Many of our pastures and fields are separated by hedgerows. Years ago Leonard planted wild roses, honeysuckle and other shrubs to provide habitat for birds and animals. Small mammals and several species of birds find the thorny tangle of our wild rose bushes a perfect place to call home. Two of the permanent residents are the California quail (Callipepla californica) and Nuttall’s cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii).
The dense cover provides protection from predators such as coyotes, bobcats, and raptors. Cooper’s hawks (Accipiter cooperi) wait on nearby fenceposts in the hope that a rabbit or quail will become careless and move from their protective shelter. Entry trails puncture the thicket at ground level. In addition the rabbits nibble on the rose leaves, flowers, hips and twigs while the quail eat the insects that gather on and about the rose bushes.
These pictures were both taken on the same day from the same spot near our house. The quail emerged from the safety of the bushes at about 7:00 AM while a skiff of snow from the previous night was still unmelted. The two rabbits came out near noon.
Something unusual did happen the other day. A quail came flying past and disappeared into a small opening at the base of the rose hedge followed a few seconds later by a Cooper’s hawk. The hawk flew into the rose bushes after the quail only to emerge almost immediately empty-taloned. I had no idea that a Cooper’s hawk would fly into the almost impenetrable wall of branches and thorns. More surprising was the fact that the hawk did not get permanently snared amid the tangle.
Voles, mice, sparrows and juncos are a few of the other residents of our wild rose apartment complex. What a wonderful little ecological niche!