7 May 1999

STRANGE CASE OF THE WILD QUAIL

HAVE you ever seen a quail? In the wild, that is, as opposed to on the dinner plate. Probably not.

Have you ever heard a quail calling in a field of winter wheat? Quite likely, especially if you are on the calcareous soils of Wilts or Dorset.

But this bird can be heard in many other parts of the country including the Midlands, the Welsh Marches, northern England and in Scotland. In my own county of Oxon I often hear quails in the ancient meadows around Otmoor although the birds are said to prefer cereal fields to any others.

&#42 Invasion from Continent

This is Britains most mysterious game bird and the only migratory one. Just why its numbers should fluctuate so wildly from one year to the next is not known. It is most likely to be due to invasions from the Continent. These may occur because of droughts in France and Spain although so far this has not been proved.

In addition to those which arrive in the spring some birds appear in late June or July. Some experts think that these are birds which have already bred in north Africa and then flown north to have a second brood.

Another suggestion is that the young birds which grew up in north Africa in early spring fly north after fledging and nest in their first summer.

Quails are extremely difficult to spot because when they are disturbed they prefer to run rather than fly. If one is put up by a dog it will whirr away like a small sand-coloured partridge.

The males arrive first in April or early May each year and announce their presence with a rapid, triple call which has been likened to "wet-my-lips" and which is very difficult to locate. This ventriloquial effect adds to the difficulty of counting the birds.

The nest is a grass-lined hollow in the hay or corn and the hen will lay up to a dozen creamy eggs marked with dark brown blotches. The young all hatch within a short period of each other and after a few hours they leave the nest to be tended by the hen bird.

In southern Europe quails used to be trapped in large numbers for food but spring hunting is now controlled by legislation so we may well see an increase in numbers in the future.

In Britain in non-invasion years it has been estimated that there are between 100-300 pairs while in peak years there may be 1500-2000. Wild quail are protected in this country so the ones you eat in your favourite restaurant will be from a quail farm either here or on the Continent.

John Kennedy

BERKSHIRE

Wed, May 19, 10.45am. Meet at Pewsey Wharf to travel by boat to Wootton Rivers, lunch at Royal Oak and return to Pewsey by boat. Contact

Hilda Gore (01488-685348).

BERWICKSHIRE/

N.NORTHUMBERLAND

Wed, May 19, 12 for 12.30pm. Meet at the Percy Arms, Chatton for pub lunch. Contact Liz Niven (01890-860605)

by May 11.

CHESHIRE

Wed, May 19, 12 for 12.30pm. Meet at the Banistra Hotel, Mollington for lunch followed by talk Bench Work by Dr Brian Webster J P. Contact Frances

(01244-851360) or Hilda

(01477-537565) by May 12.

CORNWALL

Tue, May 25, 10am. Coffee morning at Joyce Matthews home Pengelly Farm, Blisland, Bodmin. Contact Joyce

(01208-821261).

Wed, Jun 2, 10am. Coach leaves Royal Cornwall Showground for 2pm performance of Fiddler on the Roof at Minack Theatre. Tickets £6, names and money to Jane (01841-532648) asap.

ESSEX AND SUFFOLK

Wed, May 19, 11am. Meet at East Essex Hunt Kennels, Earls Colne (Between Morley Road and Colne Valley Stoves). Lunch at the Red Lion, followed by visit to Colne Valley Railway and

Farm Park at Castle Hedingham. Cost £4. Contact Edna Philp (01787-461029).

GWENT

Wed, May 19, 7pm.

Meet at Molly Meadmores, Lwnderi. Guest speaker and planning meeting to follow. Please bring a plate. Contact Mollie (01600-780226).

HEREFORD-SOUTH

Tue, May 18. Visit to Coalport China at Stoke on Trent. Names to J Probert (01432-850486).

LANCASTER

Mon, May 10, 7.30pm. Meet at Dolphinholme Chapel Hall for talk on Homeopathy by Mrs M Savage.

Jacobs Join refreshments. Contact

Mrs C E Tallentire (01524-791448).

LINCS-BRIGG

Wed, May 19, 2pm. Meet at Normandy Hall for afternoon tea (to order) £2.95. Entrance to hall £1.25 or 75p concessions. Contact Margaret Gratton

(01652-678218) by May 14.

MERIONETH

Mon, May 10, 7pm. Meet at Canolfan-yr-Urdd, Glanllyn for ten pin bowling

followed by a meal at the Eagles Hotel, Llanuwchllyn. Contact Rona

(01678-540643).

NORFOLK-NORTH

Tue, May 11, 10.30am. Meet at Maisie Macks home, Pond Farm, Bodham Holt for talk Bygones. Contact Maisie

(01263-822565).

NORTHERN IRELAND

Thur, May 13, 7pm. Meet at Sheenas home, 8 Abbacy Road, Ardkeen, Portaferry. Jean Howells hopes to be there. Contact Sheena (012477-28030).

OXFORDSHIRE

Thur, May 20, 11am. Meet at Tilbury Farm for slideshow of South America. Contact Margaret Barnett

(01865-247340).

RUTLAND

Thur, May 20, 12 for 12.30pm. Meet

at the Old Plough, Branstone for talk

The Royal Mail by Brian King. Contact

Isobel White (01572-822387).

SOMERSET-TAUNTON

Wed, May 19, 8.15am. Coach leaves market car park Taunton for visit to

Poole Pottery and Brownsea Island. Contact Colleen Hepper (01643-821269).

SOMERSET-YEOVIL

Mon, May 17. Coach leaves Ilchester 8.30am, Sparkford 8.45am and Wincanton 9.00am for visit to Beaulieu and Bucklers Hard. Husbands and friends welcome. Contact Sylvia Reed

(01963-350431).

STAFFORDSHIRE

Mon, May 17, 2pm. Meet at Rodbaston, Penkridge for a cookery demonstration Whats for Supper by Mary Griffiths. Numbers limited, names by May 12 to Rita Hill (01827-383239).

SUSSEX

Fri, May 14, 6.30pm. Meet at the Spur, Slindon for a skittle evening and meal. Contact Sue Kittle

(01903-742469).

Getting to Lincs in the end…

DRIVING north I was given cause to ponder on how much we take for granted. The tills at the petrol station on the motorway had gone down and it took over 15 minutes to get served – is this how it will be at the turn of the century?

I thought I was being clever when I followed a car full of ladies through Lincolnshire convinced that they were FWC members only to end up turning into a garden centre.

Pat Needham the contact leader of Louth FWC runs her club with smooth efficiency as I am sure her mother in law did before her. They are both examples of the if you want something done ask a busy person brigade.

We had a very interesting speaker by the name of Haydn Earl who restores antique furniture and in front of our eyes transformed some very grotty looking mahogany table legs into wood with a deep lustrous shine. Many members were taking notes of his tricks of the trade which he so generously imparted with such good humour.

Margaret Mottram let it slip over lunch that she rushes chair seats and, of course, Mr Earl was very disappointed to learn that she doesnt take on work as craftspeople like her are hard to find.

Jean Howells

Sew easy to feel at home

AS I drove into Snarestone village I knew I was in the right place for Leicester-shire FWCs April meeting as I saw Mary Evans strolling down the road armed with a delicious-looking cake – a dead giveaway of a FWC gathering in the vicinity.

Meg Barkers cottage was bursting at the seams with old and new needlework brought along by members. There were fine examples of Victorian and Edwardian undergarments and christening robes as well as modern tapestries and embroideries worked by members. What a good idea to show each other their works of art and what talents are hidden away in the midlands of England.

It was great to see everyone helping with the contribution tea; a real feeling of friendship pervaded the house as members chatted away, recalling days gone by. Meg displayed photographs of YFC days when many of the ladies had first met and they have obviously had many years of fun and laughter but have been there for each other in sad times too.

Meg and her sisters moved from the town and all married farmers and, although she is now widowed, I get the impression she wouldnt have changed her life for anything.