Parents on the Rocks

Last week, the previous owner of the pecan orchard began moving some of the farm equipment he had left behind after the sale of the land in August last year. Old farming implements, several broken down pickup trucks, a couple of cattle feeders, a couple of stock trailers, a brush hog mower, a broken tiller, a propane tank, a diesel tank, a spray rig, and a small, flatbed trailer, were finally being hauled off. Over the past eight months since we first purchased the place, very little had been moved, which hindered my cleanup progress. Mostly though, every time I went to the orchard to work, I was irritated that all of that junk continued to sit there week after week. A few months back, as I began the pecan orchard limb clean-up work in earnest, I started nagging FD to contact the man about getting his junk moved. Recently, the fellow told us he hoped he would have all his things moved out by the end of this month, but I do not believe he will manage it in that time frame.

So of course, each day since he began taking steps to get his things moved out, I have not been able to help myself but to check and see exactly what progress has been made. Each morning, I set out in the electric buggy only to find that maybe an item or two has been hauled off. Just as I figured, at this rate it will take months more to remove everything. My brother calls this type of person a moseyer – someone who works or moves in a leisurely manner. I find this most frustrating, but I also realize there is little I can do to change things. FD constantly has to remind me when I get my “Lori measuring stick out again”, as I have a habit of measuring something or someone to my standards – and then getting ticked off when they don’t measure up.

Then one evening everything changed. I was fairly deflated as FD and I set out in the buggy that evening. After a few days of seeing consistent progress, nothing had been moved for two days now, and my attitude was sour. As we drove the buggy to the north end of the orchard, I could see that nothing had been moved that day either. FD was disappointed too. But just as we were about to pull onto the crushed rock driveway leading to the main gate at the road, a fast-moving bird darted in front of us while shrieking a high-pitched cry. We quickly recognized it as a Killdeer. FD wondered if it had a nest nearby. As we stopped and stepped off the buggy, the Killdeer shrieked at us some more and then did her “come-get-me-I’m-lame” dance, pretending to be injured in order to lure us away from her nest in the rocks. FD finally spotted a lone, well-camouflaged egg in the driveway rocks. Being the worrier that I am, I fashioned long branches in a five foot circle around the nest as a visual marker, while FD texted the previous owner to let him know about the nest so he would be careful of it when moving his remaining equipment. Hearing that the man was just as interested in preserving the nest as we were, and agreeing to avoid stressing the parents, made me a little softer about him getting work done.

The first warning posture of the female Killdeer. I found her the most ferocious in this stance. She actually allows me to get within three feet of her before she runs away to do her “come-get-me-I’m-lame” act in order to lure me away from the nest.
I have marked the nest so that we know not to tread on or run over the nest.
Where’s Waldo? If you look very closely, you may notice four well-camouflaged eggs in the center of the circle.

The beginning of the “Come-get-me-I’m-lame” act.
She drags a wing, limping along.
Hopping pathetically.
Fluttering both wings and trying desperately to lure me away from the nest.
I begin to follow her a bit and her dance becomes even more frantic.
Moving further away from me she looks back to see that I am following her.
My, what an actress!
She keeps an eye on me to make sure I am more interested in her than the nest.
It almost looks as if her back is broken! She has this injured act perfected!
As I move away towards the buggy, she begins to relax.
Heading back to the nest, she’s all better now.
She looks like one of those beautiful show girls in Las Vegas as she struts to her nest.
Mrs. Killdeer is a little weary, but that is how it is for a mother in any walk of life.

Every day since the discovery of the Killdeer nest, my trips to the north end of the orchard have become less and less about checking on what work has been done. Instead, I make a beeline to the spot at the crushed rock driveway to check on the progress of the Killdeer. Most of the time when I arrive, both parents are present near the nest, though one usually shows up only after the other begins shrieking at me and doing the “I’m injured” dance. There are four eggs in the nest now, and gestation is 24 to 28 days for Killdeer, so these parents on the rocks will be quite busy for a few more weeks protecting their nest and eventual hatchlings. With this new species grabbing my attention, I have become quite sidetracked and let my own work in the orchard slip a bit lately. But observing the killdeer family and having a bit of time with Ronnie and Emma while they graze or have a dip in the slough, feels a whole lot better than stressing out over someone else’s schedule.

© 2017 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


34 thoughts on “Parents on the Rocks

  1. Great story and images (really like your lead photo). This is the first time I’ve seen killdeer nesting behavior illustrated thoroughly and I’m glad you took the time to do so…many will no doubt benefit. Congrats!

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    1. Thank you, Nick. This is the first time I have observed Killdeer up close and have been able to photograph well. I thank the female each time I see her – and I hope that by visiting daily, she will be more comfortable about my presence when the little ones are hatched.

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  2. Lori you are posting so fast I just can’t keep up and I really, really, really want to comment. It is simply important to me because-well, it just is important. Anyhoo, I like the Killdeer photos very much. You did a great job. When I was growing up my parents didn’t know any better and called the birds Killdee.

    So about the “junk” left behind, maybe if you tell the ex-owner that you are going to sell all the implements for scrap iron, he will move a bit faster Just an idea. We have a scrap metal place in the town where I live and they pay by the pound. But maybe ya’ll would need to go a distance or he would, to be able sell the stuff.

    At any rate, this is a mantra I learned when in nursing school from the one and only male student in my class. “Don’t get your bowels in an uproar over things that actually don’t matter in the long run.” But this is easier said than done as I’ve done this very thing when something didn’t go as I expected.

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    1. Hello Yvonne! I seem to need these distractions as reminders not to get in a twist over things that do not matter. I guess the lessons will keep coming. It’s a hard habit to break.
      Some locals (who desire to see the orchard restored to it’s original beauty) have suggested the same as you. The previous owner is a friend, and to be fair to him, he works out of country a good bit and has also been building a new home in the country. I’m sure his plate is full. And since we decided not to lease it for cattle grazing, he now understands there is no need for his equipment to stay. I really had hoped he would get it all moved but it’s looking bleak before he has to return to his regular job.

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      1. Either or, I hope it all works out for the best for all of you. I can see why he seems to be dragging his feet or rather that he is dragging along. He has many irons in the fire and probably is overwhelmed at this point.

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    1. Yes, this is the normal place for a nest though some put theirs in grassier areas. Most of the time nests are found on driveways. The camouflage is so effective that the eggs are rarely seen. I would worry about ground predators – especially snakes. But on observing both parents, they are very good at seeing oncoming danger and fleeing away from the nest to lure the predator elsewhere. It’s fascinating to watch.

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post. Killdeer can be found here year-round, but they spend summers as far north as Canada and some winter in the upper areas of South America. I am always curious about species in other parts of the world. I understand the opossums here are quite different from the opossums in Australia.

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    1. I tried to make this a mother’s day post but the male kept showing up each time the female started her protest of our presence. So I couldn’t just make it about her! Ha ha! Both parents work together to lure predators from the eggs, and I understand the male is quite active in building the nest and raising the young.

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  3. Brilliant photos/video Lori. I remember many years ago there were Killdeer on the farm in Ohio. I was little then and didn’t pay much attention but I remember their call. Fascinating, the behaviours animals (and humans) adopt to protect what is precious to them–especially if you choose to put your nest in the middle of a driveway!! I’m glad you’ve had a change of focus from the equipment removal. I have to be careful of my ‘Ardys measuring stick’ at times too:) xx

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    1. Ha ha! Somehow I have difficulty picturing YOU with a measuring stick. I’m glad to know this is another thing we share. Although maybe we should think of it as a recovering “measuring stick” support group! 😀 Camouflage and protective tendencies in nature always surprises me.

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  4. My photos of the kildeer I saw last week aren’t as good as yours, but I did get one of the female (?) that captures the same almost wistful expression yours has. They are wonderful birds — as I said, I’m just so eager for you to see the babies. They’re capable of a full run straight from the egg — it’s the most amazing thing in the world.

    As for the fellow who’s got a case of the slows: something else crossed my mind. Since you bought the place from him, I wonder if part of it is a reluctance on his part to really, truly give it up. Once all of the equipment is gone, there isn’t a little part of him still in the orchard. There might be sentimental value involved.

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    1. Well now I worry about the storms we are expecting tomorrow and Friday. I cannot imagine that mother killdeer being pelted on the head by hail, rain and enduring 90 mph winds. I hope the weather won’t be as bad as they predict, but the weather maps are showing us smack dab in the high risk zone. Fortunately, she has some tree cover from the south and west, and that cell tower is to the east so maybe all of that will give her a little cover. You can bet I’ll be checking on her the following mornings.
      You made a good point about the previous owner. There I go again thinking he’s slow when maybe you are right. How many times do we drag our feet when letting go? I feel a bit humble tonight… and compassionate. The orchard is a special place, and I got the feeling all along that he really didn’t want to part with it, but moving to the country and building a new home I think he felt it was financially necessary and wise. I noticed tonight on my trip to check on the killdeer, that he had moved all but three items, and still needs to dismantle the corral. He really has gotten quite a bit done in the last 48 hours.

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    1. When I was researching the Killdeer I read at several websites that the name comes from the shrill call it makes. I guess it sounds like it is saying “kill deeeer”, but often how people describe bird calls does not make sense to me. I have been checking on our mother killdeer every day and yesterday she did not shriek at me. Perhaps she is getting used to my nosiness!

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  5. STRESS! We humans stress for anything – whether it concerns us or not. And when it does concern us, it’s even worse. I wish we were some kinds of yogis to not bother about anything but concentrate on making our own lives peaceful and stress-free! Great pictures, however – and it is only now that I know there’s a bird called a ‘Killdeer’!

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    1. I checked on her yesterday (we were gone for nearly a week on a fishing expedition) and she’s still on the eggs with no sign of hatching eggs yet! She isn’t as stressed since she’s used to me doing a drive by to check on progress! 🙂

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  6. Hello, the Killdeer is a new bird for me. I am wondering why the bird is called a Killdeer. It seems far to small to be a threat to any deer, i want to know more about the killdeer, i love pet birds so much and it’s so amazing to have come across something new i want you to please write to me on my mail , bigadiergeneralericowen@gmail.com telling me about it please

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  7. Hi, I just started following your blog, I just popped over from the farmy (miss C’s) and you hooked me right away! What a beautiful little bird and it is amazing how she acts to lure you away from her nest, brilliant.

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    1. Hello and welcome! A friend of the farmy? Isn’t Miss C grand? I had to investigate your blog as well! I already see I will have to make the Guinness Beef Stew… and I had no idea my kids could have a sip. Mr. T and Oscar might just like that!
      Sadly, I missed photographing the Killdeer mama’s babies. I don’t know if something happened to the nest or if they took off by the following evening. I’d been checking on them daily. I understand that they are hatched and very much ready to feed themselves and get along fine on the ground until they can fly a few days later. I hope all went well and that they are flourishing in the pecan orchard. 🙂

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    1. I did not enter anything in the Outdoor Oklahoma magazine contest last year. I just didn’t have the time to go through photographs. But this year, I have a few I might think of entering! I missed the hatching… and I can’t be sure if something didn’t get the eggs. I watched each day, sometimes checking twice a day. The last evening she was still on the nest and no sign of hatching (though by counting the days, I knew it would be any time), but the next evening she was gone and so were the eggs. I didn’t see a sign of trouble, and I understand the babies are ready to forage for insects pretty quickly after hatching. I hope they all made it and are enjoying life in the orchard.

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  8. I love these little creatures, though they are quite noisy. I find their orange eyes fascinating. And, of course, the little cotton balls on match sticks (aka, chicks) are so adorable. I love how they hit the ground running when they hatch.

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    1. I missed the hatch and fledge (I was working in the orchard but waited all day to mosey down that way) so I hope all the babies made it. I am sure they enjoyed foraging for bugs in the tall grasses!

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