At least for quail, the "fall shuffle" is not a new dance from "Dancing with the Stars"! With the arrival of falling leaves and reduced summer vegetation, quail enter their "fall shuffle." At this time they intermingle in large groups, mixing and reorganizing into coveys of from eight to 20 birds that shift to areas of heavier winter cover. It is during this period that you can find coveys by listening for their covey calls. Many deer hunters and turkey hear this, not recognizing that it is coming from a covey of quail.
by Jeff Powelson, Private Land Conservationist, St. Joseph
Off in the distance the newly erected wind turbines of Lost Creek Wind Farms to the northeast of St. Joseph are still. It's 56 degrees and not a breeze in the air. The seed tuffs of Indiangrass look as if they are frozen in time.
At 6:35 a.m. I stand listening to Mother Nature waking up this quiet morning of Oct. 8, 2010, and wait for the hoy, hoy-poo, hoy-ee, koi-lee sound of the bobwhite quail covey assembly call.
At 6:43 a.m. the first group of quail start their vocalization. Goosebumps appear on my arms as my hearing senses kick into gear to locate the area directly in-front of me about 150 yards. As I mark the location on my map another covey starts to respond and before I can locate this group of birds to my right I have another covey waking up behind me as well. While I am marking the estimated locations on my map, I am satisfied with the three different locations, but to my surprise I get a response to my forth group of quail to my left at the farthest distance along a shrubby fence row.
It’s now 6:46 a.m., and the sun is starting to paint the horizon with a brilliant orange haze. Now knowing there are some quail that have survived last winter’s severe snowfall and this spring and summers heavy rain, I feel confident once again that active upland management on a yearly and seasonal basis is a must for quail survival. We have conducted fall whistle counts on this farm for the last six years and have seen the good and bad years with quail numbers, but one thing still remains. This farm continues to hold quail! Other farms we conduct whistle count surveys on are showing the same thing.
If habitat management is being done, then quail will survive, but the farms that are inactive or once in a while something gets done, are not as fortunate to hold birds after extreme weather patterns such as ours here in Northwest Missouri.