It’s difficult to find a ranch without a water leak somewhere, usually around a trough. In the instance above, our 5,000-gallon tank has settled since we last repaired and changed the PVC fittings a number of years ago while the tank was empty. Anticipating settling when full, 40,000 pounds, we installed a compression fitting or dayton on our water line to allow the PVC pipe ends to slide closer together. Additionally, our conduit for the wire between the solar control panel and the float in the tank was in the same trench as our water fill and discharge line. The settling cracked the conduit and subsequently carried water from the leaky tank plumbing to the base of our solar panels creating another nasty bog.
This summer, our little rafter of turkeys have included the two leaks in their daily travels, drinking and finding bugs and grubs that wouldn’t otherwise be available. Because of the leaks, I’ve had to augment the solar pump with a generator and submersible pump to fill the tank once a day.
I’ve long rationalized that little leaks are not a waste of water, creating some green grass and making puddles for birds, rabbits and other small wildlife that often end up drowned and floating in our water troughs. Fishing the carcasses out can be an unpleasant chore.
Unable to responsibly procrastinate any longer, we set out early Tuesday morning knowing we had some muddy shovel work ahead. After several hours, we uncovered and loosened the dayton, fixed the conduit, repairing what was no little leak. If we’ve done our job well, the turkeys will have to drink elsewhere without the appetizers.
This year’s tall feed provides good cover for nesting hen turkeys, popping up out of the grass along the road as Joe and I approached them Easter Sunday. Whether the hens were leaving because we spooked them, or leading us away from their nests, was hard to tell as they chose the road ahead, unfettered by thick grass, to leave by.
It wasn’t long before we found two toms making their rounds of the area, fanning and strutting before a small crowd of cows at rest in the shade. American wild turkeys employ cooperative courtship during mating season to better attract the females, and according to a UC Berkeley study in 2005, select a close relative, a brother or half-brother, as a running mate to insure their genetics.
All this time I assumed the toms were competing for the favor of the hens. Furthermore, my Google research found instances where mating season has literally stopped traffic in Berkeley and where courting toms have actually attacked humans. Little did I suspect that the resurgence in the wild turkey’s population would be staged on city streets.
When I arrived yesterday to change my irrigation water, a coyote was nonchalantly studying these cows and calves from just outside the fence. The cow beneath the Valley Oak was lying close to her calf, hours old. The cows, of course, knew he was there well before I did. Taking an indirect approach, coyotes will gradually work their way among the cattle acting preoccupied and harmless until they become familiar to a bunch, all the while looking for any weakness among the calves—hence the Trickster moniker.
We have completed our first month of calving and pleased with 50% of our calves on the ground, a bright spot in the middle of this drought, though our total cow numbers have been reduced by half these past four years. This is the third calf for this particular bunch of cows bred by Vintage Angus bulls.
As the light turns softer and shadows longer, early mornings can be rewarding with lots of wildlife this time of year, especially where there is water. About twenty Canadian Geese are stripping the ripe seed of the water grass elsewhere in the pasture and our little bunch of wild turkeys, that are becoming used to me and the Kubota, are rummaging for bugs where I’ve completed my irrigation.
A murder of crows
A parliament of owls
A descent of woodpeckers
A kettle of hawks
A host of sparrows
An unkindness of ravens
A raft of ducks
A party of jays
A skein of geese (in flight)
An exaltation of larks
A charm of finches
A bevy of quail
A covey of partridges
A dole of doves
A murmuration of starlings
A nye of pheasants (on the ground)
A bouquet of pheasants (when flushed)
A pitying of turtledoves
A spring of teal
A party of jays