The calls ring out across the neighborhood and couples of juveniles appear, one following the other along the top of the block wall, bobbing their top knots. They dawdle, reluctant to go in for the night. (But Mom, it’s still light out!) Conversation swells among the covey as more young adults are coaxed toward their bedtime roosting places high in the hedge. Hurry along, don’t delay! Soon the owls will hunt.
The family is a couple dozen strong and I imagine them to be aunties and uncles, cousins and sibs. They’re on the buddy system. Two by two they break into awkward flight and flutter up to disappear into openings in the hedge. Some fly together and oftentimes one is left behind to pace anxiously and peer up before gaining the wherewithal to follow.
Although it appears impenetrable, the inside of the hedge must be open like a multistoried loft. The quail settle on branches within sight of each other, calling Ah shucks, Ah shucks and fluttering vigorously before subsiding. Once everyone is in, the quiet seems sudden and unnatural. Then grandfather sings out the final reverberating notes: Are we ALL in? Are we ALL in? Silence descends gracefully while bats loop through the dusk catching insects.