I keep a list on the front page of this blog of every bird species I've spotted in (not near) my yard, since I consider it one of the truest joys in life to be favored with the company of avian friends. I haven't had the opportunity to update the list in a while, but I'm logging on to do so now. I am jobless at present, and while in some ways the freedom to find a new way of making a living is exciting, some days I can't help feeling a little weighed down by the fear of having to trade in the house for a cardboard box under the freeway. (The cats love cardboard boxes, so at least there's that.) Well, today was one of those days and I was feeling pretty gloomy. I dragged myself out to the porch to see what bills and bad news the mail would bring. As I opened the door I heard a rustling in the azalea. Wondering what kind of snake it would be this time (the hot weather seems to bring the serpentine friends down from the hills in greater numbers), imagine my surprise when instead I saw the very bird I've most pined to host. I've long had a soft spot 10 miles wide for the California quail, and I've always said, only a little jokingly, that my life would be complete if they ever visited the yard.
My life is indeed complete and the abundance of the universe knows no bounds. The quail hen dashed out from under the azalea and gamboled under the half-leafless chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum) for several minutes while I stood frozen on the porch. Then I snuck back inside and grabbed the camera. Dang, no card! Found the card (whew), shoved it in the camera, ran to the window, and she was still there, under the Ribes, blending expertly with the tan, dried-out hummingbird sage. (People say hummingbird sage looks great all year if you water it weekly, but I just can't bring myself to use the water--the sage will come back with the rain in due time.)
I took the best pictures I was able given the limitations of the window, and I was too scared to risk opening the door again, lest the betassled beauty fly away. I was just about to dash to the upstairs window to see if I could see any more (I was concerned not seeing her husband, since they seem to always be seen in pairs if not groups), when Mrs. Quail decided to take flight. As she did I saw at least three others lift off from the corner area of the yard.
I know some people are lucky enough to have regular quail visits, but while I do see and hear them in the surrounding hills, our house doesn't quite back up right to the hills, and the street has always seemed a bit of an asphalt Rubicon that I feared the sweet quail would never cross. But now they have.
Once they were gone and I finished mopping up my tears of gratitude, I went out to the shed and got a millet-heavy birdseed mix to spread generously around the whole yard. A humble invitation for the loveliest of creatures to return. I hope they do. Oh, I hope they do. I have Ceanothus, Baccharis, wild roses and Atriplex (common name: quail bush!), all shrubs quail are said to favor. So please make yourselves at home, my good, good friends.
P.S. Not to slam the snakes. I'm lucky to have reptilian visitors too. I'm going to add a list of reptile sightings in the yard. It'll be shorter than the bird list, but aint it great living in the suburbs?