Friday, July 11, 2008

Killdeer Nest

In May, a Killdeer pair decided to lay eggs in the middle of my back yard. It was right in the middle of where I have my agility equipment set up. On the day I first discovered the eggs, there were two, and one had already been crushed by either me or the dogs that were running around. Killdeer lay their eggs in a shallowed-out patch of ground, usually near some rocks or gravel to camouflage the eggs, often in a wide open area. Well, it worked, so well in fact that one of us must have stepped on one of the eggs. The parent birds' calling and fluttering around alerted me that there must be eggs nearby. At first I paid little mind to the eggs, as I knew they had little hope in the middle of a yard with six dogs. However, my love for wildlife got the better of me, and I decided to at least mark the area where the eggs were so I would not step on them. I put two flat pieces of wood on either side of the eggs, which would let me know where they were and discourage the dogs from walking in that spot. I continued to train in agility, as regionals were coming up. As soon as all of us would go in the house, one of the little birds would promptly go back to the eggs and sit on them. After about a day, I decided that the two pieces of wood simply would not be enough protection for the eggs. I had some thinking to do..... There was really no other good spot on my property to move my agility equipment, and we had to practice.

So, my solution was to place my teeter base on top of the eggs... This would allow the birds free access to the eggs, and completely prevent anyone from stepping on them, and allow me to still train. I could easily move all the other equipment around the teeter to set up the sequences I wanted, so leaving the teeter in place for a long time was not an issue. Again, once we were inside the house, the birds promptly returned to their eggs, seemingly not bothered by their new accommodations.

Every time the dogs were let out, the birds quickly left the eggs, and cried out, flied around, and did their famous injured bird routine to lure the dogs away from the eggs. The dogs did not bother with the eggs for the majority of the time they were there. They were much more interested in the complaining parents. I was quite shocked at how close the birds actually let the dogs come to them... They would not let me get anywhere near as close... for picture taking purposes of course.

When the dogs started showing too much interest in the eggs, I had another dilemma...

My solution was to take the dividers that came with my dog crates, and use them as a little fence to block the dogs' access to underneath the teeter base. This worked great. The parent birds had two open "doorways" to get in and out from under the teeter, and it only took them less than one hour to figure out which was was "in" and "out". They used the "doors" as if this little set up was just meant for them. The dogs could not access the eggs at all. Then, one day, everything from under the teeter was gone. No sign that birds or eggs were ever even there. Did they get eaten by predators, or did the babies hatch and make a clean get away? I"ll never know, but I"m glad that the parents nor the eggs were harmed by my dogs.

The following day after I first discovered the eggs... the birds had laid another one to replace the crushed one, and there were once again, two eggs.

Not long after that, there were three eggs.

Picture of the eggs under the teeter base. Difficult to see them!

Picture of the two parent birds... very hard to see unless you enlarge the photo. I laid on the ground completely still for over half an hour trying to get a nice shot of them... clearly I need a better camera! The bird close to the middle of the photo is quite close to where the eggs are before my intervention.

Picture of the teeter on top of the eggs... Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of the teeter with my homemade little "fence" around the base.