Before we get into Turkey love I want to wish everyone good health. Please wear masks, take precautions, listen to scientists, turn off propaganda. We have to get this virus under control so our economy will come back, so please everyone, be cautious and think of others.
Also, don't forget the victims of wild fires! Let's keep the west in our hearts.
Here are some places you can send money to help with victims of wild fires:
• The Solano Disaster Relief Fund: https://www.solanocf.org/Funds/Public/FundView.aspx....
• The Napa Valley Community Foundation: https://www.napavalleycf.org/donate/
• The North Valley Community Foundation: https://www.nvcf.org/donate
• The Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has a Fire Response Fund at https://www.cfscc.org/updates/fire-response-fund.
• The American Red Cross, which is paying to house people in motels this year instead of in traditional shelters due to the pandemic, is calling for cash donations. Its website provides numerous ways to donate.
• The Diocese of Sacramento Fire Assistance Fund is accepting donations by mail at Diocese of Sacramento Fire Assistance Fund, 2110 Broadway, Sacramento, CA 95818; by phone: (916) 733-0266; or online by visiting www.scd.org/donate. Click “Fire Assistance Fund.”
OK. Now. Turkey Love.
Turkeys! My love of Turkeys began with Lorene and Harold.
Lorene started visiting my yard a year before Harold showed up. She came by herself, walked around, approached me when I talked to her. She, like all Turkeys, was very shy. She picked at seeds that dropped from my feeder, and enjoyed corn I tossed her way. While she pecked at corn, she wasn't obsessed with it like ducks. She ate some of it a moment or two then scratched around the yard with her huge fingers, looking for worms. I named her Lorene because she felt like a Lorene. Eventually, she recognized her name. I think.
A few times I was honored with the presence of flocks of females, who would show up for seeds, corn and worms. If more than two hung out in my yard, I'd call out to Lorene and one would usually walk towards me. That's how I identified her. I tried to find ways to mark her, but every time I was sure of a marker--blue place on her neck or other markers, another Turkey would appear with the same markings. So, I figured the only way to truly mark Lorene in a crowd was by noting behavior. Lorene wasn't nervous around me.
Most of the time, Lorene was alone , so marking wasn't an issue. She liked my yard. The seeds. Occasional corn. My lazy, harmless bulldog. And then there was me--not lazy, but crazy. And harmless. So she came to my yard. All the time.
Then, the next summer--rather late in the turkey mating season, Harold appeared. He snuck up behind my rhododendrons to spy on Lorene who was grooming in the front yard. Harold was something else! Feathers extended. Bright red swollen snood flopping over his beak. Red and purple wattle exploding from his neck. He stood quietly behind flowers, and peeked at Lorene. I was convinced Lorene would fall in love, but, no, she seemed disinterested. But was she? Or was she playing it cool. I am certain she knew he was there because she groomed quite a while. He did nothing for a while, only stalked her.
Then..... he slowly creeped forward.
Below is a picture of his first sighting. I've seen other male turkeys with swollen snoods, feathers extended, and in my nonprofessional opinion, Harold is an amazing looking male turkey. Colorful, large head. Gorgeous eyes. Huge, brightly colored wattle. Perfectly symmetric fan of tail feathers. I've noticed other males with ratty tails, skinny heads, weak snoods. Harold had it all. Harold was our Brad Pitt of turkeys and he was after my Lorene!
Harold strutted, gobbled a bit, displaying his handsome self for hours. Lorene ignored him. I hid behind a tree, eager for a picture of the sex. Nothing.
Strut, strut. gobble. gobble. Nothing. I left.
I came back two hours later. There they were. She grooming herself. Him strutting.
Finally she lay down, and I thought this was it, so I positioned my camera, sneaked behind my cedar. Here we go. But the approach was off, she was not satisfied with his technique. At the last minute she stood up and said no.
He did not chase her, nor did he gobble in anger. He simply stood there.
Rejection at the last minute is OK in the Turkey world. Or it appeared OK with Harold. Harold was a gentleman. Are all turkeys gentlemen? I don't know. From what I've read, there's no rape in Turkeydom, so this may be normal behavior.
So, it appeared that mating was not going to happen at the Ice love bed that particular summer. But maybe it did happen elsewhere. Maybe they waited till night, or wandered off somewhere else, as my presence annoyed them.
Towards the end of the summer, a flock of females showed up with several babies. I think one of them--the female with the youngest babies--may have been Lorene, but I wasn't certain. I'm always certain of duck identification, as I know Louise's markings and she makes her presence known. But, as I said earlier, Turkeys are difficult to mark, and, and all the females were nervous with their offspring, so I couldn't walk too close. I did suspect that the smaller female with very young babies could have been Lorene. Her mating would have occurred late in the season, which would of course result in younger offspring. But I truly didn't know if Harold was a father or if Lorene said no that year.
Flash forward to this summer.
Lorene shows up again in my backyard. And so does Harold. We have the same couple coming to the same love bed. Here we go again.
Harold strutted, displayed, quietly gobbled for days. Days! He wanted Lorene and only Lorene, but she ignored him again, instead spending time eating and grooming. All. Day. Long.
This patient, pitiful courtship lasted three days.
Eventually a gang of males showed up. Then a few more females appeared. Some of the males strutted and displayed for the females but there were no takers. Not one male was as beautiful as Harold.
But Harold's eyes were only for Lorene.
While I never captured actual mating, I assumed they consummated the relationship eventually because Lorene came back later-- by herself-- with a crew of itty bitty babies.
What I found particularly interesting about the mating ritual I observed was the male patience. There was a bit of aggression when one male displayed his feathers. Another male chased him away. But there was no scratching or violence. In fact, the entire turkey mating process was peaceful. Loud at times, as gobbling is loud, but slow, constrained, patient and gorgeous. It's a romantic dance. Respectful, peaceful. And most importantly, the female is in charge. Wonderful.
I like to write about people, animals, dogs. I enjoy ideas, good books about ideas, funny books about ideas, funny people who have ideas, advocates for people who don't have voices to express their ideas, and animals who have ideas we can't understand.