A far-ranging collection of essays on gardening and life, meant solely to relieve this gardener’s daily frustrations and lamentations over gardening in general and particularly gardening in Kansas. Though I am an old gardener, I am but a young blogger (apologies to Thomas Jefferson).
Well, since Connie at Hartwood Roses has been distracted this week with a resident mockingbird and now a vacant nest, I feel I should gamely (chuckle) follow that theme and show you my own avian close encounter.
Mama Killdeer looks angry!
Again this summer, the long straight lines of my lawn mowing pattern have been interrupted by an intractable Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) who has insisted that her nest be placed in my front lawn in the short grass. I thought I would avoid the problem this year by leaving a few areas unmowed on the fringes of my mowed prairie grass yard, but evidently the shorter grass is the preferred habitat. I first spied this little dinosaur remnant staring at me as my mower edged closer and closer. She is definitely give me a beady-eyed stare.
Killdeer feigning a broken wing amidst the buffalograss
As you get closer to their nests, those of you who know about Killdeer know that they will try to lure you away by pretending that they have a broken wing, hoping the stupid roaring green predator (I mow with a John Deere tractor) will ignore the nest and go after the injured bird. They have a pitiful cry as well (the "vociferus" species name), just in case the broken wing wasn't enough to lure you in. If you follow them, they'll stay just far enough ahead to keep you coming on, away from their nest, until they decide that enough is enough and demonstrate that they can fly quite fine, thank you.
If you notice where the little harlot started her dance, you can get a visual treat and see her clutch of (usually) four eggs laid in a small depression in the ground, camouflaged by their shell pattern and surroundings, but without any other protection. Once I find the nest whose position the parent betrayed to me, I give it a wide berth with the mower. No sense in having smashed eggs or mangled little chicks on my conscience on top of everything else. And anyway, Killdeer primarily consume insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, and other pests. The more Killdeer I have around, the healthier my garden is.
Killdeer nest on bare ground
Killdeer can have two broods a year, and both the male and the female incubate the eggs and rear the young, so I really don't know if my pictures are of a male or female (I thought it would be rude to lift her tail to check). In a couple of weeks, these eggs will hatch some chicks who will appear to be composed primarily of legs. They will leave the nest behind within a couple of days to seek shelter in taller grass, so unless I watch them close, I'll see eggs and then see nothing, just a little tuft of dead grass on the lawn to tell me where they used to be. Nature waits for no gardener.