When I was a very little girl, we had a picture book called Where Do the Butterflies Go When it Rains? The thought of it fascinated me. There were illustrations of where all the little creatures go–but it never really answered the question about butterflies. It left you wondering. To this day, I still wonder. I thought about that book this morning as I walked to church along the playground under the flowering pear trees. There were flocks of very chatty blackbirds in the trees overhead and two families of quail on the ground, 14 in all, that darted from the sidewalk into the deserted pumpkin patch as I passed by.
I’ve been thinking about those quail. This last summer Claire and I discovered a family of newly-hatched little quail chicks in the yard under the bushes by the fountain. They were cheeping so loudly we sensed something was wrong. Then we heard a few peeps coming from down in the window well by the house. The grates covering the window wells were not fine enough to keep the little chicks from falling through the holes, and several little tiny fuzz ball chicks were lost down there in the Ivy. We watched them and listened to the very anxious mother, who was clucking and chattering to them, non-stop. More and more of the little chicks were falling into the window well and down through the grate, about 3-4 feet below ground level.
Claire and I tried to figure out how to airlift those little adorables out without hurting or scaring them. We finally decided to lower a plank into the window well, hoping the tiny chicks could navigate their way back up. It was too steep. They were too little. So we got out the butterfly net and helped scoop them up and onto the plank. After one or two of them made it successfully to the top, the rest followed, encouraged by the anxious mama quail waiting out of sight under the bushes.
As soon as we got them all out, they started falling back in again, not just in one, but in two different window wells. We covered the grates with colorful beach towels and tried to stand guard to keep them safe. As we were rescuing, an angry Blue Jay circled around us, from tree to tree in the back yard. Then before we knew what had happened, he swooped down, picked up a chick, and carried it off into the sky. We were Horrified. Sudden death for that adorable.
Later that day, I found the whole covey of chicks down in a window well on the other side of the house. It was the window of my quilt room. I brought the plank around and situated it so the little ones could find their way up. Then I sat and watched them for the next hour or more as they figured it out, their mama clucking and cheeping them on from the top.
I like to believe the quail I saw this morning are some of the same family we rescued several months ago. They’ve been in the playground and yard all summer and fall. They are ground birds, nesting on the ground, rather than in the trees, although they sometimes fly when they are startled. Today they were on the sidewalk busily pecking and eating the little dried up fruits that fall from the pear trees. These small ornamental fruits get smashed on the sidewalk and the birds love to feed there.
We’ve had more than a foot of snow in our yard this last Christmas week. At night when I am warm in my bed, I’ve thought about those quail. Like the butterflies in the rain, I wonder about the quail in the snow. Where do they go? How do they stay warm? Even with feathers to insulate their small bodies, how do they keep from freezing? I could not sleep out there, even with blankets around me.
Today at church, a missionary returning from Thailand said, “God knows his children, wherever they are in all the earth.” I thought of our quail, and of the little sparrows, and of Jesus who taught us that not even a sparrow falls on the ground without being noticed. Surely He also knows his butterflies and his quail and how to take care of them when it rains or snows. And if those little creations, how he must also watch over us! I am grateful for that watch care. And I am happy to see those quail surviving, and feasting as if they had not a care in the world.