Wednesday, June 23, 2010

killdeer strife

When the killdeer made a nest in the garden way back in the spring, Susie did a little research and found that in Mississippi, these birds have been known to lay as many as 6 clutches in a season.  It appears now that they may try what seems to be so many times because their success rate is generally low.  The last time I posted a killdeer picture, our pair had started their second nest in the garden and laid two eggs in it.  A few days after that, Oxford was bombarded with a heavy rainfall (actually, a deluge, people said).  We were out of town for that, but when I was at the garden a few days later, I looked for the nest and it was empty/gone.  My guess is that the rain washed the eggs away.  Unsuccessful attempt #1.

A few weeks later, the birds set up a third nest in yet in another plot, unfortunately one that hadn't been worked yet.  It was quite weedy, which might have otherwise been a good place for a nest, but wouldn't you know it -- the plotholder went out and tilled the plot the very next day.  Tough timing.  Unsuccessful attempt #2.

At last Saturday's workday, Susie found a fourth nest with four eggs.  Not in the garden anywhere, but still within the fenced area of the bus depot next to the garden.  (To call it a bus depot makes it sound very busy, but it's just the overnight parking lot for our city buses.  The nest location was out in the open, but not in line of any foot or vehicle traffic whatsoever.)  Susie flagged it to make sure it would be apparent to humans if necessary, and all Saturday morning, I enjoying looking over to see the parents trading off the guard duty.  The next morning, though, the eggs were gone.  Unsuccessful attempt #3.  Predators methinks.
No wonder they lay so many clutches.  I guess if you're going to have a nest ON THE GROUND, OUT IN THE OPEN (really?), then you better be prepared to lay a fair number of eggs because they just aren't very protected.  It made me think a little about all the different birds in the world and all the different egg-laying strategies, which I don't think I've really ever consciously contemplated.  Hmmmm...... I guess the bright side is that it's just eggs the birds are losing -- much better than a big ol' hawk swooping in and taking one of the babies.  Hope they try yet again.

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