Wandering the county roads, you’re likely to see signs of late spring. The trees seem to be fuller than usual and are greener. Could it be that they are rejoicing at two years of rain after a prolonged drought?
A gaggle of wild turkeys were in a pasture, it looked like a tom and hens. It was safe to pull off the main road and watch. A cheap pair of binoculars in the glove box brings the show close. It was two toms, one fully fanned out, shivering his wings and looking manly in his blood red wattle and purple-blue head. Pretending not to notice the display, six hens stood ten feet away, pecking at the ground, purring to one another. Baby turkeys will be on the field by July. The other male sat close by watching the display and keeping an eye on the hens. According to turkey lore, the second baseman will get to play with a hen or two whilst the alpha tom is busy showing off. This keeps the gene pool fresh.
A late night drive caught a baby bob-cat zipping across the road in the headlights, quick as a wink the kitten disappeared in the roadside shrubbery. It is rare to see them day or night. On a recent ride near Occidental a mother skunk and three kits were crossing the road, very cute little buggers. The driver was rooting for their safe passage and good health whilst waiting for them to cross. A skunk family is also a rare sight in our outback.
Near the Graton Casino a pasture of lambs frolicked, playing tag and who can hop the highest. When sheep do their unique jump straight up from a dead stop it looks like they have springs in their legs. If you come across a herd do stop and watch for a few minutes, they are a hoot.
At home, the tufted titmouse have already nested and fledged their tiny offspring. They are a very small bird that likes to eat bugs. I have not seen their eggs yet though.
Quail families should also be showing up soon, watching them scratch and peck can take hours. Mom stays close and clucks to her little button size chicks. Like all good children they do as mom says, mostly. Dad watches over his little family from his perch on a blackberry vine, at the first sign of trouble he calls out to them and they vanish. They are a pleasure to observe for the human that can sit still and be quiet.
Colts, calves, seal pups, rattle snake spawn and a host of other critters wait for you to notice them. Waiting for some friends to return from their walk, a warren of western red-back voles stuck their heads up like a game of Bop-A-Mole. They dig around in the sandy soil looking for their main food source, truffles. If you would like to check them out, they are all over the county with larger numbers closer to the coast. Look for small gopher holes that are not like small volcanoes of dirt, they don’t do that. Be patient and they will pop up to see what’s going on. They have close fur with gray guard hair over dark body fur. About the size of a pet hamster with big, clear eyes a vole is not as shy as some ground critters. Look up Voles in Wikipedia to get a feel for this little cutie. Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Mycological Society. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.