The Quail Spa

For Mother’s Day Bill got me a large clay birdbath and installed it in the backyard, just off the patio.  It was ignored for the first couple of days and then the doves discovered it.  Doves are just a smaller version of city-dwelling pigeons, except they’re probably dumber, if that’s possible.  They love to sit around the edge of the birdbath, cooing softly and delicately dunking their peaks for a drink.  Then they turn around to face out into the yard – a promptly take a dump in the water.  By the time Bill cleans out the birdbath each morning, it’s as yucky as a port-a-john forgotten at the rodeo grounds for a couple of weeks after the bulls and broncos have left town.

What we noticed as the summer moved as slowly as hot, molten lava toward fall is that a ‘pecking’ order was gradually instituted and by August, the spa hours had been pretty much established.  Around 5:00 in the evening, the smaller birds – sparrows, wrens and finches gather for a drink and chirp fest.  About a half an hour later, the medium-sized birds – Doves, Gila Woodpeckers and Killdeer – arrive.  The big boys – Grackles, Ravens and an occasional Roadrunner show up next and pretty much scare everyone else away.  Then about 6:30 the Quails march in, moving across the yard in groups of four or five or six, and sometimes over a dozen.  They hunt and peck in the rocks for bugs, perch around the edge of the birdbath for a drink and a chat, and relax on the patio table and chairs as though it were cool-decking around a pool.  I think the sheer number of Quails vends off infringement by any other birds.

The other day, Mom happened to look out the dining room window into the backyard and noticed the Quail gathering.

“Would you look at that,” she exclaimed.  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen any birds using that birdbath before and now there has to be at least ten of them.”

“They use it all the time,” I said.  “You just never look outside.”

“Well, yes I do,” she countered.  “I look out every morning when I get up.”

“Yes, but the Quails don’t show up until almost dusk,” I explained.  “You have to look outside for more than thirty seconds in the morning to see what’s going on.”

“Maybe,” she huffed.  “Or maybe there’s ants on the patio and that’s what’s attracted them all of a sudden.”

“I told you, they show up every evening.”

“Well, sure, since you got ants!” she sputtered, wheeling away to her spot on the couch.


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