In a year when so much has seemed to go wrong, at least some things have been successful in 2020. Animals have often thrived as human activity has been curtailed. And in the Tehachapi Mountains, California Quail appear to have had a normal nesting season.
California Quail, our state bird, can be found through the foothills, canyons, farms and oak woodlands of the Tehachapi area. Their familiar "ka-KERR-ker!" calls are often part of the soundtrack to daily life in the outlying areas.
So local residents look forward to the annual appearance of the adorable quail chicks that are able to follow their attentive parents around shortly after hatching. Quail hens typically lay 12 to 16 eggs in their nest, which is a shallow indentation on the ground, usually concealed from above by grasses or other vegetation.
Occasionally quail hens will use a nesting site which is low, but not actually on the ground. For example, at my friends' Russ and Gayle Stewart's home on the slopes of Black Mountain, a pair of quail hid their nest this year in a large flower pot containing a thriving rosemary shrub.
I happened to be present on hatching day, and watched the first hatchlings circling the inside of the flower pot while waiting for their siblings to emerge from their eggs. The nervous parents were vocal in their encouragement, and eventually everybody trickled over the sides of the pot and followed the parents into the safety of a nearby gooseberry thicket.
In what has become something of an annual tradition, I recently received photos of California Quail chicks from talented photographer Toshimi Kristof, a friend of mine who lives in Bear Valley Springs with her husband, Les.
Each year Toshimi photographs the baby quail whose parents teach them to forage for seeds and greenery. The devoted quail parents also bring their babies to drink at the water sources that Les and Toshimi provide for the diversity of wildlife that passes through their yard.
While last year's first quail clutches seemed to be nearly a month later than usual, Toshimi said that this year's groups appeared about the same time as normal. That was my experience as well — 2020 seemed to be a pretty average year for the quail babies, not an especially bumper year for them, but not an unsuccessful year either. The quail seemed to experience what we all could use more of: normalcy.
Enjoy Toshimi's photos of charming little quail chicks, whose childhood is quite short — within three to four months, they are about two-thirds the size of their parents, and by six to eight months old they can be hard to distinguish from the older birds.
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to email@example.com.