The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group, a place where everyone is welcome to note the observations you have made of the natural world around you. Fledglings, insects, blossoms, fish, climate, reptiles and/or amphibians: all are worthy additions to the bucket. Ask questions if you have them and someone here may well have an answer. All we ask is that you let us know where you're located, as close as you're comfortable revealing.There are usually about 10 adult killdeer and 20 eggs pending this time of the year on the golf course in the north edge of Oregon's Willamette River Valley. Instead, this year, I found several handfuls of feathers, the only earthly remains of most of the adults, probably after some owls made a sweep.
The remaining killdeer are very wary, and I cannot easily determine how many have mated and nested out of the 4-5 remaining adults. So I was happy to find an active nest with 4 eggs in it. Those four eggs all hatched and the too-cute babies took to the fields, but I hadn't positively identified a second nest or a second hatching anywhere.
But a muttered prayer went from my lips to Goddess Fauna to Mamma and Papa Killdeer, and they've rapidly laid four more eggs.
Killdeer usually lay an egg, then another, and over the next few days, another two. That first solitary egg looks lonely, and is untended, and it may take two weeks before all four are laid. Killdeer don't even sit on the eggs until all 4 are out, so they still hatch at the same time. Mom and Dad share the nest-sitting tribulations.
The killdeer laid these most recent 4 eggs pretty darned quick, over just a couple of days. Its a little unusual, and I'm grateful.
Killdeer nests are little more than a cup-sized depression scratched into hardpan. The killdeer have nested in some dumb places; a highway shoulder, in the mulch right under a golf course bench, even in a sand bunker that is supposed to be severely raked every other day. The current nest is in the mulch near the rhodies, a dozen yards from the front door of the golf clubhouse, where hundreds of people pass daily.
Killdeer obsessively guard their nests by decoying predators away. If an enemy approaches, the killdeer stagger away, one wing tiled askew, as if wounded, to lead predators away from the nest site. If the predator heads for the easy kill on the wounded bird, the killdeer leads them away 20 feet or so, then leaps up, makes a rude gesture with its white tail feathers, and flies away.
When I was taking the picture of the nest, I ignored the first "wounded" killdeer.
But they were both angry, and when I left, they followed me onto the golf course, swooping overhead, landing in front, and then behind me, scolding, for almost half a mile.
I realized that when the killdeer also followed me two weeks ago, I had probably also stood near their nest and stared at it, triggering their never-seen-before stalking behavior.
I'll leave discussion of killdeer infidelity for another bucket.