, sister, but what’s a quickie?’

“‘£20,’ she says. ‘Same as in town.'”

That should be enough turkeys for one posting. Have a happy Leap Year Day.