Friday, July 15, 2022: This morning we watched for two hours the hatching of three baby chicks from their nest in our large patio pot containing a jade plant. “Nest” is the wrong word, since the eggs were simply laid in a cluster on the potting soil under the pot’s rim.
The saga began in June when, watering the plant, I was startled by a quail flushing in front of my face. Jan and I quickly spotted eight eggs. At first, Mother was easily flushed, but as time passed, she became used to our comings and goings. One egg was soon separated to the far side of the pot. We noticed that it appeared damaged and were later taken by surprise that Mother had somehow ejected it from the pot. The soil level was some six inches below the lip, and it seemed impossible that she tossed it vertically. Perhaps she carried it out in her beak.
We began to worry that there would be no way for baby chicks to escape the pot. One baby quail issue had been addressed on our local golf course when stuffed socks were placed against concrete curbs along cart paths. These were sock bridges over the curbs to adjacent native vegetation. As time passed and Mama spent more time in our pot, I was ready to slip in some socks filled with sand. Jan was doubtful, thinking I would upset Mother Nature.
Fortunately, we have a community wildlife expert who writes in our local newspapers and does all manner of volunteering, including on-call pickups of snakes and other creatures. “Rattlesnake Jim” Cloer is also one of my Fitness Center friends, and two days ago, I asked him how our anticipated quail babies could escape the pot. He replied, “They can’t.” Quail socks were the only solution, and he walked me to his golf cart/wildlife workshop to find three brand-new XXL white socks. I returned home, filled the socks with sand, and approached the pot. Mama was on the eggs and got very cross when I started pruning a thick branch to make room for a sock bridge. She quail-clucked me furiously, first from the lip of the pot, then from the adjacent sofa cushion. Failing to dissuade me, she deposited a white quail turd on the cushion in a vicious act of revenge.
I acted just in time. The next morning, Daddy Quail, previously rarely seen, was on the patio ready to provide escort for any tiny escapees. Mama continuously provided verbal encouragement, hopping in and out of the pot—shaking things up. Finally, a chick appeared briefly on the white sock bridge. Jan was thereafter glued to the window, performing her midwifery role, until three chicks had, after repeated false starts on the bridge, “fallen” unhurt to the flagstone. Abruptly, it was over. The small family of five marched to cover under our pyracantha, not to be seen again.
A hatch of only three eggs is not what we hoped for, but Mama (and we) had done the best we could. Experience is the best teacher, and we are ready for round two next year!
Jim Cloer came to SaddleBrooke 22 years ago from California where he taught school for many years after growing up in a series of foster homes (and one “stint” in a reform school). Talking to me and my friend “Tall Jack” in the men’s locker room, Jim said he was born in 1936 and left his first foster home in San Bernardino, carrying with him all his possessions in a small cigar box. The little box stayed with him through several more foster homes, including one on Catalina Island. He still uses old cigar boxes to distribute treats/souvenirs to kids who come to visit his “office” in Catalina State Park where he has a collection of snakes; a Gila Monster; and “the most poisonous animal in Arizona,” a Sonoran Desert Toad. Dogs die in Arizona every year from licking the creature. “You can kiss a frog,” he said, “but don’t lick a toad!” Jim invited me to bring grandkids to his office when they next visit.
Worth mentioning, Jim said his first foster family always kept track of him and brought him back to their home when he was a teenager. They were Christian Scientists and asked him to agree to three conditions:
1. Attend Sunday School,
2. Keep his school grades up, and
3. Learn how to dance (ballroom dancing).
He agreed, and the school year progressed with no mention of dancing. But the first day of summer vacation, he was told to get dressed for his first dance lesson. He reluctantly complied and was surprised to find that there were cute girls at the class. He thereafter couldn’t wait for more classes! For more on Jim, see jimcloer.wordpress.com.