Friday, May 9, 2008

Rainy day birds

First things first: Happy Birthday to my brother Alex! I can't believe you're 25--hope you have a great day.

It's rainy rainy here today, which can make for some beautiful photos of flowers with the macro lens. This is an iris that my cousin Sara gave me for transplant early this spring. It seems content in my front yard, and we should have seven or eight blooms by early next week.

This morning's ride was wet and not without a certain amount of "wind up my tail" bluster on the horse's part. A group of birds has decided to call the riding ring home, and they kept flying up in Joshua's face just as we'd canter around a circle, causing much distress. Between calls of "go git 'im" to the dog, who dutifully zigged and zagged across the bluestone, rushing the birds away, we managed to get some pretty good ring work in.

At first I thought the birds were much-displaced sandpipers, since their bodies were shaped that way, but after some research on the excellent whatbird.com, I've determined that they were killdeers. A "season" of killdeers (be sure to listen to the recorded call). I love naturalist terminology, especially the names for groups of animals or babies. The "interesting facts" on the killdeer were what really made me sure that's what these birds were. To wit:

Interesting Facts
(Subtitled: I'm such a geek)
--Killdeer exhibit a clever “broken wing display” in which they appear to be struggling with a broken wing while all the while leading the predator away from their babies. Once their young are out of danger they “recover’ and fly off. (This season of killdeers was doing this like crazy. They'd bend down and extend a wing and their tails, all fluffed out, showing their rust-colored underfeathers, and then they'd explode upwards and away when challenged.)

--Although technically shorebirds, they are unusual in this group because they often nest and live far from water.

--They are ground-nesting birds that are famous for hiding their nests right out in the open. They really use no nesting materials and rely on distraction displays to protect their offspring. (When I first got up to the ring I stepped carefully, looking for any obvious nesting going on, but after I finished riding I found the nest in the crook of the big black coop jump that Brian made me for my 25th birthday). And so we come full circle. Here's hoping that the weekend will be a little less rainy.

2 comments:

Melissa said...

Hi Louise! Just got here and I'm loving reading your blog. Everything you're doing is so beautiful. Hope you're well!

And by the way, how funny that the first post I read is about killdears - they are one of my favorite kinds of birds. (For whatever reason we pronounce it killdees - don't ask 'cause I don't know why.)

Lura said...

I love the killdeers too. They are on my list of reasons to believe in a Creator. :)

One nested in the driveway of a barn where I used to ride, so we cordoned off the area to avoid stepping on the well-camoflaged nest.

I remember reading that the killdeers have a longer-than-usual gestation, presumably because they don't have a safe place to mature after hatching. They hit the ground running, literally.