They are up to something I just know it. Just as I sat down to write to you about them, I heard them gathering again just outside my window. Their innocent chatter doesn’t fool me. When I looked out, there were about fifteen of them, a bigger group than I saw yesterday, mostly grown and clearly looking for trouble.
Yesterday I went out front to water some of my plants before the sun got too hot. The dog went rushing out and down the driveway as she always does, racing to see if she can flush out a rabbit or two to chase away. Her beagle instincts say chase, but with her short corgi legs she never can catch them. She doesn’t even seem to be trying. It looks to me like she has more fun just scaring them out of the creosote bushes and running them off, trotting back to the driveway with her tongue hanging out and tail up, that “happy dog” look.
As I drag the hose around to the few trees and juniper bushes I have out front, the cat comes sauntering out of the gate. He sits on the front porch with that bored look all cats have, as if he just can’t believe he’s stuck here.
The water bowl is refilled, the agaves sprinkled when I notice a fat quail leap up into a Joshua tree in the garden walk. I love the way one of them always gets up high as a look out for the others. He warns them of any potential problems, and I swear gives the direction it’s coming from because they all seem to stay carefully aware and moving away from any predators…except my cat.
This time I heard the lookout give a chirping warning to the covey below and then hop down from the tree and join them. They were moving away from me and the hose, I thought. Then I saw the cat on the path, just walking slowly like a lion on the Savanna. He wasn’t stalking, just walking along toward the pine tree at the end of the driveway, not a care in the world.
Once he was out in the open, I noticed the quail about ten feet behind him, tentatively following him. He had to notice they were there, their chattering was hysterical, but he kept walking. When he got to the shade of the tree he stopped, and his followers stopped too, a group of about ten mostly grown quail. I stopped watering, stood still, and watched as the drama unfolded.
The cat continued up the driveway toward the house, seemingly unaware of the little marauders at his heels. He moved slowly, not making any sudden moves. The quail moved in one large group behind him, getting braver if the cat kept moving, but stepping back flustered whenever he slowed or looked back at them.
They reminded me of teenage groupies after a handsome young movie star. Star struck, they clearly want an autograph but not a single one is brave enough to approach and ask their hero directly for what they want. They keep pushing each other closer, “No, you ask!” “No, you!” “I’ll go if you do.” “No way!” It’s hilarious. I can barely keep myself from laughing and breaking up the whole show.
Once the cat got closer to the house, he stopped and sat in the shade of a bush. The quail stayed behind the next bush, chirping and squeaking amongst themselves, jostling for position. The cat made a move to straighten his fur as he sat and they all rushed a few feet back to the next bush, only to make a comeback when they realized he wasn’t moving toward them.
I kept watching, wondering what the plan was. What were they trying to do? Keep him away from a nest? I’ve seen a young couple do that to him in the yard before. They can be aggressive if he gets near where they have been nesting. But these were not nesting adults, they were a teenage gang. Maybe they were made brave this year by their swell in numbers. I’ve never seen this many quail broods and in such large sizes, as I have this summer. One group of tiny babies numbered over twenty-five birds!
The cat was on the move again. He continued his return to the shade of the porch and his stalkers kept up their pursuit, albeit from a safe enough distance. As he came around the bush and towards the gate, our dog noticed him and bounded to greet him, scattering the birds all over the yard.
I laughed out loud at the front yard antics and went back to finishing up the watering. I told him he should probably be a little careful out there. They are up to something wicked; I can just sense it. He seems to think he can handle the situation because today he was out there lounging on the front porch as usual. He can’t say he wasn’t warned.