So I’m driving Nancy home from the doctor’s office shortly after noon on a Friday. She had just gotten done with a medical “procedure” which left her rather groggy. OK, so she was drugged out, incoherent, and babbling nonsense. Not in any shape to be driving herself. I pulled into the driveway and told her to wait in the car while I went and opened the front door, and then I would come back to get her.
I went to the front door, unlocked it, and opened it up all the way so that I could walk Nancy through it without fumbling with the keys. As I walked back to the car I heard a rustling in the hedge outside the front of the house. I looked to see what it was, and I saw a family of quail in the bushes – two adults and several tiny babies (chicks?). Cute, I thought, and went back to get Nancy.
She was still pretty wobbly on her feet, so we walked slowly toward the house with me supporting her. As we approached the hedge, I was getting ready to point out the quail to her, although in her state I didn’t really know if she would have any idea what I was talking about.
But as we got closer, all of the sudden Mama Quail freaked out and made a beeline for the street. The babies tried to follow her, but she had taken off too fast. They darted around in circles in panic for a few seconds, and then one of them hopped up on the step and started heading for the (wide open) front door. The rest saw where he was going and apparently thought it was a splendid idea, so they began to follow.
NO, I yelled, and I started to make a move to cut them off. But then I realized that I had a wife that was going to go down like a sack of potatoes if I let go of her arm. So I stood there and watched helplessly as a herd of wild baby quail made its way into my home.
I finally got Nancy into the house, and it looked like the chicks were all still in the living room, running around and trying to figure out where they were. I figured if I could make my way to the other end of the room I could possibly herd them all toward the front door and back outside. But just as I was about to implement my strategy, Shredder made her appearance.
Shredder (our cat) is kind of pathetic as far as interactions with other species go. She’s pretty much afraid of other animals, including other cats. Back in California, I once saw her jump in fright at the sight of a mouse running by. But now she had that look in her eye that she used to have when she hunted lizards in our back yard. If the other creature weighs less than three ounces, she’s fearless.
She now had one of the baby quail cornered in the dining room. As I quickly approached her to head off what was certain to be an ugly scene, she gave me a confident look which said, “It’s OK – I’ve got this. You get the others.” I scooped her up, and she wailed in protest as I took her to the back of the house and locked her in the guest room. When I returned to the living room, the quail had dispersed to all corners of the house.
Nancy mumbled something about sorry I can’t help but I’m going to bed and she stumbled off to the bedroom.
I had taken a couple of hours off work so that I could drive Nancy home, and now I was supposed to be getting back soon. Last year I had to call in late one day when we had a bee infestation in the house. I’m not sure how they would react if I called in now to tell them I was going to be late because my house was being overrun by quail. I’ve definitely got more wildlife excuses than anyone else at my company.
For the next forty-five minutes I did a systematic search of the house, pulling furniture away from the walls, overturning chairs & couches, etc. I found one quail trapped at the end of the hallway where all the doors were shut and running back and forth in a panic. It was actually trying to squeeze underneath the door and into the bedroom where Shredder was imprisoned. I got a hand towel and used it to pick the chick up so that my scent wouldn’t get on it, and took it back outside. Then I found another in our shower, another underneath a stack of newspapers in the dining room, and another underneath a hutch in our dining room.
One by one I caught each of them and took them outside. The entire time the mother was standing in our front yard squawking angrily. The babies themselves were pretty quiet until I picked them up; then they would start peeping loudly. The last one was the hardest … I actually had to catch it twice. The first time I took it outside and set it down on the ground, and it jumped out of my hand, turned around, and ran back into the house. Smart bird.
The first thing everyone asks me is did I get them all. I hope so. I know how many I got out; I’m not really sure how many ran in. But it’s been a few days now, and we haven’t heard any peeping, Shredder hasn’t brought us any surprises, and there haven’t been any funny smells.