Sunday, June 4th 2017
Have just returned home to Essex from a long trip. There is a killdeer nesting in the stones on my patio. Because I have a good pair of brand new binoculars, when she is off the nest, I can see that she has four eggs. I try not to disturb her too much. She gets up and moves off when I come out on to the porch, then she sneaks and creeps back in quick little steps interrupted by suspicious halts and backwards jerks of her head. Snookie my dog wants to sit on the porch. I let him because this is his home and he's always been allowed to sit there. The bird will have to habituate to us if this is going to work out for everyone.
Monday, June 5th 2017
Mrs. Killdeer has grown more used to the presence of Snookie and me. She sometimes doesn't even move off the nest when we come out on the porch. Mr. Killdeer who takes over every now and then for his mate is still pretty worried about us. No chicks yet. I have to yell at Snookie once who has been lured by Mr. Killdeer’s broken wing act. He seems to understand and now only watches both birds. He seems to find it interesting to just sit and watch them from the porch. The weather is cold and rainy. Poor mother-bird-to-be just sits, completely exposed, getting hammered by the large rain drops. It rains all through the night and the temperature is only in the 40s. How can the eggs possibly still be viable?
Tuesday, June 6th 2017
Now we are in the start of a heat wave. It's in the 90s by day’s end. The birds are taking turns on the nest of hot stones. The eggs must be cooked. I can't even walk on the stones with out feeling them burning my feet. How do the birds tolerate sitting on the hot stones in the full on sun? Mom's beak is wide open like she is gasping for air and her wings are spread out away from her body. I feel for her. I'd be questioning if having the chicks is worth it. I see Dad flying in. Mom starts screaming for him. Before he even lands at the nest, she takes off towards the river. I can imagine her diving, in her body making a sizzling noise as the water cools the heat of her smoking body. Wow, just in time with the relief. Still no chicks.
Wednesday, June 7th 2017
Hot all night. Still hot as I wake up. I check the nest first thing through the binoculars. I see I have stumbled in to a lucky moment. I see something moving around the edges of Mom's plumage as she lays on the nest. I can now see a wet-from-the-egg baby chick. Mom's body is popping up and down like something moving around under a blanket. When she finally stands up I see three chicks. As soon as she stands up I see the chicks rise on wobbling legs and take off at a run in three different directions. They are so large, I feel like I must have missed a few days of maturing. Coming out of the tiny eggs I saw, I am thinking what fine contortionists they've been. They must have each been so carefully folded to fit in their eggs.
Dad is there too. He's flown in to help with this impossible moment. I’m watching through my binoculars. Instantly, Mom and Dad are running around on the ground. One chick vanishes, never to return. The remaining two are watched carefully. Sometimes each is watched by one parent as they don't stay together. They seem to have no instinct for staying together and little instinct in listening to their parents’ calls. As I watch they seem deaf and more uninterested in their parents than exploring the world outside of their egg. Good luck with those kids!
To my surprise at sundown the two chicks are back under their mother on the nest. “Goodnight Chicklets. Welcome to your first long day in a new world as birds outside the egg. Good luck too!”
Thursday, June 8th 2017
Chicks made it through their first night. But it wasn't easy. When I took Snookie out to pee, Dad bird was luring a fox away from the nest. The fox was following the Dad bird. I saw it immediately, threw Snookie back into the house and did my bit to scare the fox off. I thought it might be back in the night. They are not my chicks or responsibility, yet I can't help caring or falling in love. The chicks are so sweet and such enthusiastic explorers of their new world. If I prayed, I'd pray for them. Wish to hell they'd have a good chance of making it.
Friday, June 9th 2017
Chicks made it through another night. I heard the alarm calls of the parents all night long so was amazed and relieved to find both chicks off exploring the driveway in the morning. One parent always does their best to stay nearby the chicks, not easy when the chicks make no effort to stay by each other or their parents.
One parent has been missing all morning. Now I've found it. I think it's Mom. She's back on the nest. I had forgotten about egg number four. Didn't even think they might still be intending on trying to hatch it. I figured it a “dud”. No, they are definitely busy with it. Now one parent either has baby sitting duty or egg duty. Sometimes the chicks go back to the nest for a cuddle and rest with Mom or Dad.
It's a hot afternoon. Dad is back on the nest. I am watching through the binoculars. Dad's hot. He looks sick of being on the nest. I see him pick the egg up and give it a thump. He looks to me like he is trying to break it. Mom is busy with the chicks trying to watch them on the drive. The crows have been hanging around. I try to scare them away and intimidate them by watching them through my binoculars. The crows don't like it when I point my binoculars at them and fly off temporarily. I think they know about the babies and that they will be back.
Mid afternoon, the last chick has come into the world. Off he goes. By late afternoon he is gone for good. I have no idea what happened to him. If I had to guess, I'd say the crows.
I look in the old nest. Nothing is there, not even one piece of egg shell. Nothing distinguishes it from the ground around it. I have read that birds in general sometimes clean away all the egg shells from their nests. I guess killdeer do this. A piece of shell is found on the lawn quite far from the nest site. I wonder if it was stuck on a chick butt, blown by the wind or carried there by someone.
I am watching in the evening just before dark. I see Mom on the lawn. I see a chick run up to her. He touches her beak and then snuggles forward into her feathers. She lifts her left wing a little and he tucks in. His tail feathers sticking out a little. Then the other chick comes running up. He touches his mother's beak and tries to move forward into her feathers but his sibling is already there. So he shifts over a bit and finds his slot under his Mom's right wing. They are in there under their mother's wings, like two cars parked in a double garage. What would happen if the other two had made it? Mom only has two wings. Where would everybody sleep? I guess if they'd been lucky Dad would have provided the other two-bay garage. She settles down on top of them. I whisper, “Sleep well, everybody.”
Sunday, June 18th 2017
The two chicks are still alive, growing fast and exploring more and more. They are 11 days old now. I watch as they conquer new territory every day. It's taking them farther and farther from the house and nest site each day. They are down eating on the Marsh today. They have been there all morning. I notice that the sounds of killdeer are already starting to fade from my sphere. “Good luck Chicklets.”