Saturday, July 3, 2010

Quail Corner

   There's a new family in town.  Potentially, at least.   Kent found a nest of Gambel's Quail in the flower pot at the entrance to the courtyard.   This is right below the spot where the house finches nested earlier this year.   A popular spot.  

Gambel's Quail are interesting desert birds and very plentiful here.
They usually travel in a group with a couple of males acting as look-outs for the group.  Although they usually walk and won't fly unless startled, the sentry males will fly to the roof top to get a good look-see.   You have to admire that kind of dedication.

I didn't see as many baby quail as I normally see this year.  Last year we had a batch that nested in the courtyard in a larger flower pot.  They were hatched and gone within a day or two of Memorial Day.   This year that pot was empty.   So now we may be privileged to have some late-nesters.  

I counted 7 eggs today.  Usually they lay about a dozen or so, one egg a day.  Then momma quail sits on the nest for a while.  I'm not sure how long.  Suddenly in one day they all hatch and are almost immediately out running around.  The desert isn't a good place for tasty little creatures to linger too long. Lizards, coyotes, and bigger birds are always on the hunt.   In fact, we have two courtyard lizards that would probably eat the eggs if given half a chance.    

Newly hatched baby quail look like puffballs balanced on matchsticks.   They blend so well into the gravel that I have never been able to get a decent picture of them.   They grow rapidly.  

There was a batch that came to the water feature everyday earlier this spring.  While the chicks were very small, the adults kept them away from the water.   When they were a bit bigger and able to fly they climbed onto the top ledge to sip water that had pooled in the rock crevices.  We only run the water feature once a day, in the afternoon, but there is a trickle of water that flows continually.  That way the wildlife can drink without getting blasted off the water feature by the actual water falls.   Kent just installed this system recently, and the birds love it.

Right now I worry about whether this particular flower pot was a good choice.  It is right by the walkway that we use to come and go from the house.   We have been hunkered down avoiding the heat recently, but we still come and go through there.  Plus Kent walks by it everyday as he waters the plants.  I would think they could have chosen a quieter spot.   I'm concerned that they will abandon the eggs. 

But what do I know?   I have yet to hatch my first batch of quail.  Maybe Momma Quail does know best.  I hope so.  

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