Quail diary

Quail for eggs — life in a London garden

Quail diary — 7. By a whisker

with 2 comments

Quail — running about

Quail — running about

The quail have a lodger: a small, sloe-eyed brown mouse. Very young. Very cute. Very persistent. “There’s a mouse watching us,” said Junior Teen as I clattered and banged with the dustpan, head down in the hutch. (Dear Father Christmas, please would you bring me a cordless car vac?) “Where?” “Just peeping round the back of the hutch. It’s still there, still watching.”

The quail are not impressed. I’d seen them huddling together, tutting into their chins, like shoppers socially paralysed by a queue-jumper at the tills. But I didn’t realise what the trouble was until I found the tell-tale droppings in my painstakingly constructed and lavishly lagged, snug, dry nesting box. The quail are upset. Their furry invader has made free with the best bedroom and despite the cold nights, they are left clustered on the paper in the drafty outer chamber.

Hmm. The first nip of winter has already drawn the annual influx of rats from the nearby park and overnight a maze of tunnels has been dug through my toasty-warm compost heap, with its plump knots of wriggling protein. War has been declared on the rats, but a determined mouse among the quail is more complicated.

I sweep out the nest and go round the edges of the run again, blocking even the tiniest gaps with wood and bricks and wire. That should fix her, I think. But it doesn’t.

This weekend a tiny tunnel beneath the quails’ ramp leads me to a nest of straw in a freshly excavated hollow beneath the hutch. The nest itself is a spun ball, lined with dry grass filched from the quails’ plant pot, and interwoven with snippets of shredded paper. I am racked with guilt as I tear apart the delicate craftsmanship, and backfill the hollow. But what on earth has she done with the soil? There are no visible heaps. She’s presumably scattered it, bit by bit, like the elderly German U-boat man who told me how, as a prisoner of the Brits in a desert camp in Palestine in the 1940s, they had worked on an escape tunnel each night, shedding the sand by day down their legs through holes in their pockets. (They were eventually found by their guards at dawn, queuing at the gate to be let in again, there being nowhere else to go.)

Last night it snowed. This morning there are clear itty-bitty tracks emerging from under the hutch. The mouse, if not queuing at the gate, is certainly back.


Written by pottingshedder aka Jay Sivell

November 23, 2008 at 4:12 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] Read the rest of this superb post right here […]

  2. […] run, scattering seed and nesting materials – attracted visitors from the get go, and not just mice. Meeting the robins and other wild things I’ve previously hardly noticed peeping from the […]

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