Posted by Matthew Sim
Recently down here in Texas, the local Killdeer have started nesting and their nests can be found in many open spots, such as open lots and around athletic fields. Down at my high school, there were at least 2 nests around the track, which was quite surprising considering the amount of disturbance this location gets daily. While out for a walk last weekend, I found another nest near a local pond. I chanced upon this nest when the female Killdeer incubating her eggs scurried off her nest and proceeded to preform the Killdeer’s broken wing act to try and lure me away from her nest.
On the alert!
When Killdeer see a potential predator approaching their nests, they try to distract the predators from the nest by dragging one of their wings on the ground as though it were broken. They scamper away, stopping from time to time to make sure the predator is still following and then, when they feel a safe distance away from their nests, they fly off, returning to their eggs to continue incubating. It really is quite the trick!
Quite the convincing act!
I let myself be led away by this act but before I left I did make a brief attempt to find the Killdeer’s eggs, which I did, snapping a photo from a good distance away so as to ensure I didn’t disturb the Killdeer again before I left.
I maintain bird feeders in my yard in Calgary all the time when I am around. Suet feeders, a tray feeder for millet, a peanut feeder, a niger feeder for siskins and goldfinches, a feeder for sunflower seeds; you name it. I enjoy watching the regular species of birds (and squirrels!) come in to eat and the occasional unusual species. When I watch “my” birds, I often notice intriguing behavior; the way that the Red-breasted Nuthatches stored food is particularly interesting. The nuthatches take a seed from the feeder, head to my fence and hide the seed there in a nook or cranny. Later, whether it be days, weeks or months, they would eventually come back looking for the seeds, providing some entertainment as we observe their antics.
Red-breasted Nuthatch, searching for a sunflower seed hidden somewhere along the fence
Is it down here, perhaps?
Maybe if I come at it from this angle…
Certainly is amazing what you can see from your backyard!
My non-bird watching friends seem to be picking up the habit by osmosis. The more I talk about birds (hardly ever), the more questions I get from people who are just starting to notice them. One such friend phoned me one day in high dudgeon, almost demanding to know what that bird was that woke him up so early. I managed to talk him into doing a short blog post for us, and he even had video to go with it. He lives in Midnapore, but this activity can be seen throughout Calgary, particularly at this time of year. Here’s what he had to say.
What’s that infernal racket so early in the morning? The metallic hammering emanating from the furnace sounded like it was having a meltdown.
I raced downstairs and started pulling covers off left and right to find the relay that was suffering an acute attack of St. Vitus’ dance. It quickly became obvious that the racket was now above me and emanating from the furnace chimney pipe. What was in there?
Running outside to fetch a ladder, the source of the problem quickly became obvious. A male woodpecker (Northern Flicker) was hammering on the roof’s flat chimney cap, the better to inveigle any nearby female Flickers into viewing his roof etchings. Unlike size, in the avian world, apparently volume does matter and what better way to announce your augmented virility than by drilling on a resonating metallic roof cap? What better location too, than where the owners of a garden and messaging roof have two enormous poplar trees. Our poplars are home to many delicious insects and they also support regularly replenished hanging bird feeders.
Clearly this was Flicker Shangri-la and if woodpeckers were up and about, so should everyone else be.
Yes friends, my overwintering Mourning Doves are still hanging around the yard. Judging by this affectionate display, I can soon look forward to having even more of them to feed! Last year they nested in my neighbor’s spruce tree, so I’ll be keeping a sharp eye on that location in the coming months.
Snow buntings are notoriously difficult to photograph, as they’re always in motion. Duane Starr was lucky to run into thousands & thousands of them and managed to get a series of wonderful pictures of these hyperactive little birds. He says when the flock was in the air they were everywhere and when they were on the ground they were everywhere. Click here to view his snow buntings on the fence, in the air, on the ground…