When I first saw the Quail Family last week, they were scurrying along the side of the house from one bush to another as I walked into the side yard, minding my own business. I wasn't looking for quail, that's for sure, because I'd never seen a single quail in my yard since I moved here four years ago. It's possible they'd never seen me before, either, because they seemed so surprised.
They must have kept themselves hidden for a long time, because the babies weren't babies any more. They were juvenile nestlings, almost as big as their parents and nearly ready to strike out on their own. But they were still sticking close to home, and they were smart enough to hide inside the dense blackberry bramble when they saw me coming. They must have known that's one place I wouldn't pursue them.
All week I've been peeking out the kitchen windows into the side yard, trying to spot the quail. I began to doubt that I'd seen them in the first place, but then this afternoon as I was walking around the side of the house I heard the unmistakable, high-pitched, anxious "quibble quibble" that meant I'd surprised them again. I saw the last three of them as they scuttled along the ground and disappeared around the other side of the house.
I figured that would be the last I'd see of them for another week or so. They seem a little skittish when they know I'm around, but then as I was sitting in the recliner watching yet another football game, there they were just off the back porch, feeding on the dry grass.
For a few minutes I didn't move. Papa Quail was standing on the porch railing, keeping jealous watch, and I didn't want to spook him. Then I crept slowly behind the sofa and observed them (instead of football) for a long time. Besides Mama and Papa, I counted seven youngsters.
It must be getting crowded wherever it is they're sleeping. The children were so big that they looked like a flock of slightly undersized chickens pecking the ground. Chickens with fancy topknots, but still, they carried themselves in a chicken-like manner. Eventually they moved on, or I did; I don't really remember if I lost interest before they were finished feeding. But they came back, later in the afternoon, so I know I'll be seeing them again.