Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Nick's Quail Egg
Monday when I went to pick up Nick from school, his teacher was most annoyed, because he had found a wild bird egg at lunchtime and was refusing to put it back. She'd sent him out several times to put it back, but each time he had come back with it. Everyone knows a wild bird egg has the best chance of survival with its own mother.
He did the same thing right in front of me --- I told him (in front of his teacher) that the egg will die if the mama bird can't find it, and he should find the tree it blew out of (being as it was a breezy day), and try to put it back in the nest. So again he went away, with the thing protectively wrapped in the hood of his wind-breaker, and again a few minutes later, he came back with it just as before.
I told him I'd help him find where it goes, and we parted ways with his teacher. He led me outside to where he'd found it, which turned out to be in the middle of his school's huge grass field, right next to the soccer field! Not a tree, bird, or nest in sight. Not for many hundreds of yards. And it is a well traveled foot area for lunchtime playing kids, and kids walking through with backpacks to and from school.
I had no idea how the egg had gotten there, but I reached the same conclusion he had. There was in fact, no place to leave it. I thought some kid might accidentally step on it, but he thought some kid might deliberately step on it. I hated to see such cynicism in my little 8-year old, but he's already in his 3rd year (k-2) of public school and has seen more of the world than I had at his age. Since he had realized much earlier in the day that there was no safe place to leave it, I asked him why he had never explained that to his teacher, and he said he didn't know, but he should have. (Pretty smart kid.)
So, of course, we took the egg home. I didn't know what we'd do with it, but I'd solve it somehow. Grandma Carol was immediately very upset. We didn't really know what kind of animal it was. It might not be a bird at all. Gila monster eggs on the internet didn't look much different (all speckled), except that they were a little rounder and much bigger. So, we wrapped it in a towel and put it in the empty fish tank left over from Chris' science fair experiment, and put a lid on it with a weight on it. If that thing hatched overnight, whatever it was would be a baby, and it wouldn't get out before we knew what it was.
I did some calling around to Grandma Margaret, a nature-wise woman who has much experience hatching chickens and raising goats, and she said it sounded like a (Gambel) quail egg to her. Gambel quails lay their eggs on the ground, hopefully all the same place, and only after a couple of weeks of laying does she sit on them, the simultaneous warmth causing them to all germinate (like a seed), grow & hatch at the same time. Nature is very clever, but sometimes just a little too clever. If a mother quail gets disturbed in her pattern of her chosen place to lay, she will simply abandon the first egg or few, and continue laying the rest of them and brood and hatch the later eggs somewhere else. Of course she was disturbed from that first well trafficked location. There was no way in heck she would have ever come back to that egg.
We cogitated overnight, Nick wanting to keep the egg, and me telling him we couldn't, because especially if it was a quail, I knew from experience with a hatchling Theresa had found at about the same age, that baby Gambel quails must eat in groups of other quails, or they can't learn to eat at all. In Theresa's case, the chick was mildly deformed and couldn't hit the ground running. It couldn't keep up, and so it had been abandoned by its family. So I knew we needed help with this egg. With Theresa's chick, we had indeed found a wildlife rehab center just in time who put it with other chicks and managed to raise it until they could be turned back to the wild.
So yesterday, I got on DexOnline and put in "wildlife" in Tucson, and begain a chain of phone call referrals until we came to a licensed wildlife rehab lady who specializes in quail & baby rabbits. We drove right over (me with my camera in hand), and she confirmed it was definitely a quail egg, and placed it in the incubater with dozens of others that I'm sure dozens of other little school children had brought her. She was worried that all the bouncing traveling it had done at the hands of a little boy might have hurt it, but candling it showed no signifiicant development as of yet. We didn't know if it was too late or too early for development to show, but she'd give it a chance in the incubater. That's the best we can do. Hopefully it would all turn out happily like the little cage of just hatched quail chicks she had right next to the incubater.
I took a few pictures with the intent maybe of turning the whole excercise into a learning experience for Nick's class (if not his teacher ;-) ), and maybe even of turning Nick from the villain of the class into the hero. He had never told her why he didn't put the egg back, but neither had she asked. I printed them out in 8x11's for him to hold up in front of the class today, and indeed the teacher was so impressed that she put them up on the wall of the classroom!
heh heh heh heh.
These are the pictures.
Posted by Suzanne. at 7:51 AM