March boasts the spring equinox, a Latin term meaning “the equality of night and day.” As the sun navigates north across the celestial equator, daylight begins to lengthen. Sun rays ride on rising puffs of humid evaporating air as the release of weighted cold and damp succumb to the weightlessness of warming light. This, in turn, brings forth the much anticipated sweet, crisp, clean scent of spring.
A time of rebirth, awakening. Humans sense it. All of nature seems to extend an outstretched, sleepy-armed welcoming of it, and most assuredly, the wildlife that have fought for survival through winter’s unrelenting grip revel in it.
Spring is such an exciting time beyond the fence at Deer Haven Park as energies elevate in true celebration of life. One notably excited inhabitant is that of the wild turkey, whose mating season falls between February and April. The toms will be strutting full fanned tail feathers and puffing up chests to attract the hens. Iridescent reds, golds and coppery bronze hues cannot be missed in comparison to the hen’s darker shades of brown.
Toms also can be spotted by the spurs on the back of their legs. These grow curved, sharp, and pointed up to a couple inches in length while the hen’s spurs will remain the same size from birth.
Once mated, the hen will find an unobtrusive nesting site, normally hidden by vegetation and concaved. Here she will begin to lay her eggs, one daily, over the course of a couple of weeks, averaging anywhere from 9-12 total (called a clutch). Incubation takes roughly 28 days.
When the poults hatch, they will leave the nest within the first full day to search for seeds, berries, and insects. Subsequently, a cold, wet spring can adversely affect poult survival, as can nest predators such as raccoons, crows, and ravens.
These young wild turkeys’ taste buds will enhance after the first month to incorporate a variety of plants. As adults, they will feed in the early morning and afternoon hours seeking acorns, berries, plants, and even small reptiles.
One can always tell when wild turkeys are afoot at DHP by the various sounds they will make. In flight, they may cackle. They have been heard clucking or purring when foraging, or seemingly content, and will even yelp when excited. On a quiet day at the park, a tom’s gobble can be heard up to a mile away!
The birth rite of the wild turkey flock is not the only springtime exhilaration felt at the park, however. The resident bald eagles who have nested here for over a decade return this month to remodel their nest (perhaps build an addition) and birth this season’s young.
Local beaver colonies that call the park home will be busy repairing and securing their dam on Reeder Creek as well as remodeling and repairing lodges in anticipation of rushing waters from the melting snow and spring rain.
While trees and grasses start to awaken and grounds begin their revival, shed hunters will be on the lookout for fallen, abandoned antlers. White and brown whitetail deer will become more mobile and sociable, and it will not be long before fawns are being birthed to expectant does.
Perhaps the most enticing part of spring at DHP however, is the staff’s anticipation of tourist season’s April reopening. Plans are on the table for a variety of ways one may tour the park during and (longingly) after COVID restrictions are lifted. So much to see for nature lovers, bird watchers, wildlife seekers, military history buffs, and anyone of any age who seeks a new and exciting adventure ... spring beyond the fence awaits your arrival!