Summer is baby bird season, and in the backyard, that means coveys of baby California quail. Earlier this summer we thought we'd missed the neighborhood quail family, but it seems they were just a bit later than usual, for one day we were inundated with a flock of fluff - at least seven or eight chicks trailing along with their overly cautious parents. Barely tall enough to investigate the flowers along the neighbor's wall, they still skittered energetically over the grass, peeping all the way.
As the weeks have progressed, so have the quail. While not all have survived - the covey has dwindled to six healthy chicks that seem to be doing well, which is still a good survival rate for the flock - they are growing, and each week they are larger and show clearer markings. They now come onto the deck readily, pecking about for seed and hopping up and down, up and down on the stairs. They haven't yet mastered getting onto the taller feeders or up on the railing where the largest platform feeder rests, but that's a good lookout point for daddy quail, while mummy generally stays closer to the brood. Not quite teenagers, they're in that awkward adolescent stage that is no less endearing than chickhood.
Soon enough the youngsters will be indistinguishable from their parents, though the flock will remain together through the cooling autumn and into winter's snows. They're all welcome, and I hope that next summer they all manage to raise even more chicks to come for a visit.