Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Painted Button Quail Journal

G’day Readers,
As my ‘Recently Sighted’ list in the right hand side of this blog indicates, I have been lucky enough to catch some glimpses of the elusive Painted Button Quail in some patches of bush on the golf course.

Having once seen one I set out to get an image. Some weeks ago I started staking out the patch of bush where I first saw one of these enigmatic little beauties. Enigmatic because in some areas little is known about the species. Some references state they are sedentary others say nomadic but their movements are unrecorded. Certainly in this area the number of sightings seems to be on the rise at present. Have they suddenly bred up, or have the migrated in?

I set off one morning and there was a scuttle of movement almost straight away. I hadn’t even switched on the camera. I managed to predict where the bird would break cover and didn’t want to take my eyes from the location long enough to CHECK THE CAMERA SETTINGS. The bird appeared almost exactly where I thought it might and I fired away – click……click……click, but it should have been a much more rapid–! Yep, full matrix metering and f16 aperture etc. I’d last used the camera for some landscapes. In the meantime the bird was well gone. Here’s what I got …

Enough at least to see it was a PBQ.

Yesterday was another fruitless day in the search, at first that is. I spent an hour using my standard approach of creeping from tree to tree and standing still while scanning the leaf litter, (camera settings all double checked) – “Go away Golden Whistler, Scarlet Robin, Spotted Pardalote, you’re not on the menu”. No luck however and there were some fairways to be mown. I headed back to the machinery shed, checked and started the mower, backed out and just began heading down the bush track to the nearby 7th fairway and THREE quail ran across in front of the machine.

I left the mower idling in the middle of the track as it seems being so close to the shed they were quite accustomed to loud machinery noises and presumably the occasional terse word. Again I couldn’t get a shot off as they ran from cover to cover, so it was back to cutting fairways. I was pleased to note the increased number and that they were so near at hand.

Later in the day I had to cut the greens. Of course I checked all around the shed before starting but there was no sign. I had to go to the first green down the same short length of bush track where I’d seen the birds in the morning. No sign, so I got the mind back into mowing gear and set off.

After cutting nearly half the greens and completely forgetting about birds for the moment, I was just finishing a cut on the 18th and a small brown bird flew low and rapidly in front of the mower, chased by a battalion of Noisy Miners. It went behind a tree or two but its trajectory would have meant a crash landing somewhere near the 7th green. I lifted the reels of the greens mower and headed over to see a squad of Noisy Miners harassing the billyo out of a Painted Button Quail.

I shooed the miners away, (why do they do that?), and the poor quail sat traumatized almost in the middle of the green. Of course the camera was back home by now. The miners were staying away so I put the mower into top gear and headed home -  slowly. Greens mowers are designed to travel slowly across greens and only marginally faster between greens. After grabbing the camera and jumping on the motor bike for a quicker return trip, I headed back to the 7th hoping the bird was still there. As the green came in to view I could see the bird still squatting in the middle and not a miner to be seen.

I clicked away for a bit …

Satisfied I’d got a shot or two it was time to see the bird off to safer surrounds. I moved a little closer and it ran to the edge of the green. As soon as it moved, the miners who must have been watching from the nearby trees started to chase it again… 

This time it found some longer grass to squat in and remained there only partly camouflaged, but enough to bamboozle the miners who eventually gave up and flew away.

I stood quite close and wondered if it was injured …

A few seconds later it must have decided it was safe enough to make a dash for the nearest bit of bush cover and off it flew to the scrub on the boundary of the course. Quite an episode for the little bird, I hope it lives to tell the tale!


  1. Thanks Boobook,
    Who says retirement, (is that what it is?), is boring.

  2. Amazing encounter with a shy bird.
    Great report.