In very recent years, I have noticed a formidable decline in Scaled quail (Calipepla squamata) and other wildlife in an arroyo and canyon near my home. Within the last 3 years there has been irreversible and significant changes to the neighborhood’s surrounding landscape. For one, an empty lot that harbored jack rabbits, cotton-tails, road runners, lizards, Mourning Doves, scaled and gamble’s quail, and various other birds was sold, leveled out, and prepared for the construction of an incredulously large modern house. A multi-terrace unit with steel doors and trimming now replaces the natural desert refuge. This new construction not only sits upon the site that was once home to the aforementioned wildlife, but is also situated across from a very small arroyo in which I have observed in many occasion wildlife emerging to scurry about for food at dawn and dusk-time and to where they would scurry back by the mid-morning.
That arroyo was a special little place in which grey foxes, squirrels, quail, doves and rabbits either resided or passed through. I have even encountered a beautiful Gopher Snake there. One day upon returning to my home I was in absolute shock to find a backhoe machine making its way down into and through the entire length of the arroyo, only to dump large amounts of gravel throughout the arroyo! Needless to say, not only did my heart sink, but I was filled with rage. There was absolutely nothing I could do to reverse what had happened. To this day, I remain saddened by that pointless destruction. And indeed it was pointless. They simply laid down loads of gravel and left. It hurts to think of it. Almost suddenly, the quail and doves that would come to where we leave seed in front of our home every morning, failed to make their appearance.
Since then I have observed only a handful of Gambel’s Quail, and virtually zero Scaled Quail when before, both species would appear in healthy large coveys. What I find most interesting, is that this particular lot that was tiny. And the arroyo across from it is also very, very small. But I have always been able to see these small wild places as the wild refuges they are. Passersby and other people would simply not give them another glance and would likely carry on as if it did not exist. But oh, how significant those little wild lots are! I have seen it many times. Birds gathering about in the brush of an empty lot behaving as if it will always be a place they can return to. Then suddenly, it is replaced by a man-made structure taking all the of the bird’s natural resources with it.
Reports have been showing the declination of Scaled quail to be an on-going trend in many parts of Southwest. Though populations of Scaled quail in Texas have been declining over the last 30 years, it is a remarkable thing to see it happen right before your very eyes.