Location, location, location. Perhaps that’s what a quail thought when she decided to make her nest under a rock in the rock garden. Maybe it was the sturdy construction, or the lovely view, but something must have canceled out the negatives for this nest location–first and foremost, the constant presence of a two-legged predator. I don’t eat quail, but many of my brethren do, so I can’t fault her for being a mite suspicious of my motives.
She moved in during the height of my battle with the harvester ants. I don’t, as a rule, pay much attention to ants. They build nests in the brick pathways; I spray them with an organic lemon grass pesticide that does little more than make their home smell lemony-fresh; and life goes on. But the big, black harvester ants are extremely aggressive–fire-ant aggressive. I’ve been fighting one particular nest in the rock garden for years. Harvester ant queens can live for up to a decade, so our battle has consisted of me slaughtering her minions and digging up part of the nest. Then she moves the entrance to the nest, breeds more minions and the cycle repeats. I’m Ripley; she’s the alien queen.
I don’t like using pesticides, but the war was about to have collateral damage. Mrs. Quail and her eggs. So I broke down and bought some ant bait. No more ants. No more me clambering around on the rock garden. And about a month later, Mr. and Mrs. Quail are now the doting, clucking parents to (approximately) ten chicks.
The first picture is a shot of two chicks, newly hatched and still in the nest. You can see a little eye and a striped, fuzzy body to the left. The next shows the little ones under the thistle feeder, with Momma looking on. The babies are too small to go over the adobe wall and are trapped in the yard for a week or so. Mr. and Mrs. are baffled by their offspring’s inability to follow them out into the world. I don’t think they’ll abandon their little ones, though. Between my feeders and the flowers, there’s plenty of food and there are less predators in the yard that outside.
Click images for larger view.