Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Cathy Zimmerman's Bobwhite in Cornucopia, Wisconsin

Cathy Zimmerman's Bobbi the Bobwhite. Copyright 2019 by Cathy Zimmerman. All rights reserved.
On Saturday, I got a wonderful email from Cathy Zimmerman. She wrote: 
On October 8, 2018, two female Northern Bobwhites wandered around our home outside Cornucopia, Wisconsin. I posted a picture to the Chequamegon Bay Birders Facebook page, and was quickly informed that they were likely used for training dogs and had escaped. A little research revealed that their northernmost range is far southern Wisconsin.   
Almost three months later, one female became an almost daily presence at the house. Because of her captive rearing, she was fairly tame, and quickly came to identify me with food. The turkeys, red squirrels and blue jays were more aggressive getting to the sunflower seed and corn that I put out in the morning, so I started to keep an eye out for her and would give her some food of her own.   
I immediately grew very fond of her, and each morning that she had successfully survived this most bitter of winters, my spirit rose with joy. She would come to me so trustingly, and make the cutest little noises as she quickly ate. Of course I had to name her, and of course I named her Bobbi!   
The Lake Superior winds and heavier than average snowfall, and presence of coyotes and other predators caused me to worry about her survival. According to The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, “Northern Bobwhites usually roost on the ground, often in a tight circle of 5-15 outward-facing birds. Roosting coveys may be essential for survival in this species, since lone bobwhites may not generate enough warmth to survive a cold night.” Well, my little lone Bobbi proved them wrong, and 300 miles north of her usual range, and I was quite proud of her!   
I knew even if she survived the winter, she would likely never meet another Northern Bobwhite, and even less likely a male to mate with. Yet I hoped that she would get to experience the relief of spring, when life wouldn’t be so difficult. I took many pictures of her, knowing that ultimately they would be pictures to remember her by.   
We had a routine, and when she didn’t appear on the morning of Tuesday March 5, I was worried. There had been other days I hadn’t seen her before work and I tried to be optimistic. At 5:45 PM I happened to look out the kitchen window and saw not a bobwhite, but a bobcat!   

Lurking bobcat. Copyright 2019 by Cathy Zimmerman. All rights reserved. 
I can only conclude that the bobcat ate my bobwhite, and I guess that’s not too bad a fate. And I will always have the sweet memories and photographs. It will almost be like looking through a family photo album—“ Here’s Bobbi with the Ruffed Grouse that decided to check things out.” “Here’s Bobbi with the rabbit who decided to help itself to her seeds.” “Here’s Bobbi with her most beautiful feathers that outdoes any supermodel’s costume.”   
Copyright 2019 by Cathy Zimmerman. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2019 by Cathy Zimmerman. All rights reserved.
Some will find this sort of bond with a bird silly, but I know you will understand. I would often go to work and try to tell people with excitement about the Northern Bobwhite that had adopted our home, and they would nod politely, some venturing to ask, “So that’s a bird?”   
Yes, she’s a bird, but also a friend, and I miss her. And she is why Northern Bobwhite is my Best Bird Ever.