Male wild turkey

Spring is for the birds, I say. But some readers might submit that there is nothing so soothing as the direct sun warming your skin after a long, cold winter. Having attended graduate school in Wisconsin, I can attest to the sensation of release after doffing several layers of heavy clothing, and standing on the Commons, soaking up the rays with my classmates while wearing a t-shirt, as the snow melted at our feet.

Others might offer that spring is for the wildflowers that magically appear as daylight extends its reach across the sky. Here, in the oak woodland foothills of the Sierras, we are treated to landscapes blanketed by lavender pillars of Lupine, chest high forests  of yellow Fiddleneck, and the resplendent golden crowns of California Poppies. Yes, I’ll agree, Spring is all of that.

But still, spring is really for the birds.

It is a time of dawn to dusk birdsong by individuals looking for mates, and migrations to both near and far reaches of the globe. We say goodbye to our winter residents, and welcome those feathered friends that will be with us throughout the summer.

Already, many of the White-crowned Sparrows who serenaded us come rain or shine throughout the winter have departed. In their place, Western Kingbirds are now arriving.

Western kingbird

Their effervescent, sputtering chatter makes me laugh every time I hear it. They seem to be declaring “Its great to be home again.” I love them so:

Recording by Taylor Brooks, Xeno-canto #34893

Year-round residents, like Western bluebirds, are busily gathering materials for their nests. A nest box I installed on an oak tree is currently receiving lots of attention. Last year, my bluebirds abandoned a half-competed nest in that box, and that was a disappointing development. The in-and-out activity happening right now, however, gives me hope for a joyous chorus come May.

Western bluebird

Canada geese are laying eggs along the shoreline of Blue Heron Lake. I’ve counted eight nests just this past week. Loose eggs pushed out of a nest are all around if you look for them; watch your step. Come the end of April or early May, fuzzy, little goslings will be forming long conga lines as they paddle across the placid water. Mallard ducklings won’t be far behind.

Canada goose tending nest

Best of all, Spring is the moment when an entertaining, and most regal pageant takes place across our oak woodlands: Wild turkeys are on parade. Rafters of hens and toms forage throughout the neighboring hills and hollows. There is nothing quite like the sound of hopeful toms gobbling for the attention of a wild and willing hen. You can hear them from a mile away.

One recent morning, I watched with fascination as one lone male gobbled in place, repeatedly, for several minutes, trying to attract nearby, but unseen, hens; all the while, a deer rested in the grass at its feet. Hope springs eternal in the heart of a wild tom.

Where the females forage, males follow, strutting and twirling, fanning their tails and flashing their beautiful, iridescent  feathers (all 5,500 of them). There is little time for eating if you are a tom determined to pass on your genes for a future generation.

Until next time,

Keep birding

Robert Groos

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Robert Groos is a published photographer and keen observer of nature who lives in Yosemite Lakes Park. He shares some of his outstanding images of our local feathered friends along with some tidbits of interesting facts about each. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. 

Previous posts:

Birds going nuts over berries
California Scrub-Jay
Great-tailed grackle
What’s good for the goose
It’s nesting time
Wild turkeys on parade
The Pied-Billed Grebe
Hunchback of YLP: The black-crowned night heron
The bluebird
Talking turkey
The secret world of the phainopepla
Acorn woodpecker 
Oak titmouse
White-breasted nuthatch
California quail
Bald eagle
Western kingbird
The turkey vulture