Wednesday, June 20, 2012
WINGED GUARDIANS ON THE FARM
This is a documented journey of a nesting family of Killdeers that decided to rough out a ground nest in the middle of our outdoor arena.
I was alerted by one of my clients that a strange little bird was injured and that I should take a look. Because of my exotic collection of parrots, finches, etc. they often refer to me as the 'bird lady.' As I walked out to the arena to investigate, I soon spied the problem bird. I was thankful of its species knowing that the bird was only faking an injury to draw the horse and rider away from its secret nesting ground. A clutch of two eggs perfectly camouflaged to appear like stones in a a gravel ring rested side by side. I decided to mark the area with a traffic cone so the nest wouldn't be further disturbed. It is now a daily venture to check on the hen sitting patiently in all kinds of weather, sheltering her eggs from the blistering sun and torrential downpours that accompany high humidity. A mate stays close and helps the hen protect the nest.
Five days have passed since my initial discovery of the nest and now the clutch has grown to four. Approximate hatching cycle with an incubation period between 21-28 days, means that the chicks should arrive sometime during the week of July 11th. I'll be lucky to see them once they are hatched. They will break out of their shells and as soon as the feathers dry off, they are gone from the nest as full fledged Killdeers. No grow up period for these little birds. They are born to start life right then and there.So now the wait begins....
Yesterday temperatures reached unbelievable numbers. Records were broken and the sun seared everything. Feeling sorry for the hen, I opened an umbrella and placed it in close proximity to the nest, creating some shade. I kept a constant eye from a distance to see if the hen would return to her newly created shaded home. No such luck. I'm certain she perceived the umbrella as a trap. After an hour or so, I decided I better remove my gift of shade and let her return to her sitting duties. All was well again and the little bird settled down spreading her feathers to protect her little family of eggs.
Tonight the rains came with heavy downpours accompanied by flashes of light and whipping cracks of thunder. The little Killdeer continued to guard her nest from mother nature; defying her onslaught of tears from the skies that would soon break the sizzle of the day and bring much relief to her frazzled earth. The eggs were all accounted for as I checked the little hollow of pebbles that made a crude nest in the ground.
Poof.... the eggs are gone without even a trace. A predator perhaps had found the nest. Snakes especially would be a strong suspect. Hawks, coyotes, raccoons or others could also be the culprits. Now I guess we will never know what could have been.