Kerching.....that sound plays every time I make money in the market, or ...I find a new bird. Well, it is Sunday and the market is closed but guess what, I found a 'lifer' for me in the Northern Bobwhite.
In fact...four of them. Three young and one adult male. I hope that he is not alone for I didn't see the female. I am not sure how many of these Bobwhite exist in this location (Egg Harbor Township Arboretum), but the habitat looks to be their kind of hangout. I saw where Jan had 'ebirded' this a few days ago and on Saturday, Deb and I went out for a walk there and sure enough, there they were. A covey, just pecking around the grass. I had no camera with me but I know that quails are 'out' at any time of the day, so came back Sunday with my lens. This shot was pretty easy to take and while I couldn't get all three young in the shot, trust me....they are not far away from adult (and I believe this is a male).
Now in the states, this completes my 'quail' inventory. Back west where I come from in Washington State we are very familiar with the California Quail, as they lived in just about everyone's back yard. Down in Arizona in my home near Madera Canyon I frequently see Gambel's Quail as well as the Scaled Quail and once on occasion I have seen the Montezuma Quail. In eastern Oregon the Mountain Quail is abundant. The bobwhite is the only quail found in the east, much like the east only has one species of hummer too (Ruby-thraoted Hummingbird)...why is that?
While living back in Jersey the past few years, one of my target birds has been this Northern Bobwhite. I have traveled up to the Haines Cranberry bogs in search of my elusive bird, but to no avail. I mean,these are tough birds to find and mainly heard. For some reason they are not as willing to venture into Human Sight as some of the quail species who populate western states. Must be that down-home western hospitality and food.
Anyhow...as I find new birds, I make it a habit to uncover new information about the bird I am attempting to find, or ....just found. Over 85% of a population decline has occurred since the 60's so obviously the 60's were not a good thing for them. It might be the baby boomer's last bastion of humanity years as we fight against becoming human chips and human phones, but the birds certainly found these years to be a pivotal point in their population decline.
Amazingly these birds live in coveys and and are very social...and live within that covey for the duration of their lives so given that a female might hatch 12-16 eggs, the covey might be their kin. But the mortality rate is high at anywhere from 60-80%. Not good...so you see why the population is declining as Bobwhites need a habitat of clumped seasonal grasses mixed with annual weeds plus thickets and briar patches and open areas, trees etc... Not too many places around Jersey exist for that. But the good news is that at the Arboretum in EHT, there appears to be just that. A nicely protected area of 220 acres and while not all is in the above mentioned grasses, there is ample space to obviously have a covey. Not sure of how large this covey is, but....slowly I will continue to return to this spot and watch and observe, like all birders do.