This has been a really cold year. Winter has been reluctant to give up, so spring has been far colder than normal.
Oh, I’ve seen freak snowstorms where several inches of snow covered the ground on Mother’s Day, but snow was falling in places such as Meridale and on the hills near South New Berlin after being 80 the day before.
Even with the cooler temperatures, though, the rituals of spring are right on schedule.
Last Saturday, I was planting a bunch of trees that I bought from the county and watched a group of turkeys courting in my meadow for nearly two hours. As I drove up the hill with the tractor, there were two gobblers and six hens in the field. The big toms were relatively unconcerned with the noise of the diesel. In fact, they only gobbled a couple times with the approaching noise.
I was surprised that they didn’t just run off and disappear into the scattered pasture pines, but they were too concerned with the hens in their presence. Mating was far more important than my appearance a few hundred yards away.
As I dug the first small hole for a Douglas fir, I watched them strut with their tails fully fanned. Those gobblers were all puffed out with their wings down, curled and dragging, just hissing and puffing, trying to attract one of the hens. Several times, the larger tom would approach the other male and try to push him out of the way.
After the first tree was planted, I hit the shovel onto the bucket of the tractor, creating quite a loud noise. Each of those toms responded with a couple of loud gobbles. It was fun to watch them and listen to their voices echo across the hill.
Finally, they moved up into the pasture, being led by the more cautious hens. Once on top of the hill where they felt safer, the ritual continued, gobblers strutting back-and-forth while the hens scratched and picked peacefully in the grass.