Monday, July 11, 2011
When, instead, it is a family walk—The Husband, Galen, and I, the story is quite different. Either mama or papa (we are never sure which) goes into the full protection mode. We see the apparently frantic bird skittering across the drive on those stilt-like legs toward the road or, sometimes, we are even treated to the "broken wing act".
Now, what predator could resist following an injured bird hoping, any moment, to pounce on the seemingly helpless prey that pathetically flails just ahead of you? Of course, as you follow the lure, you are being taken ever further from the fragile eggs. (We tread carefully and if the silly bird begins to approach the road, we turn back. We don't want her to dash out into the road and we don't want the eggs left unprotected for long.) Whatever the path of supposed pursuit, when you, the predator, have traveled a safe distance from the nest, the bird is miraculously healed and soars back over your head to the eggs.
I did a bit of reading and learned that killdeer chicks remain in the egg longer than most bird species and neither of us can remember exactly when The Husband first spotted the eggs. Meanwhile, The Husband has blocked off the circle so a visitor will not clumsily roll their vehicle over the beautifully camouflaged eggs. We are holding out hope for a little longer. However, we are certain that mama is rapidly running out of time. Nature is full of harsh lessons and disappointments. In spite of the sadness I fear for the expectant mother, I have enjoyed having our very own killdeer educating and delighting us on almost a daily basis.
Note: This post was scheduled for publication Monday morning. During Sunday evening's family walk, we noticed that both mother and father killdeer were in attendance. Mama seemed unwilling to leave the nest to lure us away from her eggs and Dad, instead, was handling guard duty. Hmm. That has not always been the case. Then, on a slight detour from our usual path, we found what was apparently one of the precious eggs, far from the nest. Panic. We had just seen a hawk close by only moments before.
The Husband marked the location of the egg so we wouldn't step on it while I went back to check the nest and see if, indeed, an egg was missing. Mom stood inches away from the nest, but was doing her best to lure me away. Dad came back to pitch in. There were eggs missing all right. And, in their place there were fuzzy little creatures in the nest. I didn't want to get too close for a good look at the newborns. But, I smiled and celebrated all the way back into the house. Mama killdeer knows how to play bird with a broken wing, but she won't have a broken heart. (Yes, I know birds don't have broken hearts; but, hey, that is part of me that is still a girl.)