Oh, Spring!

Spring is the season of renewal, which manifests itself out in the wild in a myriad of interesting and beautiful ways. Certainly the abundance of wildflowers is an obvious example of spring, but it’s by no means the only sign. In certain areas of the state, we were blessed with a “super bloom” of rather massive proportions that was truly something to see. Entire hillsides were painted with orange, or purple, or blue wildflowers. I was in the Merced River canyon just outside Yosemite in April and you could look up and see an entire hillside of California poppies. So…yeah, wildflowers are, I assert, one of the most beloved signs of spring.

But of course there are others.

Once the Western fence lizard makes an appearance, you know spring has sprung. These reptiles need warmth to be able to move around, so once the weather gets warmer they will be seen on the trail. They are definitely our friends in a particular way. “Studies have shown,” Wikipedia tells us, “Lyme disease is lower in areas where the lizards occur. When ticks carrying Lyme disease feed on these lizards’ blood (which they commonly do, especially around their ears), a protein in the lizard’s blood kills the bacterium in the tick that causes Lyme disease.” And since another sign of spring is the presence of ticks, the timing is fortunate.

Other reptiles such as snakes are frequently spotted in spring, as they are out and about looking for a mate. Many mammals are as well. Just today on the Montini Preserve I saw a male wild turkey in full display, trying to attract a mate from a bevy of females (see picture, the females were out of the frame). A couple females were fighting, I presume over the right to go after this fine specimen. Oh how I wish females would fight over me, but then I’m not nearly as good looking as a turkey. Sigh…

 

Wild Turkeys Couldn’t Drag Me Away

An adult wild turkey in the Red Quarry.

An adult wild turkey in the Red Quarry.

“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away” – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards

I think I’m beginning a rather disturbing habit of quoting song lyrics and lines from movies in these posts. Slap me if I get out of hand.

Wild turkeys are common sights on the Montini Preserve and the Sonoma Overlook Trail. Just the other day I spotted a flock of parents and young ones in the Red Quarry on the Montini Open Space Preserve. But I’ve also seen wild turkeys many times before, including during a rainstorm.

Although definitely not widespread in California (according the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, they occupy about 18 percent of the state), wild turkeys are fairly common in Sonoma County. I live in the hills of Boyes Hot Springs and we have seen them in the neighborhood not all that far from the Montini Preserve.

The turkeys we have in California can be considered non-native, although turkeys existed in California some thousands of years ago. So technically, as at least one person has argued, they can be considered to be “reintroduced” to the state. They can become a nuisance to humans at times if their populations increase enough, but so far I would have to say that they don’t seem to have reached such levels locally. At least from my experience the times that I have spotted them have been few enough to be surprising and delightful.

But even if such sightings were not happy occasions, wild turkeys would never be able to drag me away from the Montini Open Space and Sonoma Overlook Trail. Just sayin’.