Hello! Most of my posts take place around San Diego County, (Mostly Lake Murray) unless otherwise noted.
For more posts and photos, I also post on Hubpages, a site that is a bit different than others. Thanks!: Shorebirdie on Hubpages

Monday, May 31, 2010

Where's the Phoebe Nest?

I hear a constant peeping right above my apartment and the constant call of a phoebe nearby, but I don't see any nests. Phoebes like to nest on the edges of buildings near overhangs and the like. Sorta using the building like a cliff. I do see the Phoebe flittering around the building next door, but I haven't found any nests. I hear a constant "peep" "peep" all day long. Also, there is a concentration of bird excrement in one area near a tree, but I still see no nest, phoebe or otherwise. I'm guessing, also, there's a house finch nest (or several) nearby, too.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lake Murray Killdeer Territory Map

I kinda didn't want to do a territory map based on my observations of the killdeer in that area, but I was afraid that I would be confusing people with my descriptions of what was going on. I was afraid that people, with knowledge of the area, will do harm to the chicks or eggs, especially those that don't like killdeer or don't like their noises. I want to keep knowledge of the locations of nests to as few people as I can because the more people who know about it, the more likely someone will hurt these birds or their chicks either by accident or on purpose. The whole lake is heavily used at this time of year and I didn't need any more people trouncing through the brush crushing eggs or chicks.

But, I think it would be a good thing for education and helpful to those studying killdeer breeding behavior. Territories can and will change from year to year and not all males in this area will breed or have successful nests this year. (You can see in my last post that only one female seems to be in the area.).

Here is a generalized map of the territories. If you click on the link, you will see the map as well as the legend. I also have the map posted at the bottom of the blog at all times.

Killdeer Territory Map, Lake Murray Spring/Summer 2010

Note: If I find any nests that look vulnerable to human interference or predation, I will be taking the territory map down until all chicks have hatched and matured enough to be able to get away or hide.

Scandal at the lake! Little Male's mate--Stolen?

I decided to go to Lake Murray this morning to check up on all the birds I have been keeping tabs of. I found my little lost duckling and sibling had found their mom and were being as adorable as ever. I also found several brand new hatchlings swimming around the lake. M2 (Second Male) was back on the other side of the bay getting really upset over something, probably all the people around.

But, when I went to check on "Little Male's" (M1) territory to see how he and his new mate was doing, I found it empty save some ducks and ducklings. The water level was a lot lower and I was able to walk around, but no sign of him. I thought I heard him on the other side of the lake, so I went over there and could not find him. I also heard 4th male (M4) yelling back at them.

Then, I could hear the sound of three killdeers screaming back over near the dam and the water treatment plant. One of them was M2 reacting to two male killdeers "yelling it out" over near 3rd Male (M3)'s territory. Now, I haven't talked much about M3 and his female, F1 because I haven't gotten any good pictures of them, yet. (You can see some in the "spot the killdeer" game a few posts back). They have their territory over by the dam, but were originally "arguing" with M1 about his territory when M1 was still a new adult before moving to that other area where they are now. There is one, possibly two more males with territories on the lake: 5th Male (M5) that has his territory where the treatment plant is and I can't really observe him and a possible 6th male (M6) on the opposite side of the lake past the fence near the dam. There may be another male or two near the ballfields on the north side of the lake. Most of the fight was over M3's territory, ocassionally flying back toward M1's territory.

I couldn't confirm that it was M1 and M3, but I could tell it was two males and they were fighting (making "swipes" at each other). At first, I thought it might be a "marriage flight" between M3 and F1, but the more I watched, the more it looked like it was two fighting males. It could also be a "duel" to impress the female in the area and show off their fitness.

It's entirely possible that F2 is, in fact F1 and she may have had her head turned by the young M1 and was seriously checking out his nest site. However, she might not have liked the close proximaty of his territory to people and dogs and went back to where there were fewer people around. Being the love-struck teenager that M1 is, he will not let her go that easy. I watched the arguing for about an hour and it looked like the older M3 was getting tired, but not giving up, either. I could not get a visual lock on where F2 was.

Another theory could be that the other bird screaming a territorial call that I wrote about a couple of posts back was, indeed M3 calling back his mate to his territory. I thought it was a bold move for M2 to claim part of M1's territory so soon, but it makes more sense that it was M3 challenging "Little Male" to a fight and demanding his "wife" back.

I will check up on them in a few days. I am concerned if M1 wins the fight that he may take over that territory and I may never see him again (or have a lot of difficulty doing so). I seriously doubt that the older, more experienced M3 will let him do that. In a way, M3's territory will be much safer for any nests and chicks than M1's and it will be better if he's sucessful.


4th of July is coming and I don't want any trampled nests.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

More ducklings!

Maybe I should call this blog: Killdeers, Finches, and Phoebes and other precocial birds.

I was at the lake and found another family of ducklings to which I gave them some toasted oat Os. They had a little problem eating them as I should have broken them up. I think they got them later after they were totally softened up.

Before you get upset and lecture me about feeding wildlife, I rarely ever do that. And, it was the Duck Rescue Network that gave me the idea about the toasted oat Os (Cheerios), though they did discourage me from doing any feeding. I wanted to check up on the duckling that had all the drama a few days back and give him some food. I didn't give them that much and won't be making this a regular thing because so many other people give them food daily. If you are interested in feeding ducklings and you can find unmedicated duck starter or duck pellets/crumbles, bring those along instead.

These ducks are located far enough away from people to be a nuisance and rarely leave the immediate vicinity of the lake. Most of these ducks have been seen eating their "natural" wild food many times even when people throw food in their direction.

You can read more about them here: The Ducklings and the Toasted Oat O's

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Little Male" takes a mate

"Little Male" (to be known as 1st Male, Male1 or M1) has taken a mate and selected a nesting site. He is very aggressive in defending that site and his mate. He doesn't want me to pay any attention to her at all and will fly around, yelling, if I look her way. (I think he was also trying to impress her with his "protection skills") I call the female Female2 or F2 because she's the second female I've seen this season.

"Little Male" (M1) and his mate (F2)

F2 heads down into the water under M1's protection

F2 is keeping her eye on me

I think I know where he's going to put his nest because he gets really excited if I walk near that spot and comes up to me really close (less than 10 feet away) or flies up near me and then runs or flies away. It's in an area that is not accessed by people that much, but still accessible to humans and their dogs. Hopefully, no one will mess with their nest or chicks. I plan to "nest watch" only on the less busy days so as not to draw too much attention to me going into that area and all the noise that they will make when I do.

I saw a hawk drop down in that area and start walking around the lake shore. Both M1 and F2 mobbed it, flying around, screaming, diving at it. I thought that maybe it was after some eggs or chicks, but there weren't any. It was probably looking for something like that, though. Those two potential parents didn't let it stay in peace.

Meanwhile, "Second Male" (Male2 or M2) has taken over part of "Little Male's" former territory on the other side of the lake. Since M1 has a mate and has become more defensive, he makes a lot more noise to which M2 responds to very loudly, even flying over the area proclaiming it as his own. M1 seems to be staying only on the one side of the lake, probably to better defend the possible nesting site.

"Second Male", M2 flies over his new portion of his territory, yelling his proclamation

Black phoebe near my home

I was working on some artwork and I noticed three phoebes playing around at the building next door. Two of them were males that were fighting a little, but one was a female. Here is a photo of one of the males.

I guess these guys like berries, too, I found out.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Here's the house finch again

Here's the house finch that resides on my antenna:

And here's a photo with his friend, a hummingbird.

Better Look at the "Second Male"

Here's a better look at the "Second Male" killdeer at Lake Murray. He was sleeping on the other side of the lake when I found him. He got annoyed and flew over to the other side of the bay where a little duckling was drifting around. Then, a couple with a dog came by before I could get another photo of him and he flew further away.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Friendly Phoebe

This phoebe at Lake Murray was very friendly. He was catching flies at the edge of the lake and let me get really close to him.

Better look at "Little Male"

I got my zoom lens and while it's not a perfect solution, it's working out OK for now. Here is a better look at little male that I took today. I will post one of "second male" later.

Oh no! Duckling Drama!

Click here to read about drama at Lake Murray and a lost duckling.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spot the killdeer

I am posting this to show everyone how easy these birds blend into the environment. I took these photos at Lake Murray in La Mesa, California from about twenty or thirty feet away from the birds with a 50mm lens;

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Where are they?

There they are!

This was the couple was that was "arguing" with Little Male about this spot on the lake.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Silly Birds!

While I was chasing around "Second Male" around the lake last week and observing him with my binoculars, this coot was standing at my feet looking right up at me. But, when I turned the camera on him, he backed off and went into the water making a nervous sound. Here I was chasing killdeer around and this bird was almost begging for me to pay attention to him. Very funny. Either that or he wanted me out of his territory.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Killdeer Eggs Are Gone

The killdeer eggs that the Ustream killdeer camera in Wisconsin were broadcasting on are gone and the camera is now down. Last night, mom and dad were acting differently and many people thought that meant that the chicks had actually hatched after waiting 34 days. But, they did not. Before settling down for the night, I could see that the male was sitting on the nest and he was doing the typical territorial call "kill-dee" "kill-dee" over and over again (I couldn't hear him, but could see the motions that looked like he was calling). This may have been a sign that they were getting ready to breed again. Either that or another male was eying their patch of rocks. I checked on them well after dark and it looked like the male was still on the nest, though it was dark and hard to see.

This morning, when I got up, all three eggs were completely gone. I knew that they didn't hatch as they were way overdue, but wondered if they got pushed out. Later, the stream owner, Pkonopa, found a half an egg about 15 feet away with an almost developed chick inside, untouched. It appeared that a predator had gotten to the eggs. However, the nest looked pretty much undisturbed with even the pine needles pretty much still in their place. It's entirely possible that the parents had pushed the eggs away from the nest and a predator got them later. The parents never returned to the nest that day.

I am hoping that they will choose that same patch of rocks to breed again as the stream owner can only set up a camera from his office. He/she said there are always killdeer around, but he/she couldn't tell if the parents were nearby. I've heard reports of killdeer having a destroyed nest and then laying another clutch nearby a week later, so that's what I am hoping for.

It appears that the wet and cold weather about two weeks ago might have killed the chicks while they were still in the egg. Those parents were so diligent and devoted to their nest that I am glad to see it's gone. Otherwise, I think they would have sat on them all summer and missed their chance to breed. Now, I am really hoping they will come back to that patch of rocks and try again. My hunch is that they will as there's a lot of food there and the eggs blend in well. Also, they were relatively undisturbed and seemed comfortable with nesting there.

Males during breeding season rarely leave their territory until the season is over. However, his territory can be large and he may just decide that a bunch of rocks near an office parking lot may not be as good as the short grass near the creek behind the building (of which I don't know is the case with this area as I haven't seen the entire grounds).

I hope I can see some kind of killdeer cam and see some chicks hatch and make it out of the nest, without getting hurt, soon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ever-living Killdeer Chick

This is a rough drawing of my ever-living, never-dying killdeer chick that won't get hurt by people or get sick. I am going to start working on a large painting of killdeer sometime in the next week and will post the progress, in thirds on my other blog, which you can read here.

But, don't look for it, yet, I haven't started it and I work slowly. Meanwhile, enjoy this colored pencil drawing of the killdeer chick about a day or two old:

Awww, Wisconsin Killdeers' Eggs Won't Hatch

I've been watching a killdeer nest in Greenville, Wisconsin on Ustream since they laid their eggs. These devoted parents sit on those eggs day and night through storms and everything, but they persevere. I don't think that they left the nest for anymore than a half hour at a time.

I think this was mom killdeer doing her nest duty

When there was a cold snap in the area, the birds sat on those eggs day and night without a break. They really didn't need to leave them, there were bugs all around their nest and they often ate them while sitting on the eggs. Lots of ants and flies all around, especially after the rain.

There were four eggs originally, the one on the bottom left was thrown out.

One day, a few days before the eggs were due to hatch, an egg was found five feet away from the nest. Now, you have to know this in order to see what a feat it was that the egg ended up there. The nest is in a bed of rocks near a sidewalk that is raised up. The egg had to have been pushed onto the sidewalk and rolled away. There was no damage to the egg at all, not a mark and no predator was seen. It happened around mid-morning on a day where it had been raining very hard with lots of wind. When the egg was finally discovered, it was already cold and probably non-viable. However, it most likely was fertile as it was heavy in weight. But, nothing could be seen when held up to a light.

Well, the eggs are on their 33rd or 34th day since they first began to brood them. I don't know what factor the cold weather may have played in the fact that they haven't hatched. I also wondered if maybe their development was slowed down by the cold weather and they still might actually hatch. The parents haven't given up and are diligently sitting on the eggs day and night. I will keep you updated.

Dad killdeer taking his part in parenting

I was going to name the chicks Spike, Killer, Bruiser and Lulu. Bruiser was the egg that was thrown out. I'll have to give those names to some other killdeer chicks. I was so hoping to see the chicks as I haven't seen any around my area this year (I would worry to death about them if I did see them in a place where the chicks could get hurt by people, so it's probably good that I haven't seen any yet).

Thanks to the stream owner, known as Pkonopa for posting this stream and providing still photos.

If you are curious, you can view the stream here, but I don't expect it to be up much longer unless the birds lay more eggs nearby.

*Update* Nest was found empty a few days after this post and a half an egg was found 15 feet away. The stream is down right now, but may go back up if the birds decide to nest near the office where the camera was. Will keep you posted.

Monday, May 17, 2010

House Finch on My Antenna

When I first moved into my building, there was a huge ficus tree in the courtyard that all the sparrows used to nest and live in. Then, it was cut down due to the fact that it was ruining the plumbing and affecting the elevator in the building. Since then, I have noticed that the sparrows have pretty much moved on, not only in this building, but the whole neighborhoods. Instead, the house finches have taken over.

During the last few years, I have really begun to notice their song, especially in the morning. Just recently, I found one really loud male who likes to sing on top of my building's TV antenna. I hear his song every morning and during the day. I think I've seen him try to show prospective females some nesting spots inside the building or in the trees behind the building.

He is singing right now as I write this. This is what he looks like from my apartment.

Goldfinches Everywhere!

I went out to the mission dam area of Mission Trails Regional Park yesterday and I found a spot along the riverbed that had lots and lots of goldfinches flying all around. I even saw several down at the creek drinking all at once. Not just American goldfinches, but lesser goldfinches, too. Here is a picture of a lesser goldfinch that I got from Wikipedia commons and Attis1979:

Here is the area of the park where I saw all the finches:

I also saw at least one black phoebe and I think I saw a Say's Phoebe, too, but I'm not sure. Here is a photo of it:

I saw a similar bird at SDSU. Both had yellow bellies underneath, especially near the tail. It also lifts up it's head feathers in a similar fashion as the black phoebe. But, I think it might be too brown to be a Say's Phoebe unless it was immature. It may be something like a vermilion flycatcher or some other bird in the flycatcher family.

On the way back to my car, I saw a man photographing this phainopepla nest with chicks in it. I got to see the parents feeding them. Very cute.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"Little Male" and the Lake Murray Killdeers

I first came across "Little Male" when I first started to get interested in killdeer. I call him "Little Male" because the first time I saw him, he seemed really small and tiny. Now, however, he seems to have filled out more, but that might be because I have been able to get closer to him and he has chosen to get closer to me.

I could hear him calling his "kill-dee! kill-dee!" call as soon as I got out of the car at Lake Murray in La Mesa and found him at what I now know as as usual part of his territory. At the time I first saw him, he was having an "argument" with another male and a female at that time. Since then, I have found that the male and female had moved to an area of the lake that is mostly restricted to the public. That is where they are most likely to have chicks which both makes me happy and sad. Happy that the chicks will probably be safer there than a place where the public is allowed, sad that I won't be able to see them.

The next time I saw Little Male was on the opposite side of the lake. It was a quieter day with less people and he was feeding along the shore. He doesn't like it when I would try to follow him. But, when I do, he does something that I found to be pretty much characteristic of him only and not other killdeers that I have observed so far at the lake. The first thing he does is lay down flat, like a chick does when it's very young, and trill, sometimes very slowly. Then, he will calm down and begin feeding again. If you try to follow him, he will trill loudly and then lie down again and hide. If I am feeling really patient, I will find a place to sit and observe him. He will get up, continue walking away, look at me a few times, and then start to feed again. He will sometimes come back my way and forage within feet of me. If I then get up and move slightly toward him, he will ignore me unless I try to point a camera at him.

Note: I purposely didn't close-crop these photos so that you can see how much I need to get that zoom lens.

Little Male says "Lady, when are you gonna get that zoom lens!"

Other killdeers on the lake, like a second male that I call "Second Male" will let me get closer without getting upset (maybe a little trill), but will just fly away to the other end of his territory if he is too annoyed with me or I follow him too much. The same goes with the other killdeer on the lake.

Second Male says, "What is this crazy lady doing trying to get close to me and not the other birds?"

I really like the "Little Male" and "Second Male", but can't get a good picture of them without spooking them right now. I think I actually look like I'm harassing the poor birds to other observers when I'm at the lake and that's the last thing I ever want to do as I love these birds so much. I may have to find a way to get those long lenses.

What's funny is that while I am chasing around these birds, other birds at the lake sneak right up to me with no problem.

**I am sexing these killdeers, right now, by behavior, though I am learning to sex them more by sight, which is very hard for these birds**

Why I love Killdeer

I've been watching Molly, the world famous barn owl, on Ustream ever since about a week before the famous Max owlet was born. In the background sounds, I could hear the killdeer and they sounded pretty annoying, constantly calling all day for hours and hours. Then, I remembered an experience I had when I saw the cutest little fluff balls run out in front of me on the beach at Imperial Beach over twenty five years ago. They were just about the cutest things I've ever laid my eyes on. Mom seemed panicked, though and acted like she had a broken wing. I didn't mean to almost step on them, I didn't see them when I went to go swim in the water. I found out later that they were killdeer.

Killdeer chick photo courtesy of the NPS

I began to browse around and found other people's photos and videos of their own experiences with these birds and their incredible cute killdeer chicks and I became more and more attached. Recently, I have gotten myself a stuffed killdeer bird with the social call recording on it so that I can hear their sound any time I want. You see, I live in an apartment in a very busy part of San Diego, not really killdeer friendly.

My stuffed killdeer with sound

Just very recently, I got a pair of binoculars so that I could view their natural behavior without bothering them. Killdeer, when they're not on the nest, don't like people getting too close or following them around. They are very nervous and shy. If you are patient and sit quietly, they may come back your way and check you out, but not at as close a range as other birds I encounter. They are not known to be naturally curious and their only concern about you is whether you are going to eat them or not.

When they are on a nest or with chicks, they will allow you to get much closer to them, and, of course, the newly hatched chicks can't run very fast at first. That is usually why you see a lot of photos of frozen-still chicks, eggs, and birds doing the broken-wing act of which these birds are famous for.

Killdeer doing a broken wing act.
Photo Courtesy of Audrey and Wikipedia Commons

I don't have a zoom lens, yet, so I still have to get closer to the birds than they are comfortable to even get a half-visible photo of them. I plan to get some equipment very soon, but funds are short right now.

So, for future posts in this blog, there may be better pictures to go with my personal stories.

I would like to suggest, however, that if I start blogging about killdeer nests or chicks and someone recognizes the where exact location of the nest via my photos (I will give a general location, but try not to be exact), please try to keep it to yourself. If you must see this nest, be respectful of the birds, visit quickly, take your photo, and back off. I worry about these birds' chicks all the time.