DEAR JOAN: Our neighborhood borders the Sugarloaf Open Space and we all enjoy observing the wildlife and strive to live in harmony with it. However, one recent Friday afternoon as I was leaving for errands, I noticed a pair of quails exhibiting strange behavior. They were repeatedly hopping off the curb out into the street, calling. A car would whiz by causing them to dash back into the oleander bushes growing by the sidewalk, but then they would return to the street and a drainage grate. Behind the bushes are miles of open space, all the way to Mount Diablo.
Quails are a common sight there, often nesting in the oleander bushes, but the behavior continued into the early evening so my husband and I decided to investigate.
As we approached, the quails ran into the bushes. We crouched down and listened by the grate. Loud chirping was clearly audible. We quickly realized the horror of the situation. Mom and Dad quail were frantic with the knowledge that their chicks were trapped below and they couldn't get them out, but they also couldn't leave them as long as they heard their babies chirping.
We had to do something, so I called the fire department.
About 15 minutes later, a fire engine came roaring up the hill. With tools in hand, the firemen quickly unbolted the grate, pulled it up and one fireman, armed with a flashlight, disappeared into the underground tunnel below.
After spotting the chicks, he came back for his helmet and jacket and once again disappeared into the depths. Within a few minutes he emerged, grinning happily as he gently handed up two tiny baby quails.
Walking around the oleander bushes, the fireman spotted the two waiting parents and carefully set the babies down for a joyous family reunion.
Our heroes, the firemen from Station One had saved the day, for our state bird, the quail family.
DEAR TRISHA: I love happy endings -- thanks to you and the firefighters. For pictures of the rescue, go to www.mercurynews.com/animal-life.
Help for horses
Every now and then I like to give a little salute to groups that work so hard to save animals, and this time I'm recognizing the Bay Area Equestrian Club.
The group is still young -- it was founded in 2012 -- and is based in Walnut Creek. The club's focus is the rescue and rehabilitation of abused and neglected miniature horses. Members provide foster care and, most importantly, the love and attention these little horses need to grow and thrive.
The club also gives youngsters who are interested in pursuing veterinary medicine a chance to care for the horses while learning about equine medical conditions and procedures.
The organization operates through volunteers and donations. It also has a shop set up inside of the Spotted Cow, 2631 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, and all of the proceeds go toward the nonprofit's mission.
If you have gently used riding boots, tack, show apparel, Breyer horses, veterinarian medical and horse-related books and horse memorabilia, the club would love to have them for their shop.
To learn more about this group, or to donate, go to www.BAEClub.org.