I hear her often. Sometimes she’s perched right atop the wooden cat mask that hangs on the fence. Other times she’s beyond the fence, somewhere out in the sagebrush. Her call isn’t “pretty”; she’s not a songbird – it’s more of a squawking sound – but I love to hear her. I imagine sometimes that she’s talking to me.
Bill and I will be moving very soon and leaving our current backyard wildlife sanctuary behind. There will be birds at our new house, along with jackrabbits and cottontails. There will be quail, too – we’ve seen the resident family scurrying across the road. But there will be no Hoppy.
We first saw Hoppy when she was young and not full-grown. We noticed her bad leg then, and assumed she would end up as coyote food. We were delighted and surprised this spring when we noticed that same quail, much bigger now, hopping around the backyard. We saw other quail at that time, too – one day there was a whole flock of them just outside our windows, probably about thirty of them, but they have all since moved on. The only one who still comes, and came every day all summer, is Hoppy. Most of the birdseed goes into the feeder for the finches and chickadees, but we always make sure to put some on the ground for her.
One day we heard a loud THUNK on the windows and turned to see her flying away. Birds fly into the windows frequently, but this was the first time Hoppy had done it. I shrieked at Bill: “There was our chance!” I reasoned that if she had knocked herself out, then we could have gently scooped her up and moved her to our new home, where we could continue to care for her. We even briefly considered getting a live trap, but ultimately it does not feel like the right choice to me – nature is usually best left to its own devices. I fear that we have made her too dependent on us already, but she managed to survive her first year without our help and could probably do it again. That being said, I’ve still considered leaving behind a note for the residents who will move in after us, instructing them in her care. Maybe even some seeds to encourage them, as well. I just know once they “meet” her, they will feel compelled to take care of her. In the meantime, I will dutifully keep the water bowl filled and seeds on the ground.