Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Quail of a Tale

A couple of weeks ago, I had to stop to let a family of California quail--common in these parts--cross the street near my home.

All together now: AWWWWWWWWW!!!!!

I've seen the adults around plenty--it's rarer to see the babies, but they do come out, and I know they're native to the area and, as all wildlife, they are probably endangered in some form. I find them charming, and I know that we have encroached on their habitat enough already, so I do my best to leave them alone. But sometimes, they need assistance.

This morning, about half a mile into a soon-to-be-aborted run, I saw a tiny chick in the gutter.

Just compare it to the crack int he sidewalk. TINY.

Well, of course I stopped. Besides seeing a tiny, cute creature that needed to be photographed, I also sensed that this little bird needed some assistance. I couldn't see any sign of Mom or Dad.

A moment later, I saw another baby...and another minute or two after that, I found a third. I could hear some chirping from nearby bushes, and I figured that the problem was that these tiny chicks followed Mom and Dad across the road...but then couldn't get up onto the sidewalk.

Within the neighborhood, the curbs are rounded, and easier for baby birds to climb. On this main road, however, the curbs are squared, and these frantic little chicks were just too small to hoist themselves up.

I had to help.

While I danced around, trying to figure out a plan, one wee bird approached me.

"Are you my mommy?"

Well, that melted me into one big pile of goo. I hatched (pun intended) a plan. Using the bandanna I tie around my hydration belt for sweat-wiping and nose-blowing, I would carefully scoop each baby up onto the sidewalk.

Only problem is, they're quick little buggers!!

But finally, I managed to get one baby cornered between my hands and the curb, and before I could properly pick it up, it had used my bandanna as a sort of elevator, and was toddling through grass as tall as it's little body towards the sidewalk, and the bushes beyond.

Find your parents, little bird!!

One down, two to go! They hadn't stayed together, so I had to step carefully and look hard. But there was the second birdie, looking exhausted and scared, so I walked over and carefully repeated the process. Believe me, I was terrified of handling the chicks--they're so tiny and fragile! But a quick scoop and a quick release had them toddling back towards home.

By this time, I'd lost sight of Number 3, who I will christen Trouble. Trouble, you see, quickly showed a disturbing habit of running into the road. The people in the houses that back up to this road, if they happened to be enjoying breakfast on the patio or any such thing, could probably hear a high-pitched voice, and spy a short woman in bright turquoise running shoes hopping around a somewhat-busy road through the neighborhood, saying things like, "Oh no! You get out of the street! Other way! I'm not watching you get run over by a car!!" 

But Trouble is not the type to listen, and made it all the way to the other side of the road, with me dancing a little two-step behind it the whole way. Finally, I cornered it in the gutter and carried it back across the road, cupped between my hands so only it's little beak poked out. I wasn't taking any chances with this one!

It's all's well that ends well. Trouble, before I could gently set it down on the grass, took a flying leap out of my hands and waddled it's way to the bushes. Quail are ground-nesters, and I know Mom and Dad had to be nearby, and would be able to find their lost and wayward children. 

At the time, I was pretty sure they were quail, and a quick Google search up on arriving home convinced me:

Picture Credit: Tony Willis, Wikipedia
They're cute little birdies, and they are the California State Bird (here are some Cool Facts about them), so I was happy to help them out. 

I like to think Woodstock would be proud.

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