Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Tonight my family rescued an entire family of ducks.


What's that?

Wait. I've just been informed this is not a duck. It's a quail.

Okay, I admit. When I first saw this duck quail waddling hopping on our patio just asking to be turned into a puppy feast, it did cross my mind that it wasn't a duck.

But I needed to say something to Bridgette to draw her attention to it before she stepped on it, and I wanted to be more specific than baby bird. So I said, "Awww! Bridgette look! A baby duck!"

Come on. It has cute little stripey-things.

For all I knew, it was a chipmunk. Or a zebra. Duck was a pretty good guess.

Anyway, we brought it inside with the intention of saving it somehow.

It was feisty, capering about in our hands and on our shirts. We put it in a small box, and it almost hopped out. We had to tape the flaps up to make it taller.

About this time, I realized none of this made sense. How did a mostly-ish developed duck get into our backyard, alone?

Also, I knew earlier in the day there had been something interesting out in the backyard because our smaller dog, Piper, had been hunting. She gets this manic look in her eye when she's preying on mobile creatures. She concentrates and moves lithely with tremendous speed in a crouched position. We've seen it before.

So then I thought, If this duck was just sitting there, perhaps there are other sitting ducks?

We went to search, and sure enough, we heard the peeping.

This was when I posted a picture (see above) on FB and begged for immediate assistance from anyone I know who knows more about ducks birds than me.

Ends up that's probably everyone.

In reality, I have a few friends who raise birds, and another friend who got a masters degree in bird studies and now teaches about birds (and biology in general) at a university.

He told me it was a quail.

Which somehow brings me back to the peeping.

We found the sound coming from our window well.

For those not versed in window wells, it is a hole. It is a hole designed to allow a large window to be placed in a basement so the basement can get natural light. Our hole is approximately 4ft wide and around 5ft deep. It has bars across the top.

It appeared that, faced with the loss of his sister to the evil-box-of-containment, bird #2 jumped.

I don't blame him. Sisters are pretty cool.

I tried to pry the well cover off, but alas, my criminal days got me nowhere.

So I went to the basement window (which happened to be in Jeff's office), slid it open and removed the screen.

(Enter baby quail, stage left.)

He hopped right inside without thinking twice.

I put him in our box.


What could be cuter than a cute little thing holding cute little things?
Nothing. The answer is nothing.

With a moment to spare, I check FB again and found helpful advice flooding in. Mostly I was supposed to find / wait for the quail parents.

Bridgette and I went outside to look.

And found a parent!

And another baby . . .

 . . . in the window-well.

Forehead slap.

Back down to the basement.

Mama or daddy quail (Hey, I thought they were ducks. You think I know their sex?) was not interested in coming inside gently.

It flapped and panicked inside the well, fluttering into the bars across the top, the metal well-casing, the glass window. And THEN (after tearing the screen) it slipped in behind me into Jeff's office . . .

Where it immediately hid.

In the meantime, another baby duck quail dropped down the well to see what all the ruckus was about.

I fished both babies out and put them in my box. We were up to four.

About this time Jeff came home and cracked the office door, giving me helpful suggestions like:

"Just catch it!"


"Don't let it go near my computer!"

Since you've probably never tried to scoop up a hysterical quail who keeps changing directions, ducking, escaping and hiding in a room full of boxes and electronics, allow me to say that it was okay to answer my well-meaning husband like this:

"If you're not going to come in and be helpful . . . Go! Away!"

He did go away. And was helpful. I killed two birds with one . . .

Oh. Sorry ducks.

Jeff went outside and covered the window well with a vinyl tablecloth, thereby diverting what would surely have been an inevitable deluge of baby quail continuously raining down upon us.

Then, since I was obviously failing to catch the MaPa Quail, he came inside and trapped it too. After I finally had it cornered. And with the basket and cardboard I provided, I might add.

Still. Yeah. He caught it.

Then we had to decide what to do with the FIVE quail we now had INSIDE our house.

See, if this was the MaPa, we had actually *also* found the PaMa. 


It was in a dense bush by our house (thus the window well) with the rest of the brood. We thought about trying to relocate the entire covey, but we didn't / don't know how. 

The problem in releasing them to their origination is still the dogs. 

Um. And the *other* wildlife.

The thing is, we know what Piper looks like when she hunts because we have an amazing ecosystem in our backyard. The spiders eat the bugs, the mice eat the grain, the snakes eat the spiders and the mice, the dogs eat the mice and the snakes. 

The snails just slime everything.

It works out well, especially when we're hungry. There's nothing quite like grilled snake meat with a pinch of rosemary.


We like the snails best.

So let's give a great warm welcome to the newest members of our ecosystem -- billions of tiny helpless quail!!!

You will be eaten.

If not by us, by the dogs or the snakes. Or the spiders. 

Or the more voracious mice.

You're doomed.

I understand (after Googling "baby quail") that quail actually have lots of babies on purpose with the intention understanding that some of them *will* die. It's sort of a save-the-few-to-preserve-the-many-by-having-more-quail-later-on theory.

What can you expect from a bird that nests on the ground?

*My* theory is that humans are really not that bright, so we only eat the animals we can catch. And quail are on that list. Have you ever noticed how a whole family of quail will dart out in front of your car at the last possible moment?

"Wait for it . . . wait for it. Come on kids, gather 'round . . . the car is almost here. Wait for it! Now!"

Any animal for which you have to repeatedly and consistently come to a screeching halt in order to preserve their lives is kind of asking for it.

Poor things with tiny brains who can't evolve as fast as our technology. There should be a Moore's Law for birds. And for deer. 

(We saw a deer today, too. In JULY. Strange day for the Johnson family and wildlife.)

But since Moore's Law does not cover quail brains, chances are our darling little quail covey -- who managed to unwittingly take up over an hour of my evening -- will likely end up in Piper's tummy tomorrow.

Can't say we didn't try.


Lore said...

They are *sooooo* "toot!" Are you leaving the window well grate covered until the quail move on? If not, you may be having this adventure every night.

Casey Brianne said...

Aw! Cute baby duck-quails! We actually had two baby quail in our window well last year. Their momma was up on the grate looking down for a while. By the time I got the babies out she was long gone :(