The Quail Diaries, El Segundo, 5

Here is my trapping kit.
My heparinized capillary tubes

And here is my scope, rubberbanded to a tripod because the threads to screw it in on have been stripped from over use.
This is the top of a woodrat mound.


This is an entrance hole of a different mound.


Here is coyote scat—it appears that this canine ate some aluminum foil.


And here is Red-Tail Tree.  The red-tail hawk pair used to copulate very loudly in this tree when I was working on my Ph. D. dissertation.  There are still red-tail’s around here, but I suspect they copulate elsewhere…


Yesterday morning, when I walked down to check the traps, it was oddly quiet.  I realized why when I saw the Cooper’s hawk (I call him/her the, there could be more than one, of course, but I doubt it…) sitting in a tree near the traps.  I sat and watched, and the quail never did come by the traps.  They do not like the Cooper’s—and of course, for good reason.  They did not come by the traps in the afternoon either, and this morning, at the time they had been emerging a week ago, someone started cutting up a tree that had fallen west of where I was trapping.  The chainsaw and, more especially, the woodchipper were very very loud.  Is that why they did not show?

Or have they changed their daily pattern?  Are they thumbing their beaks at me?

When I first started working with the quail, I learned quickly that when you think you know where they will be, they change pattern—especially during the covey season.   They are not tied to nests, or young, and go, in a sense, where they please.  They are less vocal at this time, and less spread out.  I want to radio track them—I want some idea where they are.  I feel a little obsessed—where are you, I keep asking.

I felt a little obsessed this morning, once I’d given up trapping, and wandered around, bisecting the scrub, trying to flush them.  I stopped up about ½ a mile from the traps.    It is hard to push through the brush, although coyote paths help. I am heading home soon…
I go from a sense that what I am doing is absolutely worthless—I have no institutional nor grant backing for this, I am not getting paid, there is no reward, and responses to my describing what I am doing suggest that I’m indulging a hobby rather than a vocation—to feeling as though there is nothing more important in the world than following the lives of the creatures around us.  Part of this ambivalence on my part is my own neurosis of course, but there is also that cultural divide where the work of the naturalist is undervalued and the work of the money manager over valued—

I am trying not to be old and bitter.


I do not understand the trash.  I have found old pillows, and plastic bottles, cans, and wrappers.  And tons of agricultural remnants from the days when flower fields surrounded the bluffs.  Why are open spaces considered fit places to dump garbage?  For goodness sakes, there are gnatcatchers here…there is no place more precious.

I do not think I have been particularly amusing as of late.  I apologize.


Yesterday, I saw a man walking with a pack down near the bluffs.  He reminded me of the indigent man who was thought to have started the fire.  He stood out.  In the afternoon, a friend joined me in trapping and wandering the bluffs.  I am glad she was there—in part because she helped me collect the detritus of the fire and she noticed interesting objects (including a lamp) and had intriguing ideas about the objects—but also because as we were wandering the fire zone we heard a man speaking, and it became apparent that the person speaking was in a bush near us, and was speaking to himself.  He became silent when we emerged and I felt very nervous.  We left and wandered  back another way and I did not think I’d return.

But I did this afternoon, one last bit of exploration.  I neither saw no heard him, nor much evidence—although there was this little cluster of detritus that had not been there yesterday.


Where are you, I kept asking the silence in my mind, but he didn’t answer.



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