As I walked out to pick up my mail this afternoon, I saw the entire Quail family nosing around in the middle of my driveway. Papa Quail, as usual, was surveying this family expedition from the top of a fence post. I didn't want to disturb them, and I especially didn't want to chase them out toward the road, where the danger could be greater. My driveway doesn't get much action on a Saturday afternoon.
So I froze. I could tell the quail were mildly disturbed by my presence. It wasn't serious enough to cause them to take flight, but they were definitely moving away from me. I stood as still as possible for a few minutes, to give them time to settle down. Then I slowly backed off and went into the house. I knew I could get my mail later.
But I began to think about it and wonder if I'd done the right thing. Maybe I could have found a way to chase them toward safer ground. Still, I didn't want them heading in the wrong direction. After about fifteen minutes of pondering, I walked back out toward them and saw that they had really settled in. I mean, really. They were sitting comfortably all over the dirt driveway, looking quite relaxed.
Well, you know me. I didn't want to bother them, and I wasn't expecting anything particularly important in the mail. The phone rang, so I left them in the drive and gave them some time to themselves.
Shortly after that, I was sitting inside and I saw them pass through the side yard, away from the driveway and away from the road. They were heading toward the empty field where they usually go this time of day. I knew I'd done the right thing by leaving them alone.
It was kind of by default that I'd done the right thing, because if the phone hadn't rung I might have accidentally chased them under the hawk's nest or out into traffic. I should try to remember that. Sometimes the best thing you can do is leave things alone.