What my grandkids might not be able to see (II) – Common Quail

Quail Fields in Summer

by James McCulloch

As the mist clears

And the church bells ring,

God’s angels are brought to my land.

‘Wet my lips, wet my lips’

Is what I hear them sing.

 

Balls of life,

Dusted with down,

They bring wealth to church and parish.

A nobleman’s dish to many,

A bird of such renown.

 

As the gale blows,

And the rain sets in,

My heart fills with loss and sorrow,

For such ethereal creatures,

Of ephemeral nature.

The Quail is such an enigmatic game bird – with a size closer to that of a Robin’s than a Great Spotted Woodpecker’s! As inferred by the poem, what the Quail loses in size it makes up for in fluffiness. This adds to its appeal, who doesn’t like a tiny, cute, fluffy chicken?

With all its great features, one would think that everybody would be striving to save it and the population would be high and stable. However, sadly that is not the case. As with other migratory birds, Quail are being shot, captured and killed for their meat. Some of the main culprits of this mass murder are in Malta – a seemingly innocent holiday destination which happens to be right in the path of migrating birds each spring and autumn. Many Quail choose to migrate across the Mediterranean through Italy, then Malta and ending up in Tunisia or Libya (if they’re lucky).

Thank goodness there is another main flyway: Spain, to Gibraltar and then into Morocco. The inhabitants of Gibraltar do catch birds, however. Fortunately, they are captured for ringing and other monitoring and conservation programmes. For those who don’t know, ringing is where people put a very light metal ring on a bird’s leg. Each ring has a specific code on it, for example EX12345 and a place or organisation. Most birds ringed in Britain have the Natural History Museum ring on them, for example. Ringed birds can then be recovered at another site or spotted by a member of the public and then the record can be sent into organisations like EURING in Europe or SAFRING in South Africa. This helps track the birds’ movements and development, crucially helping us to better understand the behaviour of our ‘feathered friends’.

A Quail being extracted from a net in Malta (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

A Quail being extracted from a net in Malta
(AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Maltese hunters recently celebrated victory in a referendum on whether it should be illegal to kill birds before they have a chance to breed. This was to the dismay of various organisations and people fighting against the slaughter of these birds, such as BirdLife. However, those fighting the slaying mustn’t give up, it was only a very narrow win for the opposition. 2,200 more votes to ban the hunting would mean the killing could be ended completely!

The hunters are given a quota on how many birds can be killed. This is currently 5,ooo Quail and 11,000 Turtle Doves. I think most people reading this will agree that this is 16,000 too many. Even worse is that hunters are accused of ignoring these quotas and even illegally hunting protected birds like Storks, Swifts and Gulls.

How you can help: If you happen to live in Malta, you can report illegal hunting here, on BirdLife Malta’s website. Details on which hunting is illegal is included. If you live elsewhere, you can still help. You can donate to BirdLife Malta here.

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Cell Rap!

My name is James

And I love all cells

There’re animal and plant cells

‘N’ I think they’re swell!

 

Both types have a nucleus

That stores the DNA

It also helps to make protein

And control its ev’ry way.

 

Chloroplasts are clever

And only plant cells have ‘em

They help in photosynthesis

And the plant’ll die without ‘em!

 

Starch grains are very useful

And unique to only plants

The membrane decides what’s in and out

And helps both animals ‘n’ plants

 

Cytoplasm is jelly-like

And the site of all reactions

Now let’s move on to more cell parts

My favourite plan of action!

 

All plant cells have a wall

To help keep the cell’s structure

It also seems to save the cell

From a devastating fracture

 

The vacuole is vital

‘Cos it helps to keep its shape

It also has a special sap

And resembles a tiny grape!

 

 

Thrushes

‘There are forty fousand fevvers on a frush!’
That’s what they all say!
In fact, there are only three thousand,
But it was still quite cosy where I lay.
However, on a wintry day like today
I’d much prefer forty thousand if I may!

My sweet sounding song
Can carry on for very long,
And it warms the heart of many a soldier
Whilst I perch pride-of-place on the hangar.

I see more thrushes suddenly appear,
An influx of angels!
They come from the north,
A harmony of bells!

By James McCulloch