When the peahens came to visit–and a little more Rancho talk!

I must admit I’m very excited to be sharing this particular post. It combines two of my favorite elements–local history and wildlife. To be accurate, I don’t know that our local peacocks are very wild, but they are plentiful, and for those unfamiliar with their story, their appearance can be very surprising.

I have my exhibits all prepared, but first I need to fill in a little local color.

If you lived within a few miles of my home you would automatically be familiar with the name “Baldwin.” You might not know how the name fits into local history, but you’d recognize the name as it links with familiar streets and towns, bars and restaurants. It’s a common name in the San Gabriel Valley, maybe only slightly less recognizable than Huntington.

Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin began his California business career selling groceries and dry goods to San Francisco miners during the Gold Rush era. He made serious money in speculating, loaning money to miners and then calling in the debts. One debt, paid through shares in a Nevada mine, was a good business call.

The Comstock Lode was the first major discovery of silver ore in the United States…and the rest, as they say, is history. Baldwin was a wealthy man.

Arcadia Peacock

How Baldwin came from San Francisco and made his home in Southern California is a much larger story I’ll get into soon, but today I’m eager to get on with the story of peafowl.

Baldwin purchased about 8,000 acres of Rancho Santa Anita, planting fruit trees and grapevines, raising cattle, hogs, sheep and horses.

And then came the beautiful, exotic birds, brought to the ranch from India, where Baldwin traveled to shoot elephants. That’s an unpleasant addition to the story, isn’t it?

Arcadia peafowl

All that remains of the old Rancho Santa Anita is 127 acres the state and county of Los Angeles jointly purchased, creating  an arboretum around the old Baldwin home. I’m planning another field trip soon. Would you like to come along?

First, let’s get back to the peafowl!

Peacock on Arcadia lawn

Driving through a residential neighborhood in the vicinity of the Arboretum I spent a few moments with some of the escapees. Peafowl wander! They enjoy legal protection, roam at will, and their number is somewhere in the vicinity of 400 birds. The majority live contentedly on Arboretum property, but there are always the adventurers.

IMG_1662

Not all local residents are thrilled with the early morning noise–they have a very distinctive call, and it is loud–then,  of course their droppings are an annoyance.

But the birds were here first! They make themselves at home wherever they go, sauntering in front of cars as they cross the streets, and lazing on lawns for the better part of a day. In springtime it’s a delight to see mamas with their babies.

And then there was the time they came to our house!

Spring 2009 four peahens came for a visit! They stayed a couple of weeks and I have looked for them every spring since. I keep hoping they’ll come back.

Not all of my neighbors were as delighted and enthusiastic. I heard a lot of complaining, which frankly baffled me.

“The gals,” as we called them, sat in our planter boxes, startling me as I’d walk by a window, held lengthy gabfests from their perch on the roof, meandered all over the backyard railroad tracks digging for insects, and gobbled up as much dried corn as we could feed them.

Then every evening they’d take off from the rooftop and fly, with amazing speed and strength, landing in the very tall trees a few houses south. After a good night’s sleep they’d be back to greet us in the morning.

I don’t recall exactly how long they stayed, but it was at least two to three weeks and then as suddenly as they arrived, they moved on. Maybe we didn’t have what they wanted–there were no peacocks, just the hens!

Perhaps they had future babies on their minds and needed to get a move on…It was spring…and suddenly they were gone!

Now that it’s again March, I’m hoping signs of spring will perhaps bring them back for a visit. I can hope!

Isn’t it wonderful to contemplate spring and all that comes with longer, warmer days? I breathe lighter just thinking about it.

Enjoy your weekend, my friends. I hope spring comes quickly to those of you still shoveling snow! And maybe my story of the unexpected peahen visit will remind you that spring can bring many gifts and surprises.

I look forward to hearing what comes your way…so have a good weekend, breathe deep, and then simply exhale!

49 thoughts on “When the peahens came to visit–and a little more Rancho talk!

  1. Your wish for spring must of natural happening soon come true.. it is such a shame for us to see the arrival of Autumn… today is cold, overcast and rainy, but not our normal hard down pours but the light fine stuff that announces a change in the season.. oh well it had to start sometime… I hope your peahens make a return visit to you this year… maybe a little corn scattered here and there might just attract a passing bird.. and she will pass on the message to the others… good luck with that…as for your spring.. I don’t think it will be long now…

    • I don’t think I recall a time when so many fellow bloggers have mentioned dreaming and longing for spring, Rob. The cycle of the seasons are certainly dependable, and winter cold isn’t new to anyone living in very cold climates, but I wonder how much of the commenting has to do with a general weariness that others are feeling, and the need for some sunshine to kickstart the endorphins. We certainly have plenty of sunshine, even in winter, but somehow spring signals change that is always welcome. And I think for those of us who like to be active outdoors it is hard to see the days grow shorter when the summer season closes. I know that I have been vicariously enjoying your summer season! Now I’ll have to show you spring and summer landscapes while you go into a more dormant season. :-)

  2. The ‘gals’ are beautiful! I hope they pay you another visit soon! And I love that word – new to me! – ‘gabfest’!

    • I would so enjoy having a visit from the peafowl! I don’t care a bit about how messy they are! You know, I wondered about the word ‘gabfest’ and hoped it wasn’t too obscure! LOL! I think younger Americans may not use it either…I give my age away from time to time! :-)

  3. Interesting that they came, stayed a bit, then gone and never to return. Hmmmmm … Did Darwin react to them? ;)

    Mr. Baldwin seemed to do quite well, so I’m sure you will return to him in the future. Meanwhile, if I understood you correctly, all of the peafowl today are descendants of the ones Baldwin brought from India because they are not native to SoCal.

    • I did find a reference in one article suggesting that it’s possible all peafowl in the United States first came from Baldwin…I didn’t think I wanted to suggest that on the basis of one article, but it does make me wonder. Certainly he is the first to introduce them to California. It seems he gave them as gifts to all his friends, too, so they began to populate many other areas, including Catalina Island. Baldwin was quite a character, as was the man who owned the land before he did. The Arboretum property has a few buildings that retain their historical ties and I won’t be able to hold myself back from sharing. They also filmed many of the Tarzan movies there, so I’ll be back. LOL! Thanks for remembering Darwin, too, Frank. He was still quite small when the peahens roamed his territory, and I then kept him in a pen. At that time I couldn’t have foreseen how he’d have full roam of the place! I hope your project is going well and you can enjoy your weekend, my friend. Thank you for stopping by!

  4. My mother had some peacocks in her garden, what a cry they made! We would collect the beautifully colored iridescent feathers, when the male would decide to court one of the peahens oh my what a display! “I am the most handsome of them all!”

    • I wonder if your mother was happy with the peacocks in her garden, Carla? My neighbors made such a noise at how destructive they were! I couldn’t see how a little mess could possibly be so off-putting given how lovely they were, and it was clear to me they were just visiting! :-) The Arboretums sells some of the beautiful feathers at a very reasonable price and through the years I have purchased a few. They really do seem to preen and boast a bit when they spread those beautiful tail feathers, don’t they?

  5. Exactly what I needed this morning, Debra, as I watch the snow drifting down…. thanks so much for reminding me that spring is just around the corner, and the peafowls will return to Capistrano some day…

    • Ha! Even the poor swallows don’t return to Capistrano like they once did…the population has increased to such a point that the birds can’t find good nesting places. Facts like that just grieve me! Maybe that’s at least in part why I get completely overjoyed at the peacocks roaming about in neighborhood yards! They need to assert themselves. LOL! I really do send a warm, warm hug, Natalie. I keep hearing about how cold it is in Chicago, and think of you and my other friends in the state…I admire how you just keep going! I know I’d go into hibernation! :-)

  6. Peacocks can be really mean, but they are beautiful to watch……I guess I think they are mean because I chase them and carry on so that they will raise their tail feathers so that I can take photos………

    • Ha! OK, then…you’re one of those, huh? LOL! One of my friends lives on a rural piece of property and raises them…I would just love that! I have seen them appear a little aggressive when they want to be the first of their little group to get to the outstretched hand holding the corn. I just love them! :-)

    • Seeing the peacocks out and about and away from their primary home always starts my day with a smile! It isn’t too unusual to see them on one of the very busiest of streets, just loping across across, holding up traffic and being very regal. It’s always so unexpected and such a surprise. They really are quite magnificent, aren’t they? :-)

  7. How wonderful! We don’t have peacocks here but we get ducks and geese. One year we had a pair of mallards courting in our very tiny (5′ x 11′) pond. What a sight. I didn’t get anything done for two days! Then they left but they left me a gift — a blue egg that never hatched.

    • Oh my! I wonder why the mallards left their egg behind? I completely understand your fascination. I think we get a little starved to have a deeper connection to the workings of the natural world, and when we get the chance, life just stops! I’ve been known to spend the better part of a morning just watching the squirrels! I wonder what we both might find this spring…anyone could come for a visit, right? :-)

    • I think peacocks are just spectacular, too! Now that spring is almost here I need to get over to the Arboretum and see if I can get some photos of babies! They are quite plain, but oh so cute! :-)

  8. Peacocks are such beautiful birds — but their call is something else! I don’t know how thrilled I’d be to hear that every morning and evening, Debra. Not knowing anything about peafowl, I wonder if it’s normal behaviour for peahens to band together before or until they mate and nest.
    So much of life is being at the right place and the right time. Baldwin and the Comstock Lode is a case in point.
    About 6 or 7 years ago, a duck walked though my tiny backyard with her very young brood doing its best to keep up. The nearest water sources are the North Branch of the Chicago River, about a mile away, and a large pond in a cemetery about a half-mile away. I live in the City, Debra. The distances cross city blocks and major thoroughfares, hardly duck country. The strangest part of the story is that she and her brood were spotted walking across my yard the following year, too! She’s not been seen since and I’m rather glad. There has to be a better nesting site than the one she had around here.

    • I love your duck story, John. You must have just marveled at your visitors! I also live in the city, but from time to time we have these wonderful bird and animal visitations and I’m just transported to somewhere much less noisy and stressful. We live very close to a large golf course, and that greenbelt attracts them, I’m sure. Isn’t that fascinating that the ducks came back a second year? That seems very unusual if you don’t have a water source right on your property! I completely agree with your thoughts about “timing” and I often think that if I weren’t paying attention and really wanting to have some connection to the natural world, what might I miss? I’m sure that as it is I miss many moments by not being home during the day! I probably really romanticize what it would be like to have more “close encounters” but I like to think I’d be very hospitable! I think sometimes I’m more patient with noisy birds than I ever could be with noisy neighbors! LOL!

  9. I would be delighted if peahens came for a visit here on the Cutoff, Debra. Their feathers are so magnificent and you photos capture them splendidly. You know, I would be hopping to and fro, clicking pictures, waxing poetic. The peahen with the brilliant blue neck must be the homecoming queen. I imagine the babies are cute as cute can be. Here I go; I’m hoping for at least a weekend visit to your house so your darling girls can see them. Yep. I’m wishing that.

    • Thanks for your wonderful commmnt, Penny! Yes, you’d make a whole story to go with peacocks! LOL! I wish I’d been blogging back at that time…just think what I could have shared. It was so completely out of the ordinary, and very unexpected for where we live! Every spring I have at least one sighting of the mamas and babies crossing streets they really should avoid! Someday there is going to be an accident, because we drivers brake and swerve totally committed to protecting these gorgeous birds. I also really hope they come back at some point. Sophia was not quite two, and she says she remembers them, but I’m not sure she really does. It would be so lovely! :-)

  10. A friend of mine has a neighbour with peacocks and she hates them. She swears they fly over the fence to poo on her terrace and outdoor furniture then fly back again! It’s unfathomable to me why anyone would want to shoot an elephant. I hadn’t heard of Baldwin before xx

    • I’m with you on shooting an elephant. Of course, I am not comfortable with hunting any animals, large or small, so I never was able to understand the thrill of shooting large game animals–elephants are like sitting ducks. Your friend’s thoughts about peacocks seems to mirror what I hear from those who live with them as permanent residents! LOL! I like to think I’d still enjoy them even with their mess, but maybe if they ruined my outdoor furniture I’d be grumpy, too! :-) But they are pretty, aren’t they?

  11. Hi Debra! I found you on Celi’s blog, The Kitchens Garden. I saw you mention peacocks and Southern California in her “comment lounge,” and wouldn’t you know… I’m in Monrovia!!! I actually split my time between Monrovia and Pasadena, so I’m a frequent commuter through your neck of the woods.

    Believe it or not, a peacock has taken up residence in a neighborhood near us (Mayflower and Foothill, if you know where that is…nowhere near the Arboretum). No peahens in sight, though, poor guy.

    • Welcome, neighbor! LOL! Yes, I do know Mayflower and Foothill…I met my husband 40 years ago when he was living on Mayflower just north of Foothill. :-) And that is a long distance from the Arboretum, you are so right. Isn’t that interesting? Peafowl are fascinating with some interesting characteristics. In the short time we enjoyed the visiting peahens we were amazed at their strength and flight distance, so I suppose the poor guy you’re talking about can make it back to the arboretum when he gets tired of exploring Monrovia. I’m in San Gabriel, so I think it is probably about the same distance west of the arboretum as Monrovia is east! I’m so glad you stopped by. I will stop by to visit your blog, too. We have Celi in common! :-) I hope she has the chance to see a few photos of Kupa’s city cousins! :-)

  12. Such beautiful, exotic, but noisy birds, Debra. :-) It would be great if they stayed longer another time and even nested while they were there.

    Oh yes, i too can’t wait for spring. The sun is actually shining hazily today, but it’s still so cold!

  13. I once found a peacok in my back yard in the middle of Denver, Colorado. It seems he ran away from a neighbor’s house–I herded him into a fenced area until I could locate the owners. He was beautiful, but I was a bit unsure of what he might do.

  14. Peacocks wanders around really in the prowl… Just like you. Hehe. :D IS this the same Arvoretum in Arcadia? I love my gander there but was very exhausted from all the walking. There is the Queen’s Cottage which I wanted to see but was in renovation. :(

  15. ohmygosh Debra what a fun post. Of course I’d love to join you on an outing to the arboretum. I’ve only been there once and I didn’t learn the story about the Baldwins bringing the peacocks to LA.
    I’m selfishly hoping the peacocks come back to your house because I’d love to come see them sitting in your planter boxes. :D

    • Aren’t those peahens and peacocks just too much fun, Kate? I do hope they return, but if not to my home, at least I know where I can see them from time to time. I passed a few on my way to work today, and just marvel that they seem able to avoid traffic and injury. I wanted so badly to stop and watch them, but considered that if I interfered even to take a picture I might cause one of them to bolt and then there could be problems!

    • I really did enjoy our brief time with the peahens, Meg. Today going into work I passed another whole “flock” of them maybe a mile from my home, so perhaps I’ll have another visit from them at some point. I really would like that! :-)

    • I’m with you on not complaining about the peahens, Marie! We had a Neighborhood Watch meeting sometime during the period the birds were in our neighborhood and I couldn’t believe what some people were saying. Just nasty comments! I frankly couldn’t understand that perspective!

  16. Dear Debra, today I read your comment on Kate Shrewsday’s latest posting–the one about the fairy tale and the castle. What you said to her about her gifts as a writer surely apply to you also. You are, “someone with such an incredible grasp of history, curiosity about the “spirits of the past” and creative imagination!” Peace.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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