Childhood memory returns with call of bobwhite quail
September 07. 2012 7:23PM
“This afternoon the bird was calling again and this time I was able to get close enough to take the enclosed pictures. We found the bird on the ground at the very edge of some landscaping bushes in our neighbor's yard.
“I last heard a bobwhite as a child during summer weekends spent on Cape Cod with my family. My husband last heard a bobwhite on visits to his uncle's camp in Washington, N.H. Only one other time did I think I caught a fleeting glimpse of a quail here in Barnstead Parade one morning many years ago when I thought I saw one scurry across the road as I left for work early one morning. But I was never certain of that sighting and did not hear the bird sing on that day.
“Would you believe that this is just an occasional sighting? Or could it be possible that the bobwhite population could be making a comeback? While we hope for the second option, it is sadly true that development has destroyed so much of the bobwhite's habitat. Our bobwhite visitor is still here. As I type this to you, I can hear him outside close by. I hope he stays here for a while!”
Over the years, several sightings of bobwhite quail in New Hampshire have been told of by our readers. And, as far as I have been able to discern, these birds had been released either for training bird dogs or to provide private hunting. In “A List of the Birds of New Hampshire,” written by Tudor Richards and published by the Audubon Society of New Hampshire in April 1958, Tudor wrote: “Bobwhite Quail — Apparently native until about 50 years ago, it no longer is. Occasionally released by sportsmen or others, it survives only for short periods, not having the hardihood of the original strain. Massachusetts is its present northern limit.”
I have seen and heard these diminutive, rather chunky birds while at meetings at Gurney's Inn on Cape Cod. Their delightful call “Bob White!” is distinctive and for me, was a most welcome announcement of daybreak.
Arthur Cleveland Bent, in Bulletin 162, United States National Museum, wrote: “In the springtime and early summer bobwhite deserves his name, which he loudly proclaims in no uncertain terms and in a decidedly cheering tone from some favorite perch on a fence post or the low branch of some small tree. But at other seasons, I prefer to call him a quail, the name most familiar to northern sportsmen, or a partridge, as he is even more appropriately called in the south.”
In describing the common bobwhite, Peterson says, “near the size of a Meadowlark. Ruddy with a short dark tail. The male has a conspicuous white throat and white brow stripe. In the female they are buff.”
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A LOVELY CARD from a West Nottingham reader who wrote in part: “Since my friend and I have given up feeding the birds, we did enjoy them so much. In my case, the squirrels were smarter than I and, in my friend's case, the pigeons won. She is in a nursing home and the staff were great about filling the 'pigeon proof' feeder.
“However the pigeons flocked to the food. Anyway, every week when I visited my friend, I have your column with me. She and I enjoy them so and the pictures are nice to have, too.” (More well deserved kudos to photographer Bob LaPree.)
Our reader has raised two problems that frequently are quite difficult to solve. I am assuming the “pigeons” referred to are not mourning doves, but are the domestic or feral pigeons known technically as rock doves, so common in cities. I wish I had the answer other than to stop ground feeding immediately. Cutting off the food supply, as our readers have done, is the surest answer. Even so, that drastic step frequently takes several days before the squirrels and pigeons will become discouraged completely.
Rock doves are so large that they would find it almost impossible to feed from a tube-type feeder. Squirrels, on the other hand, will knock out bird seed from tube feeders. So-called “squirrel-proof” metal feeders that have a weight-adjustable perch that closes the feeding area when a heavy mammal or bird lands on it may be helpful, but our squirrels have solved the “mystery” of those feeders.
Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey 03446.