By: Glynn Harris

There are sights and sounds from the past that trigger memories I can’t help but long to see return. When we turn on the news and see all the turmoil taking place in our country, I want to see the return to those days of innocence, peace and tranquility.

I want to be able to walk out into the field and see a meadow lark explode under my feet, its undulating flight transporting it to a fence nearby where a few yards down the fence line sits a shrike, or as we called them, “butcher bird”. I haven’t seen either of these two species in years. What happened to them?

The absence of another bird hurts my heart more than missing the meadow lark and shrike. It wasn’t too many years ago when I would leave my home for an early morning walk down the road and hear the plaintive whistle of a bobwhite quail. It’s been years since I heard one. Where did they go and why don’t I get to hear them any longer?

There may be nothing I can do to bring back the meadow lark and shrike but I am optimistic about something being done, not only nationally but locally to work to bring back the quail. An organization, Quail Forever, is pulling out all the stops to try and help fashion the recovery of these beloved birds.

Sabrina Claeys is a field biologist for the national organization who works tirelessly to promote the return of quail to our world. The mission statement of Quail Forever is “to conserve quail, pheasants and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public access, education and conservation advocacy.”

“The main problem as we see it for the loss of quail has to do with habitat; we’re losing it faster than we can create it,” said Claeys.

As a biologist, Claeys had heard it all when it comes to possible explanations as to why quail numbers had plummeted.

“We hear the problem is fire ants, more predators impacting quail numbers as well as habitat loss. Losing habitat favored by quail seems to be the major problem,” she said.

I can remember during my growing-up days out on the rural route that practically everybody had a garden or truck patch with grassy edges along fence rows. You could walk out to such areas and just about always send a covey of bobwhites airborne. Today, clean farming and clearing out the fence rows have taken from quail the habitat they need for rearing broods.

“Think about the ‘back forty’ and how it has changed over the years. Those areas provided ideal nesting areas and many of these sites have been converted to pine stands that don’t provide nesting and brooding areas. Quail Forever is working to reclaim some of that old habitat.

“Another thing that has hindered the maintenance of quail populations is the absence of prescribed fire which not only removes undesirable plant life but opens areas where quail thrive best,” Claeys added.

One way that Quail Forever strives to see its mission become reality is the establishing of local chapters. The Piney Hills Quail Forever chapter is based in Ruston and holds regular meetings to discuss problems and possible solutions. Search on-line for information on a chapter in your area and how you can become a part in helping return the plaintive call of the bobwhite back to your part of the world.