The cats were pottering around outside my window this afternoon when a flock of quail came up the hill. It had the look of a family group, or maybe it would be better called a clan—half a dozen adults and at least twenty juvenile birds, obviously this year’s crop. They pattered around, clicking and chuckling to each other, browsing on seeds, and slowly moving closer to my open window.
Maia, the youngest of our cats, was crouching in the shade of the pines, eyes fixed on the quail troupe, her tail twitching occasionally. But somehow I didn’t feel she had the focused, coiled spring concentration of a huntress, so I decided to sit back and watch. Spike, one of the male cats, was also hovering around, but paying absolutely no attention to the quail. The young birds were leading the pack, moving more quickly than their elders, and so were the first to spot the cats. I fully expected a panic-stricken flight, but instead, they stood up on tiptoe and began to walk toward Maia in a group. Spike, on the other hand, they ignored completely.
Maia crouched, staring down the advancing quail, for all the world as if they were playing some sort of “dare me” game. The quail continued to move in on her, alert and wary, heads up, talking amongst themselves. Finally the cat couldn’t stand it anymore and made a rush, but clearly not a killing move. The quail flew up, moved back down the hill and went on about their business. Maybe they were playing with each other?