I patiently wait in my car behind three other commuters on our way to work. It is a narrow 2-lane road. The stoplight is further down but we have stopped nonetheless, watching with wonder as a wild turkey guides its chicks to the other side. It takes its time with its brood of 4, supremely indifferent to us, but we don't mind, knowing that this will be the most meaningful experience of our day.
Wildlife officials introduced wild turkeys in the woodlands and hills of California’s Santa Clara County several years ago. The bird is not native to California but thanks to the farsightedness of park officials, these ‘modern’ turkeys have thrived. The region is rich in turkey food – acorns, nuts, berries, chestnut, clover, pine seeds and hickories. You come upon them unexpectedly, ranging freely in hills and cow pastures, the male puffing his feathers, spreading his tails and dragging his wings to win the love of a female. All you have to do is see a turkey in this mode to know exactly what ‘strutting’ means. Alas, a turkey doesn’t give his heart to a single hen but to as many as it can, twenty even, strutting (one supposes) with equal ardor for all. You can accuse a tom of polygamy but not of favoritism!
Turkeys nest on ground. Breeding occurs in March, eggs are laid in April and poults are hatched in May. Turkeys can fly up into trees to escape predators like mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and even owls and eagles. Unfortunately these predators also abound in the hills and woodlands of Santa Clara County. I have seen carcasses of turkeys here and there several times on my way to and from work.
But such grim images are far from my mind this perfect summer morning as I follow the rather clumsy progress of this particular turkey crossing the street with his chicks. Even after the 5 of them safely reach the other side, there isn’t any open range to forage for food at this particular spot. Development has taken over what used to be pristine wilderness. New homes have usurped what belonged to the wild birds and animals not too long ago in the valley.
Still, seeing wild turkeys foraging in hills and by roadsides brings perspective to commuters rushing through life. Don’t hurry, they seem to be telling us. Pause and savor life while you can. Enjoy today. Don’t live only for tomorrow.