Friday, June 20, 2008

STILL WITH THE QUAIL. I've been spending a lot of time watching the quails. A LOT of time. I have many, many families. One seems to be a blended family of 10 or more chicks (started out with over 20) and two single fathers. They are all ages and all sizes. A few days ago I saw five teeny-tinies on the middle porch that might have just hatched. They were somewhere between thimbles and marshmallows in size (with legs). The very fuzzy picture above shows these guys--it gives some idea of how little they are.

The very little ones are the most fun to watch, because they seem to find the world all new and exciting, even though you can tell they don't like the heat. (They huddle in the shade, when they can find it.) But as soon as they arrive in my pond garden, they go zipping up to the pond or the quail block without checking to see if there are other quails or predators around. They seem very excited, like, "Oh, boy! We're back at Disneyland!" The older chicks are more jaded. Or cautious. You would be amazed at how fast those little-bitty quail can run.

Unfortunately, the other morning I found a tiny drowned chick in the pond, but overall this little oasis is probably more helpful to them than not. The second picture is of the pond area from inside my cool, comfortable office on a very hot day.

Two days ago a mother and three very small chicks found their way into the rose garden, a very narrow patio outside our bedroom. It is surrounded by a 6-foot tall brick wall, with a gate at one end. The gate is covered with mesh to keep rabbits out. Anyway, I tried to photograph these guys, but scared them. The mother flew up and over the wall. One of the chicks--somehow--flew to the top of the wall. The remaining chicks ran around frantically, trying to get out. I stepped away and watched as the guy on top of the wall ran back and forth a few times then took the plunge to the other side. The mother flew back into the garden and led the remaining babies to a gap in the gate. Then they, with the father, took off for the desert.

In other news: for two days running I had a beautiful 2-foot long black kingsnake in my shade garden. It evidently got tired of being watered every morning, though, and I haven't seen it recently. The third picture up there is of the shade garden. The extremely leafy plant at the right is a Japanese Fatsia, which I call my sumo plant.

A group of lizards (as many as 3) have been sitting in the cool breeze from our cooler on the ledge of our bedroom window. The cats watch them with great interest and longing. It's the first time I've ever seen lizards gather together. It's been VERY hot.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

...and more quails. We have a new quail block and lots of families of quail(s). Mostly they are two-parent families, but I think there's a single mom out there too. The largest group I've seen so far was a family with ten very tiny chicks. Today I saw a family with eight slightly-larger chicks, and think it may be the same family. There are at least two groups (grade school and junior college) of six chicks. A couple of singletons also. Some of the chicks are nearly as big as adults now, but I haven't been able to distinguish their sex yet. I'm not sure when the males develop their distinctive coloring, or when the topknots on the males turn into fishing lures. I'll definitely keep observing, though!

A couple of days ago I looked up to see a family of quail standing inside the gate on my back porch. I grabbed the camera in time to get this one fuzzy picture. I think I counted five or six chicks... they're all high schoolers.

The families are only allowed to eat one at a time. In the morning when it's cool, you can see new families lined up out of sight of the group that is feeding. Then they move in... the fathers chase each other around a bit, and the feeding continues.

The only other thing of interest lately, is that I've been deadheading blossoms from geraniums and hibiscus out into the pond area, where they always quickly disappear. This morning I saw a rabbit munch on a spent hibiscus blossom with great relish. He sniffed at the geranium and didn't seem to like the blossom part, but then he started eating the stem, from the bottom up to the blossom. It looked as if he had a geranium growing out of his mouth!