Sunday, 23 October 2016


Spock's eggs still have not hatched...
How long should we wait before giving up??
We have built shelters over Melon and over Blork, so we currently have three girls sitting, comfortably sheltered from the wild weather and relentless rain. Naturally, after building the shelters, today we actually have some sunshine - albeit intermittently - and all the birds are sun-bathing, stretched out luxuriously in the warmth. The mums-to-be rush out from under cover, take a hurried dust bath, and return to their eggs. More rain due this afternoon.
Of Snowpea's brood of four, at least one is definitely a male, and another looks decidedly female - but then, until she started laying, we thought Spock was a boy.
We will give her another two or three days, and then break an egg to check what is happening.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Broody girls saga continues

Well, today Spock's eggs are due to hatch,, if all things are equal. When I went to check this morning Blork's nest was waterlogged and her eggs cold... She is not under shelter and we had over 17mm of rain last night! Poor old thing - I suspect her eggs may not make it. We will take a few and break them today to check progress, but I am certain this cycle of warming and cooling cannot be good.

However, back to Spock. She was off her eggs when I came into the garden, but they were still warm, so I fed her and assumed she would return as she usually does. I came back to the garden a couple of hours later, and she was off again, flying around in little leaps and hops, which is unusual behaviour for her. I wondered if her babies had hatched, and she was scared of them (anything is possible!) so I went to check. No hatching - but Melon was sitting on them! She left the nest as I bent down to look at her, and Spock came up immediately. Melon rushed at her and drove her away, returning to the eggs. Extraordinary behaviour. Spock hunted for a few worms in the waterlogged soil, but every time she came near the nest Melon fluffed up and gave a harsh, aggressive call, and Spock retreated. I kept telling myself "don't interfere" but Spock is thin and tired and has been devotedly sitting for nearly three weeks - it just didn't seem fair for Melon to take over at the last minute. I also worried that if the eggs hatch on schedule, Melon will get a shock (after sitting for such a short time her "broody hormones" cannot be ready to deal with chicks) and she will abandon the babies... So I shooed her off and Spock returned immediately. When I left Spock was angrily calling and attempting to protect her nest against repeated feints by Melon, who was remarkably persistent.
Melon was the quail who sat on the nest WITH Snowpea, when Snowpea hatched her second brood, and co-parented the chicks. Definitely an unusual bird.

Has anyone had experience of anything like this??? We'd love to hear from you if you have!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Broody girls update

Well, Greenpea seemed to completely lose interest in her eggs today, so we took them all. It was depressing seeing the little clutch lying there cold and abandoned. She hasn't been back to the nest since. We opened some of the eggs - the little blot that shows they are fertile has got a bit bigger, but that's all.  We were dreading finding a tiny chick - but she'd only been half-sitting a few days...
Hopefully she will sit again in a few weeks; more successfully this time!
We have worked out that the birds who have raised chicks, and are sitting now, are all of an older generation than Greenpea and Chickpea - so they may simply be too young.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Too many broody girls!

The season of burgeoning new life...
Help! It looks very much as if one broody quail sets off all the others - but some are better natural mothers... Last week we discovered three separate nests - not including Spock, whose chicks are due to hatch in the next couple of days. Each new nest had around 10 eggs in it...
Blork's very neat nest in the middle of a patch of chives
We watched them for a while, and Greenpea, Chickpea and Blork all settled in and looked to be sitting. However, they didn't quite have it worked out. Greenpea's nest was the most exposed to the wild Spring weather, so we built a shelter over her - as we've done for many others previously. She'd only just started sitting that day, and the shelter construction seemed to worry her. It took her a long time to return to her nest, but eventually she seemed to have settled again.
Greenpea's nest under newly constructed shelter
 Our three sitters, however, were all off their nests the next morning - and the eggs were stone cold. After their morning meal, they all returned to sitting. The next day - no-one was on their nest in the morning - and the eggs were cold again. After some discussion, we removed all Chickpea's eggs. Of the three, she was the only one who did not sit for most of the day, and seemed a bit half-hearted about the process.
Blork sitting - spreading to cover 10 eggs!
Greenpea and Blork appeared to be a bit more determined.
Now, unfortunately, we are worried about the effect from sitting all day, and leaving the eggs to cool overnight, which is what Greenpea appears to be doing.
Fog calling for his girls!
Chickpea had a few days looking a bit distracted and out-of-sorts - but she never went near her nest again, so we think she wasn't really ready to sit. Hopefully she will lay more and go broody properly later in the summer.

Blork has settled fully and - apart from being driven off her nest occasionally by Apricot - is doing well. We are very uncertain about Greenpea though. Should we take her eggs? Should we leave her alone and assume she will work it out? Does continual heating and cooling stop embryos developing - or cause birth defects? Does anyone know?
"Who, me?" Apricot being scolded for disturbing Blork...

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to share your experiences with quail, we'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment, and we look forward to learning more about other people's adventures with these lovely little birds.

Day 15...growing up and leaving home

Snowpea enjoying some child-free time...
At around two weeks, Snowpea completely lost interest in her little ones, leaving them to fend for themselves.
They now sleep huddled together in the nesting box, and forage through the garden showing absolutely no need of their mother... Snowpea eats as if she is making up for long weeks of starvation - which I think she is.

Tug-o-war (the worm won!)
They are still tiny, with scrawny feathers, looking particularly scruffy and unkempt. One at least is developing a clearly spotted breast - hopefully she is female! Three are very quick, finding insects and seeds very easily - the fourth seems a bit 'head-in-the-clouds' and wanders vaguely, occasionally peeping loudly when it looks up and discovers the others are miles away. It doesn't really care whether they respond or not, and we rarely see it hunting insects - it's a definite dreamer. When we offer meal-worms it is always the last to realise what is happening.
Please let our four little chicks all be girls!
"Has anyone seen my friends?"
Another few weeks and we should know which are males and which are females. They are all have  the classic Coturnix markings - we were hoping for some variety, but no such luck. We will have to use leg bands again, to tell them apart.
If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to share your experiences with quail, we'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment, and we look forward to learning more about other people's adventures with these lovely little birds.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Day 8...

Our four little hatchlings are becoming fledglings - tiny stubs of wing feathers are sprouting and the chicks are getting increasingly independent. They give little jumping flights, and tackle giant worms - the ground is still so waterlogged there is no shortage of slugs and worms for them to eat. The weather has improved (slightly), the sun comes out on occasion - although at this minute it is hailing outside!
There are actually 3 chicks standing tucked up against mum here...and one out the back!
First wing feathers coming through
 Snowpea calls to them constantly, in a low soft cheeping, which changes slightly when she has a meal-worm or other insect for them. This food call is very similar to the call the males give when they are offering food to a female - they seem to do this as part of their mating ritual. When the female accepts the food, the male mates with her. When Snowpea gives her food call, the chicks come running immediately. The other call seems to be just a way of letting them know where she is - the chicks also call softly most of the time. When one of the chicks is lost - or being held for too long - it starts a loud and rapid cheeping, which in turn, brings Snowpea running.

Exploring the wide world

The chicks are ridiculously cute, and thankfully, they have learnt to keep away from our feet, greatly lessening the risk of being accidentally trodden on - which makes it much more relaxing to stay in the garden and watch them - when the weather is kind. I think it has been one of the wettest (and windiest) starts to Spring in a long time.

Spock is still sitting and the boys are getting a bit fed up with two of their females out of circulation - Snowpea still drives them away viciously if they come anywhere near her - none of the males pay any attention to the babies.

Fog...checking out what's happening in his domain
Stalking a hapless dandelion...

Plum...hoping for a mate
Plum still calls for a lady-companion, to no avail - we are hoping to find him a mate, but it's proving difficult. It's incredible he has survived so long when all of his girls (three!) have been taken by rats...

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to share your experiences with quail, we'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment, and we look forward to learning more about other people's adventures with these lovely little birds.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Sitting Spock

Spock has been sitting for over a week now.

Spock grabbing a quick snack
We have built a weather-shelter over her nest to protect her from the worst of the rain and the wind. She looks very cosy. Interestingly, she took over the nest only after we had rebuilt it... The original nest had four eggs, and no sitting bird, and was completely waterlogged after all our heavy rain. Spock had been unusually aggressive with the others, and we suspected she may have been tending towards broodiness, so we took away the soggy grass, lined the mud with new grass, added dry straw, and replaced the eggs. They stayed cold and lonely for a few days, then the clutch was added to, and once it reached 6, Spock moved in.
She only comes off twice a day to gobble down meal-worms and seeds before racing back to her eggs. She looks as if she will be a good mother, judging by her devotion to her eggs. Unlike Snowpea, she doesn't let us feed her on or near her nest but rushes off as soon as we approach. She then chases off any other nearby bird with the harsh angry call that all the broody birds seem to do.

Spock snug in her shelter
We were worried about a possible lack of fertility in her eggs, as we have never seen any of our males with her at any time. She is at the bottom of the pecking order, and is bullied by all the other birds. We think, but we can't be sure, that it is because she looks different - she is our only bird with "tuxedo" markings (dark brown with white patches).

When she started sitting we feared that she would work hard for three weeks with nothing to show for it, so we replaced one of her eggs with two laid by one of the other girls. (Thankfully she didn't reject them. We felt a little bad putting two cold eggs in her nice warm nest, but as she had only started sitting that day we hope there isn't too much of a time lag between the original eggs and the new additions). We broke open one of hers to look for the little bullseye mark that means the egg is fertile. It was there! Yay! The males must be doing their job, despite us never seeing them...


We're still not totally convinced but we will just have to wait and see.