The brief burst of Quail song heard from the garden on Sunday was unusual, it was a first for my garden list and it was bang in the middle of the afternoon, not entirely 'prime-time' Quail singing time, however on Monday evening the bird sang for a good hour or so at the more typical time, dusk.
This singing bird got me a bit interested - Quail always do generally, since I spent hours chasing them through the undergrowth in Kenya when I was younger. This year has been a bumper year for Quail, at least regionally with masses of them all across Yorkshire and I've had good numbers on one of my work sites (c 20 singing males) and had a good few locally too.
The cause of Quail influxes are poorly understood (it will be interesting to see how this years influx shapes up to previous years) but several have been associated with warm dry springs, a prevalence of southeasterly winds and drought in southern Europe. Recent research in France and Spain suggests that influxes may be associated with good breeding seasons in North Africa and Iberia.
© LDV Birder 2008
Quail are able to reproduce when they are 12-13 weeks old and the offspring of early breeders migrate northwards to breed in Iberia, France and Northern Europe eg England.
The English breeding population may have two components; long distance migrants which winter in the Sahel and fly directly to breeding grounds in England and others which breed in irrigated farmland in north Africa and Iberia before moving northwards to renew breeding activity alongside their own offspring in England. Whilst some late-nesting birds present in England in August and September may be birds tending replacement or second clutches, many may be such southern-nesting birds.
Was the bird heard singing from the garden one of these late breeders, or just a bird heading south on migration dropped by one of the recent showers taking a break to feed up before heading south? Who knows…