Sunday, October 28, 2007

Opus of Fall Continues

The Opus of Fall continues.

We sat on the deck and were enjoying the remaining warmth of the afternoon while listening to the quiet, until suddenly there was such a rumble, unusual garbled sounds of rustling and movement on the hillside below us, an unfamiliar scale of conversation. Since we were positioned far enough away, I felt very brave to venture forward in order to try and satisfy my curiosity as to what it might be. We were certain of it being wildlife, but did not expect a convention of California Quail to scatter in all directions as they heard the sound of footsteps. The covey was the largest we had ever seen here... enormous group of 60, 70... I couldn't count that quickly. As they travel about our grounds they generally consist of about 10-16. This must have been an important meeting of the elders!

I love these little plump colorful critters of grayish blue with their outstanding markings of black and mottled brown and cream. They absolutely delight and offer me pause as I stop and smile and admire the forward-curving feathered plume atop the crown.

Yesterday as I turned to walk from the pole barn and head toward the house, about a dozen scurried across the path in front of me. They are as a silent movie of fits and starts, scurrying comically for a short distance, braking for a second, only to dart off again one behind the other. On occasion while working in the garden, I will hear "ka-ka-kow, ka-ka-kow" to which I gleefully respond, "ka-ka-kow... ka-ka-kow", as best I can (said timidly) . It must not be that bad a response, for he answers and we carry on this rather intimate conversation for awhile.

The female lays large clutches of eggs, 10-15 in a shallow grassy bowl-shaped nest... I can verify that.

Several years ago we participated in an International Plant Study Group workshop and opened our garden for viewing to this organization. We do not participate in tours since our garden is our private space that we prefer to keep to ourselves, our family and friends. That keeps us busy enough. However, it was a professional group of master gardeners, designers, nursery folks... a very dear friend asked us to participate, and we were a part of the group, so we decided to do it.

The preparation was exhaustive. My husband and I say it was twice that we had a tour, our first and last. Now don't get me wrong, for the two days of the tour, we were delighted. We had a wonderful experience meeting so many fine people with similar interests, who loved being here, appreciated what we had done, strangers with whom we talked for hours. There were even a few who stayed all day!

One more thing: it was tiring for we wanted everything to look perfectly, mulching every bed, raking the paths, cutting back every spent blossom, but the bottom line is no one really knew what had not yet been done. It was we who caused the stress. They all loved it just as it was, and when they came, so did we.

Now, back to my story. A few days prior to the tour, I was working around the wisteria covered pergola trimming a rose... a wonderful shady spot where my husband and I like to sit, take pause in the evening around a small round table, sip a glass of wine and enjoy! when suddenly I realized there was an unusual furry object just two feet behind the shady structure. I wondered if it were dead as its shape was unrecognizable. The brown feathers lay rather flat and supine across a six or eight inch area. What a joy! A female quail decided to lay her eggs and nest right there in full view.

Now I'm concerned for her well being, for she is in the open and in a fairly high traffic area. What can I do?! Hmm. Not much I guess. I can't even keep her from a predator.

But, I can post a sign, a large one which reads, "Shhhh! Quail nesting", and to the delight of the several hundred people who visited, they very quietly observed, and she was not disturbed and did not leave her nest, but lay there protecting her little ones.

It was a great day, and I think she upstaged us and stold the show!