From the spring through the late fall, we usually take our morning coffee outside, under the veranda. This morning, one of those late summer mornings when the weather becomes less predictable, a thunderstorm was coming our way. It was still off in the distance, a few kilometers away, apparently working its way up from Oliver towards Penticton, rumbling away to the south.
I opened the French door to the veranda, and cleaned the surface of the little café table we use to rest our coffee cups. The table cleaned, I glanced to my right, where some of our outdoor furniture was sitting in anticipation of the rain. And there, squatting under one of the chairs, was a bird; a big bird. At first, I thought it might be a small hawk, one of the many hawks we see here, and wondered if it was hurt. But with a closer inspection, I realized it was a partridge. It did not move, and looked at me with a round eye.
I called Cherry “Come out and see this, now!” The “now” was added to indicate urgency. From past experience, I know that entreaties on my part to come and witness some of the peculiar things we see around here are often less important than whatever she’s doing at the moment. She tends to show-up post-facto, leaving me to explain what she just missed. It worked. She came out immediately, probably expecting a disaster of some sort —we get our share here on a regular basis.
The partridge was still squatting in the same spot, less than three meters from our usual breakfast spot. Seeing it, Cherry’s eyes opened wide: “What is it?”
“A partridge, I think”. My avian knowledge is generally limited. But this bird sure looked a lot like the partridges I had seen in my youth.
The bird hadn’t moved yet. It just kept an eye on us. She went back in and grabbed one of the two cameras sitting on a corner of the dining room table and handed it to me. I grabbed a shot quickly.
I moved closer. Now about a meter distant I took another couple of shots. Imagine that: a partridge calmly sitting under the veranda at breakfast time? We may have been here a few years, but we’re still both city folks. We can relate to dogs, cats, the occasional urban coyote or bear; but a partridge showing up for breakfast is a new one.
Slowly, the partridge straightened up from its crouching position. “That’s a big bird” I said once it was standing fully. “It’s almost the size of a chicken!” A chicken’s size is my reference point. As a kid, my parents used to take my brother and me for vacations to the south central part of France, where there was an ancestral home in a tiny agricultural village. There were lots of chickens there, and they used to casually walk into the house if a door was left open. To be sure, the chickens there all had names, and some really did come when called by their names. But I digress.
The partridge took a step or two, increasing the distance between me and it. It did not act alarmed in any way, just careful. I moved around it and got ahead. It turned back towards the table, and slowly made its way to the other side of the veranda. I followed camera in hand. It walked up the veranda, keeping an eye on me, and hopped through the railing there. I stayed back. The bird looked around, unhurried. Then, distant thunder rolled over the house.
The partridge cocked its head and looked up at the darkening sky, suddenly visibly nervous. It turned back and hopped back through the spindles of the railing, coming straight toward me. It suddenly dawned on me why it was here: it’s afraid of the thunder!
I gave it space, and went in to get coffee. We came out a few minutes later, equipped with coffee and iPads on which to read the paper. The partridge was still there, squatting three or four meters from us. We would occasionally glance up and see that it was still there, waiting for the storm to pass.
The storm passed soon after, leaving a shower in its wake. The partridge got up from its crouching position and walked away, ducking under a rose bush.
We did not see it again.