A bird with scales???

Scaled quail photographed north of Amarillo

While this bird certainly looks to have scales it is simply the result of its breast feathers being edged by dark brown or black pigment.  I was up before 5:00 a.m. this morning with my trusty sidekick Melissa Sabin in tow, and we headed to Jimmy Walker’s land just north of the loop in Amarillo.  We had a couple of objectives, first, we attached my GoPro2 to Jimmy’s kestrel nest box and second, we set up my camouflage photo blind where we were likely to get photographs and video of quail.  The winds were fairly calm as we worked quickly in the dark and we had all our equipment readied and were in the blind well before sunup.  Melissa’s work is over for a while at this point and she lies on a sleeping pad behind me in the blind (there really isn’t room for two to look out the three small windows anyway).  She was fast asleep well before sunup, as has become her tradition, but was ready to help when the photo session was over.  I enjoy her company and don’t mind her sleeping, I tend to talk to the animals anyway, coaxing them into position, calling out species I see or hear, etc.  I know they don’t respond, I am a wildlife biologist after all, but when I listen to the audio that is captured with my video I sound quite mad.  Scaled quail are one of two species of quail in the Panhandle with the other being the northern bobwhite.  Bobwhites range from Florida and the east coast just west into New Mexico so we are on the very edge of their range.  Species tend to be less abundant on the edges of their ranges because conditions tend to be less favorable for them and I imagine this dry and hot spell has been hard on the bobwhites.  Scaled quail are more xeric (dry) adapted and we are on the eastern edge of their range.  Both species are beautiful birds and are a joy to watch.  I am partial to the scaled quail because they are a species I did not see until I was in college, having grown up with bobwhites in Florida.  Scaled quail are also called blue quail and cotton tops because of their color and their white top knot, respectively.

I love watching a large covey of scaled quail run from one piece of cover to another, their top knots seeming to glow.  Now is their breeding season and the coveys they formed in the fall and winter have broken up into pairs.  All the scaled quail I saw this morning came in as pairs.  It was a great morning for capturing images and video of these beautiful birds, up until about 9:00 a.m.  Then the Panhandle winds began to blow and our tent-like blind began to dance.  I woke Melissa just in time to get the equipment out of the blind and take it down before it became a large camouflage tumble weed, rolling through the plains until it was stopped by a barbed wire fence.  It was another great morning in the outdoors of the Panhandle.  I’m going to take advantage of the windy day to rest a bit and get some work done.  Sounds like clouds and a chance for rain tonight.  I just might be able to resist the call of the wild and get some sleep.  Don’t worry, I am working on several more posts and have enough material to keep posting for the rest of the summer!  Get out and enjoy nature and take your children or grandchildren too.  We need to ensure the next generation appreciates and enjoys the outdoors.  Just starting out watching wildlife?  No worries, try your local city park, especially if water is present.  There is more to see than you might expect.  I would love to see your photographs and hear your stories.  If you need help with identifying something you see, send me a photo and I will do my best to help.  If it is a plant, however, be forewarned, I am not very knowledgeable in the botanical world (unless it has to do with plants that are good for attracting wildlife to your yard).  Time for a nap.

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