Birds of a feather … flock to our yard

All right, students. Take your seats, please. Today’s lesson will be your last on the hatching and raising of quail.

So, for those just catching up, my interesting spouse decided that La Costa and California’s quail population needed a little help. He reads a lot, but I still don’t know what brought him to this conclusion. Not all his projects spring from logic, so I just rolled with it. I spotted a receipt from a poultry distributer and thought he had decided to raise chickens. Oh, no (I think I am rather glad). He had ordered three dozen Valley quail eggs. You have seen this critter if you have ever done a report on the great state of California. It is our state bird.

OK, so out of 36 eggs, 16 hatched, which is amazing, according to general expectations. Two failed to thrive. Two escaped the brooding pen and were never seen again. One flew off into the wilds of the garage when they were being moved to the fledging cage. Finally, yesterday, my husband turned them all loose.

Most of them flew up into our macadamia trees. Eventually, we had 11 confused, young quail wandering around our backyard. As my daughter was helping her dad do a head count, she turned toward the empty cage and saw a magnificent, gutsy, enormous hawk sitting atop it. We think it was drooling. We politely asked it to leave.

No mother was ever more solicitous of their youngsters than my husband of these birds. He left lights on all night, in case they needed to see how to get back to the semi-protection of the cage. After the hawk visit, I truly expected one or two to be missing the next morning, perhaps snagged by an owl. But, voila, all 11 were accounted for.

They have been hopping and flying around the yard all day, making adorable, soothing quail sounds. The hawk was back the next morning but again, was shooed away. My husband is making regular patrols around the yard about every 15 minutes, so I’m not expecting any trouble.

Husband thinks they will eventually fly off to the nearby watershed. I am skeptical, but quite content to have them stay nearby. I am most curious how it will go, and you know I will keep you updated, whether you like it or not.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who thinks her big softy of a husband would have named the birds by now, but they all look alike.

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