In August I wrote about seeing the smallest quail family ever, a single male and his chick. Dad was running for cover with his neck outstretched and the tiny chick sprinted behind. A few weeks later I saw them again. Dad waited on the sidewalk and the kid, slightly bigger by then, inspected a scrap of paper right in the middle in the street. Any parent would relate to Dad’s impatience.
The pair has obviously suffered great losses, Mom as well as the rest of the chicks apparently falling to predators. This chick also came very late as most quail babies hatch in spring. Quail pairs unsuccessful their first try at breeding will sometimes try again if monsoon rains bring tender and nourishing summer annuals.
In mid September we planted a small winter lawn and the rye grass seeds attracted flocks of birds. Usually doves are the main perpetrators, but this has been the year of the quail. Among the many, I recognized the single dad and his only child, now a scruffy looking adolescent. They pecked vigorously in the yard together and then Dad led Junior around the pool to a quiet corner where they rested under a bottle brush tree.
As much as I love the birds, we try to discourage them during seeding time. The best method for shooing the birds is to let the dog out. She tears out the back door and the birds rise with a thunderous flapping, only to slip silently back when no one is looking. After about a week the seed germinates and the birds dissipate.
Happily, Dad Quail and Junior are still hanging around. I’m surprised, because even though he can fly, Junior has trouble getting out of our yard. A vertical rail fence runs along the back and we’ve installed a wire screen at the base of it to discourage snakes. Several times I’ve come out the back door to see Dad fly up into the trees beyond the fence while Junior runs back and forth at the screen. It’s a pathetic sight, the little guy’s obviously in a panic. In his fear he forgets he can fly and thinks that he can only reach safety through that wire screen.
Seeing Junior trapped by the screen again today, I circled around the house and approached from outside the fence. Dad was waiting and clucked in alarm. Finally, the youngster flew to the wall, ran along the top towards the desert and flew to his father. Reunion!
Observing Junior go to pieces and forget what he knows, strikes me, as does the close bond between these two survivors, as so human. As we get to know animals better we clearly see the links we share. Humans are not the only beings on this earth that have emotions and act accordingly.