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June 21 - Killdeer Nests

If you have been in the park in the last month you might have noticed pairs of red pylons in, first the Owen Point Parking Lot, and later Beach 1 Parking Lot.  These were put there to keep car and people from running over Killdeer nests.  The flat gravelly expanse of these parking lots are very much to Killdeer tastes.  Their (usually) 4 eggs are grey with speckles and are very difficult to see in such a setting.  The nest itself is just a small divot, unsuitably shallow for even playing marbles with in a by-gone era.  But hard to see is good if you want to avoid predators.

In total I knew of 3 nests, 1 in Owen Pt parking from late April to about May 23, 1 in the south side of the Beach 1 parking lot from May 23 to June 17, and the last in the north side of Beach 1 parking lot, laid around June 18.  

There were a couple of particularly interesting things about these nests.  The standard defense for a Killdeer on a nest is to fake the broken wing and lure the intruder away.  I didn't see these bird do that at all.  They just held tight to the nest unless you got too close and then they would get up and step away, often fairly quietly, sometimes with worried trills.  This actually seems like a better strategy then making a big fuss, particularly when you are in a busy parking lot and have several people walk by you in an hour, as the Owen Pt nest could easily have had.  If you did the broken wing thing every time someone went by you would never get any rest!  So perhaps birds near people are evolving new strategies?

The other interesting thing is the fact these nests were laid so far apart in time. Killdeers nest early, but I didn't know they would nest as late as mid June - perhaps they were failed nesters earlier in the year?

Of course the big question you are asking now is what happened to the nests?  The first one seemed to go pretty well and then one day about the time they should be hatching everything was gone.  This is not that unusual as Killdeer chicks walk shortly after they hatch.  The whole family usually moves away, the chicks feed themselves and rely on Mom and Dad to teach them where to look and what is dangerous.  I did see young Killdeer out on Beach 3 a few days earlier so it could have been from that nest.

The second nest we have very good dates for, the eggs started being laid on May 23 and on June 17, 26 days later, when I was in the parking lot I saw 3 fuzzy babies walking rather unsteadily around a sitting adult.

There was obviously something else still under her.  The chicks were of course unbearably cute, picking at tiny insects and tripping over grass blades.  Every so often they would go over to Mom? and she would lift up so they could rest under her out of the glare of the noonday sun.
baby Killdeer sheltering under adult
I went back 3 hours later and there were 4 fuzzy chicks and two adults walking around. The last chick had obviously hatched and the family was free to move on.  The next day there was not a Killdeer in sight BUT.

I later learned that another nest was discovered in the other Beach 1 parking area on June 18.  One of the wardens put up pylons around the 4 eggs.  Checking it on June 21 I found the nest empty and 2 feet away the broken remains of the eggs, obviously eaten, rather than hatched.  Such goes the circle of life, sometimes the predators have to win too. 
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