Country Living Series

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Baby killdeer

At long last, the killdeer nest which has been hindering any heavy work in the garden has hatched.

If you recall, we had a killdeer nest smack in the middle of the garden. Killdeer eggs are practically invisible, and I inadvertently crushed two of them by dragging hoses over the nest. Over the next two days, the mother laid two more eggs to make up the necessary four. Now that I knew where the nest was, I diligently avoided it.

As the weeks went by, the parent birds seem to realize I meant them no harm. In fact, the very day the eggs hatched, I slowly weeded my way toward the nest, moving carefully, and the mother (or father, I can't tell them apart) actually allowed me to get within two feet of her. I could have reached out and touched her.


A couple hours after this, Don came in and said two of the eggs had hatched. I snatched up the camera and went to see.


These were the original two eggs in the nest. The other two were a day or two behind developmentally.


The mother, fluffed up to accommodate the extra mass beneath her, stayed diligently on the nest. There was an extra note of concern in her voice and I stayed my distance (which is why some of the photos are blurry or cropped).


Here the parents are doing the "changing of the guard" over the newborn chicks.




You can see a baby (on the left) taking a peek from underneath the mother.



Here are both chicks.


Here's another "changing of the guard."


When I enlarged and cropped the nest, I saw another hatched chick (the third) and one unhatched egg.


In no time at all, the two older newborns were on their feet, while the third newly-hatched baby wobbled near the nest and one unhatched egg remained. Soon the two older chicks were running around everywhere...



...with one parent following behind, trying to keep them reigned in.


My goodness, if I thought the parents were busy before, it was nothing next to having hatchlings everywhere. While one parent chased after the mobile babies, the other stayed on the nest and supervised the newborn and the as-yet-unhatched egg.


Here's (presumably) the mama, with the third hatchling starting to push away from under her.


Here's a cropped closeup of the third chick.



Pretty soon it, too, was on its feet, stumbling and tripping and behaving remarkably like a newborn calf as it tries to stand and walk for the first time.




The chicks are astoundingly cryptic. See the chick in this photo? Yeah, it took awhile for me to see it too.


How about now?


Pretty soon the fourth egg hatched.



Here's baby with a parent.



Once the last baby left the nest, I checked for eggshells. Nothing. I'm guessing the parents disperse of the shells after the babies hatch.

Pretty soon the two older babies went outside the garden, with (presumably) the dad keeping an eye on them, while mom and the two younger kids remained in the garden. They were in constant vocal communication during this separation, a sort of killdeer version of the game "Marco Polo."


Once the two younger chicks were both strong enough, the mother left the garden with them and joined up with papa. It soon became apparent the adults were slowly herding their brood away from the garden and toward the woods, though to do that they had to cross the entire driveway area and the entire feedlot.

Here is one of the parents with three of the chicks, crossing the bumpy dirt in the feedlot.


It was hard to focus as well as hard to get all four chicks together (you can just see the beak of the fourth chick on the upper left). It was tough going for the babies, climbing up and down the ridges and tracks in the feedlot.


When they reached the shade of the gate post, the whole family stopped to rest for about ten minutes (yes, all four chicks are in the photo).



Here's a last glimpse of the family before they made their way into the tall grasses and then into the woods.



I sincerely hope the babies survive since, as Don pointed out, they're like little walking Chicken McNuggets at this stage.

Still, they were fun to watch. Bon voyage, little killdeer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Random pictures

Here are some random pictures from the last few weeks:

Arrow-leaf balsamroot in bloom, late May.


Apple blossoms from our young apple trees, late May.


Chipmunk.


A puddle by a drainpipe on a neighbor's property. See the little black dot on the pipe?


It's a fledgling blackbird. The parents were twittering anxiously overhead as I took these shots.


With Lydia and Lihn (Younger Daughter's Quaker parrot) in the garden.


I usually bring Lydia out to the garden with me and let her wander while I work. I call her the Guardian of the Garden.



Here she is, zonked out at the base of the Stanley plum tree.


"Huh? What?"


Five red-winged blackbird eggs.


Their nest is in the cattails of our pond.


A rain squall.


Although we've had some warm days (even one or two hot ones), this spring has been remarkably wet and chilly. On June 11 we dipped to just a hair above freezing. Thankfully the tomatoes didn't die.


On such days, the warmth from the wood cookstove is welcome (even in June).


Naughty robin, eating my strawberries.


Don has a faithful audience as he presses hamburger patties for our neighborhood potluck (it was our turn to host).


It's currently daisy season.




Suddenly we have cedar waxwings in the garden. Gorgeous birds.





Notice the one on the left has just caught a butterfly.



However they're also after the strawberries.



Lydia greets the neighbor's alpacas.



Morning sun through some fog.




Dawn sky.


I'm still waiting for the killdeer eggs to hatch. Because the chicks are precocial, the incubation period is fairly long -- 28 days -- and since this couple has nested smack in the center of the garden, it's preventing us from doing anything heavy-duty (using the tractor to bring in additional tires for beds, for example). I can't even pull weeds around the area. I'll be glad when this nest hatches.


Both parents incubate the eggs. It's charming to watch the "changing of the guard" -- the bird getting off the eggs does a little bowing-pecking ritual to its mate, and makes barely-audible cooing sounds, before relinquishing the nest.



Enjoy the spring.