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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

George is heard, but not seen. Also, ballfield killdeer update

Male and female at the ballfield. The male had his eye on me the whole time.

I didn't see George or Martha again, but I heard George make a call when some people walked over near a dock. When I looked there, I saw no signs of any killdeer at all. But, I know that George is still around and I often hear him but don't see him. It's possible that he doesn't like the new water level as it brings him too close to where people walk.

4th of July chicks should be flying now

All 4th of July chicks who have made it this far should be flying by now, but they won't be very good at it for another couple of weeks and will probably rely on running and hiding still. They will be about 1/2 the size of their parents, but fully feathered. Flying will give them a new advantage against predators even though they won't have the ability or stamina to fly very far or high. They should be full-sized by 8 weeks old, or in about another month.

In the M6 area, all is quiet. I don't even see people doing construction there. I'm sure Digger and Shy are just fine and practicing their flying. If the road opens, soon, I will go check on them.

Junior should be a dad now

Junior (aka Little Male), son of George (M2) should now have a family as it's been more than 28 days since he mated with the smooth-band female. I haven't found him or his family. I can't search everywhere, though, and wish him and his family good luck. Junior has always been more high strung than any other killdeer and never had a lot of tolerance for me, so it's good that he will be raising his chicks without having to worry. Perhaps I will see his next family and he will have become calmer.

Killdeer at the ballfield

I think I spotted Mary over in the ballpark again. There were 9 killdeer there, 8 were the ones from that area and the 9th was Mary, all by herself. The other killdeer seem to like her, but she won't be able to get a mate unless an unbonded male takes her in. One male seemed to be following her around a bit, but later on, she was still alone. Mary is also a very large female, it looks like. Also at the ballfield, it appears that there were some young killdeer, perhaps about six to eight weeks old.

Mary eating with the doves. She likes seeds more than other killdeer do.

Mary with another female

Also seen at the ballpark was Digger and Shy's mom. I think she might either have new eggs or is hiding chick #3 over in the "disputed area" nearby. Bo was also at the ballfield as well as the bow-tie male and possibly the old male killdeer, M4.

The killdeer at the ballpark like to keep me at a distance, so it's hard to get really nice photos. It's so funny. I walk into the ballfield and the killdeer all watch me, begin to due hiccups and move away, but they stay quiet. As I turn to go away, they all start doing peeps, or mild alarm calls. Very funny. No problem going towards them, but I guess they had to say something to me as I leave.

I found this one funny photo of this killdeer. She was grooming herself and then got her foot stuck over her wing, presumably as she was scratching her head. She did this a couple of times, but she's OK, she got the foot out.

Grooming mishap! She was alright and got her leg in the right place after the photo was taken

Also seen this day:

A juvenile green heron, possibly newly fledged. I've seen a parent there before, but never knew about the babies. He caught a fish while I was watching.

A snowy egret showing off his yellow feet

A juvenile pied-bill grebe. He was sleeping on the shore and I thought he was a sick duck, so I came closer to check him, but he went into the water and went to sleep there. I never thought these grebes ever got out of the water. He still has some stripes on his head.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Volunteers needed for River Park Nest Box Program.

I thought I should pass this along as this organization needs help restoring native birds and wildlife to the riparian habitat around the Lakeside portion of the San Diego river.

Here is their description of the program and the opportunity:

The purpose of the volunteer Nest Box Program is to attract birds that once lived along the San Diego River in Lakeside back to this restored habitat. This segment of the San Diego River had long been the focus of extensive sand mining operations and heavy industry. Such industrial operations are coming to an end and a new phase of the river’s life is at hand; one in which nature and humanity work in harmony! Lakeside’s River Park Conservancy purchased this property in 2003 and has been busy restoring it by removing invasive species and planting California native species that will attract birds and wildlife back to the river. These critters will use this new habitat to build their homes, find food and breed in. Volunteers who are accepted into the Nest Box Program will learn about these animals and encourage their introduction back by building, installing, monitoring and maintaining nest boxes.

For more information, please contact the conservancy using the information below:

Membership & Volunteer Manager
Lakeside's River Park Conservancy

Early photo of "Junior" (Little Male)

Since it's been a long time since I first started observing the killdeer at Lake Murray and Padre Point, I started looking back at the first photos I took way back in April of the "Little Male" who was chasing around an invading couple on Padre Point. Well, from reviewing the photos, the "invading couple" is now determined to be George and Martha, possibly his parents. Mary may be either Junior's sister or a second mate to George. She visits periodically and neither George or Junior have ever shown any interest in mating with her even though Junior was available as a mate and ended up choosing another female.

So, here's an early photo of "Junior" or the "Little Male" taken with my 50mm at an estimated six to seven weeks of age. It's small because I was using a wide angle and had to crop it down.

Even at an early age, Junior (Little Male) engaged in territorial defense

Junior has been "missing" since July 4th after mating and leaving. His chicks are due to hatch next week.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Where's George? Also, a Say's Phoebe

George was not at Alvarado Bay or the other side of the parking lot at Lake Murray today to sing to me. He was also not at Padre Point or anywhere else that I could see on the lake. And, since Junior is no longer living in that area, there was no killdeer to sing to me as I arrived. I am hoping that George is in his secret hiding spot giving his 23 day old chick flying lessons (if they're still alive) in order to bring them back to his favorite eating spot. Martha was also gone, but she may be attending a new nest somewhere.

I saw a cute little Say's phoebe near the parking lot today. Actually, there were two over there fighting. I think I saw them later across the lake at the Osprey nest. Later, along with a kingbird, they chased a Cooper's hawk away.

Little Say's Phoebe

At the ballpark, there were eight killdeer playing killdeer games. Males rushed and flashed tails while females got out of the way. When I left and came back, a bunch of starlings were in the field and some were bullying the killdeer around, running at them and pecking them. I think one or two killdeer charged back, but one was chased around the field for several minutes. One of the starlings was able to catch up to the killdeer and bonk it on the head. Then, several other starlings joined in the chase and the killdeer started to get scared and started screaming. Eventually, it all stopped and the starlings got nervous and flew away. I didn't see any killdeer who were severely hurt and they all seemed to go back to their games after the starlings left. I think the starlings were being like crows and just wanted a diversion for the moment. I don't know what they would do to a killdeer if the killdeer couldn't keep ahead of them.

Two females at the ballpark watching their males challenge each other

I thought I saw a killdeer with George's band markings, but it turned out to be a female. I saw the bow-tie male killdeer and a male with an almost gap in his breast ring. I think Mary might have been there, too, as well as Grandpa (M4) and a couple of pale-winged killdeer from the M8 area.

It is very quiet over on Digger's side of the lake where it is closed off. There doesn't seem to be anything going on there. I hear no killdeer sounds at all. But, there were no humans or anything else to get them excited when I visited, so they might still be there doing OK. Digger and her sister (I am going to call her Shy if I ever see her again) might start flying any day now.

Also seen at the lake:

Mallards and wood ducks.

I think this is either an immature female Bullock's oriole or an immature female western tanager, but I'm not sure.

I'm not sure what these are, but I see them all the time. They're about the size of a cactus wren, but have cone bills and are very sparrow-like otherwise. They're also not that dark or black as seen in this photo, either. They could be immature or female red-winged blackbirds.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

George is calmer, also more wood ducks

George on Patrol

George the killdeer seems to have calmed down a bit, especially when I walk away from an area where his chicks could be hiding or where Martha may have a nest (Martha and Mary weren't seen). It could also be because his chicks are three weeks old today. They should be fully feathered and regulating their own temperature. They should also be able to run very fast and should be safe from predators if they're still alive. I saw no sign of any new nest anywhere, but I never saw the old one to begin with, so that doesn't mean that there isn't any new nest.

George was probably calmer in the earlier part of the morning because he had just finished visiting his mate/chicks. When I passed through a couple of hours later, he was more nervous, probably not having seen them for a while and not knowing exactly where they are. But, overall, he was calmer than he has been for the last few weeks.

Across the lake, I can hear no signs of Digger and her dad anywhere in the closed off area where I can't go. I don't know if they're still there. It's possible that with no people coming over there that Dad has calmed down and is less worried about humans across the lake where I was. I *thought* I head a little peep from over there in response to several killdeer calling on my side of the lake. Perhaps it was Digger wanting to join in all the fun, but can't because she doesn't fly, yet. She should begin practicing her flying later this week. However, she won't be able to fly across the bays of the lake for a few more weeks after initially flying. So, unless they open up that part of the road, I still won't see her for a while.

A white heron landed over where I last saw that family and was seen running really fast along the shoreline, but he may have been trying to escape the ducks and coots who might have given him the territorial shove. It's unlikely that he caught Digger or her sister as they would be too fast for him and disappear under the brush before he could even think about catching them..

I saw some more wood ducks, but, unfortunately, my camera settings were accidentally set wrong and most of the photos came out fuzzy. I did salvage a few, even though fuzzy, so that their colors could be seen. Sorry for the blurriness.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Martha and George may be "starting over"

George and Martha appear to be mating again

It appears that Martha and George are in breeding mode again. This may indicate that Tiny, Firecracker and Killer are no longer around. Martha will probably lay her new clutch of eggs on Sunday and those three chicks will only be three weeks old. They still need their parents as they can't fly and must rely on their cues to hide. I am particularly sad because I saved Tiny from being eaten from ants or getting sick from ant bites only to have him die later that night, probably. But, there's still hope. 18-19 day old killdeer chicks are very independent and don't always need their parents around all the time.

On the plus side, the lake level is only a few feet from normal. That means that the chicks will have less open area to travel on to get to food and water. They can hide much easier and it's possible that I may never see the new chicks or be able to follow or find them as I used to. And, it will be much harder for them to travel all the way over to where I saw the last brood, especially for very young chicks. They will more likely stay on Padre Point until they can fly or until they're at least a few weeks old. The open pipe to the area where I last saw them, possibly making it easy for a predator to prowl that area, is also now filled with water. But, I am hoping that the parents won't make the mistake of bringing their chicks through there again. If I see the new brood heading over there, I will catch and take them to wildlife rescue, or return them back to Padre Point.

Here's to hoping that those chicks are OK and will be seen in a couple of weeks. If not, those three will always be in my heart.

Across the lake, the M6 dad did not react when I walked over on other side of Del Cerro Bay. This may be due to the refilling of the lake and an expanded distance. I did see a killdeer fly from over there to my side of the lake and land nearby. I think it might be the mom and she might have a new nest where I was standing in the brush. However, when one of the workers near the M6 nesting area went back to his truck, parked nearby, I thought I heard a call coming from an area where the dad couldn't see me. So, he may be there protecting his little girl(s). It was hard to tell because of all the ducks quacking around me, ha ha.

So far, I don't see anything that the workers over there are doing that would harm the family. Also, the area is closed to fishermen and dog-walkers and the "coyote gate" is closed making it a little harder for coyotes to hunt by the lake shore (of course coyotes are good diggers and fence jumpers, but this will make hunting the chicks a little harder and possibly less "worth it").

I hope they open that area in the next week or two as I want to get a photo of Digger's breast band so that I can identify her later on when she leaves the area. At 18-19 days old, she is likely molting and beginning to show some adult feathers. In about another week, she should be fully feathered with her adult feathers and may even be starting to fly. She should definitely be flying in about 10 days and will be about the size of a sanderling, or about 1/2 to 2/3 the size of her dad. If everything is safe where the killdeer family is at, she and her sister (if still around) may hang around that area for another month as she won't be full-size until at least that time.

Also seen today at the lake were three wood ducks. Here's a photo of two of them.

Some wood ducks I saw today

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Sounds" like the M6 chicks are doing OK and "chick sounds" in George's territory?

Today, the road was closed where the M6 dad and his chicks were because they were cutting down trees in that area. I went over to Del Cerro Bay and stood where the dad, M6, would see me across on the other side of the water. Immediately, he began making "chick round-up" calls (short, sharp calls for communicating with family members). I thought I heard the response from one of his chicks from that far away, too. They were in the same place where I saw them on Sunday, out of the way of the workers so far.

In the baseball fields, three couples of killdeer along with a lot of other birds were feeding. A Cooper's hawk tried to catch one of them, but they all flew off. I don't know if the hawk was aiming for the killdeer (who first sounded the alarm) or for the fifty or sixty other birds using that field. She missed, by the way, and ended up with nothing and in a tree, possibly with a male. I don't know if the killdeer came back later or if anything happened to them after that. Knowing how cautious killdeer are, they probably didn't return to the area until they were sure she was gone. But, two of them are very possessive over that field and may have returned early.

When I first came across George in the morning, he began making alarm calls. He continued as long as he could see me. When I disappeared for a second, he stopped, but when he saw me again, he continued. When I arrived at Padre Bay, where he had the chicks, he began calling again. I looked over to his side of the lake and saw two other killdeer attacking each other, but George was not involved and continued doing alarm calls. I found out later that it was Martha and Mary who were fighting. I found them later on the other side of the parking lot near the entrance to the lake. George began calling and I thought I heard a chick responding from some brush, but my directional hearing is not that good and it could have been either Martha or Mary responding from close by. I saw no visual sign of a chick in that area and all three killdeer became extremely quiet. I didn't want to disturb them as they often got quiet when a hawk was around and maybe there was a hawk in their area, too.

Martha on the left, Mary on the right

Martha and Mary seem to be tolerating each other whenever I observe them, but Martha seemed really tense. The attack I saw earlier was near where I last saw the chicks. There has to be chicks over there as I don't think Martha or George would be so adamant to protect their turf after possibly loosing them over a week ago. George still calls if he sees me across any bay or water, but doesn't react as if a chick is nearby like the M6 male does. George didn't start doing this until last Saturday when the chicks disappeared. I don't think killdeers "hold on" to the hope that a missing chick will show up again. So, I think there has to be some chicks somewhere, possibly hiding. Hopefully, they are alright without their mom and dad shadowing them.

The lake water level is rising back to normal levels. This means that it will be very hard for me to observe any new chicks on Padre Point as many of the areas where I observed them before are not easily accessible because the water comes right up to the bushes. But, this is a good thing for the killdeer as it means safer access to food for the chicks as they will have cover close by.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Birds!!!!!

A bunch of finches sitting on the TV antenna. Most are house finches some are lesser goldfinches. I used a little fill-flash to bring out the colors as they were originally in silhouette.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Update on "Digger" the killdeer chick

Today was the last day I would have been able to visit "Digger" and her dad before they closed it for repairs on the drainage ditch. She is two weeks old today give a day or so. I found the dad down by the benches near where the chicks first hatched. I heard the sounds of chicks peeping in possibly two directions, but definitely one. "Digger" was seen quite a bit today. Not only is she a very effective hider, but now she can run pretty good, too. She always kept one step ahead of me as I searched. Whenever I would go to look for her in a place where I saw her hide, she would run off to another place. By the time I got to the first place, she was far away from there. Since she has the habit of burying herself, I do not pursue her beyond a visual search. I would rather she not get hurt by my searching than to accidentally step on her or bury her even more.

M6 Dad trying to get me to look at him so that his daughter can move to another area

I couldn't get a photo of her because every time I saw her, she was obstructed by branches. But, she's still pretty tiny and covered by fuzz. I would say she's about 1/3 the size of her dad if at that. But, she was very mobile and could keep up with dad running. She also seemed more confident. I believe unless something strange happens, she will most likely make it another two weeks until she can fly. I also think she will be fine during the construction as she and her dad will most likely move reasonably quickly out of the way as long as nothing sudden happens or someone doesn't run over or throw things over the brush the first minute construction starts.

No sign of mom in the area. Am hoping she is in another area with any of the other missing chicks.

Also seen in the area was the juvenile blue heron. I wanted to "move him along" out of the area because of the chick(s). He was paying way too much attention to dad who ran by him chirping, paying no attention to the big bird. The heron watched and moved towards him. Generally, the herons in this area eat only fish, but I could see him snagging a bird (especially a small one) if the opportunity arose. I "mosied" him along twice, but on the second time noticed the 12 inch long fishing line stuck to him. He seems fine and it does not seem to be hindering him, but I am concerned about it. I would hate to see anything happen to that bird's leg considering how he just reached adulthood and just started out on his own. He may manage to get it off by himself as it seems to be only loosely coiled around his leg. But, it could get snagged on some reeds.

I also saw another round of coot chicks, too. Didn't think I would see any more of those this year.

Coot and chick

Saturday, July 17, 2010

M6 chicks still around, hope for George and Martha's chicks

The chicks are 2 weeks old:

The "M6" chicks appear to be still alive and doing well even though I can't physically find them. But, dad is still very protective of the area and got upset when I stood near a bunch of bushes. He even did a trill and a partial broken wing act. I thought I also saw another adult female in the area, but she flew off to the other point to the east to be with another male. I think I heard at least one, possibly two chicks calling back to dad, but at nearly two weeks, they would not be as desperate for dad's attention as they were before. So, they may have chosen to stay quiet.

I did not want to search too much in the brush as I know that "Digger" likes to bury herself. I chose to listen for her response instead. Dad was fixated on keeping watch over that area even time I went away.

When I went over to the other point (across a small bay from where the Dad was) the Dad continued to do calls each time he saw me walking near the water while I was over there even though I was, supposedly, not a threat to his chicks. Or, was I? I could hear a definite chick response while I was over there. I doubt that a chick could call that loudly from across the little bay, but it's possible. Or, perhaps one of the chicks decided to follow mom to that area and is hiding nearby. That could be why dad was giving out warning calls. Male killdeer will probably not cross over to another male's territory even to "save" his own chicks. Hence, the "warning" calls.

Hope for Tiny, Killer and Firecracker, George and Martha's "Lost" Chicks

The M6 Dad's behavior was similar to George's, (M2) even though it is thought that George and Martha (F3) lost their chicks over a week ago. George and Martha were last both seen together at least twice without a chick in sight or sound, very usual for week old chicks. It is thought that their chicks were lost. However, after a few days of relative quietness and calm, George is acting very, very protective. Not quite as protective as the M6 Dad, but more nervous and protective than usual. He continues to give warning calls long after I walk away from him and am out of his sight. This is unusual as he usually quiets down after I've walked far enough away from him or show no interest. It doesn't matter when or where George sees me, but if he sees me, he always gives the alarm call. He could be on either side of the parking area or across the bay.

George got really upset when I headed toward a rocky jetty toward a fenced area and followed me there. He didn't fly at me or trill, but his calls got more upset and desperate. I wonder if Martha maybe went with the chicks over to that area past the fence where people don't usually go. Hopefully, if that's the case, Martha will bring the chicks back when they can fly and I can see how many survived.

Martha's plan to "move" the chicks may have been precipitated by the arrival of George's old mate (and possible mother to "Junior" (aka Little Male)) Mary. Mary arrived the day before the chicks "disappeared" and was seen with George and Martha two days later in that area. I haven't seen Martha since. Perhaps George "cheated" with his former mate and perhaps Martha "left with the kids". Just like M6's mate may have "left" the Dad to be with another male and Dad stayed behind with the kids.

Did the re-arrival of "Mary" cause "Martha" to leave "George" and take the chicks?

You just never know with killdeer. And, since George is an experienced Dad, it's possible that he outsmarted me by moving the babies out of my reach. Here's to happy hope for a healthy Tiny, Killer and Firecracker, the three chicks of Martha and George.

Hoping to see them again in two to three weeks

Friday, July 16, 2010

Naming the killdeer

Someone pointed out to me that there may be confusion as to what the numbers mean such as M6, M2, etc. I have a hard time picking out names and killdeer often come and go, so I didn't name those males. Killdeer are also hard to distinguish in just a glance and often I have to use binoculars or photos to tell them apart. It doesn't make it easier that they often turn their backs to me. Also, I didn't want to name them because when you name an animal, it becomes more personal and I didn't want to get too attached.

Anyway, I am going to be assigning names to some of the more commonly observed killdeer that I write about. I will also be changing the "territory map" to reflect current observations that I've seen recently, as killdeer are starting to breed in this area.

Here are some names I've picked out:

  • M1= He will still be called "Little Male" in my posts, but also can be called "Junior".
  • M2="George"
  • F3= "Martha"
  • M2's second mate more recently observed: "Mary"
  • One of M6's chicks is named "Digger", but could be changed later
  • M4= "Grandpa" or "Old Male"
  • M4's most recent mate: "Bo"
I haven't figured out what to name the M6 male, yet or the other males I've seen.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

M6 chick update

I went to check the M6 area one more time because it will closed for construction starting next Monday. I wanted to make sure there were no longer any chicks there or if any of the chicks would be in danger.

I noticed the male seemed to be protecting the area that was pointed out to me yesterday as the place where the nest originally was. So, I started there. I found the male and at least one other killdeer in that area. A third killdeer flew by and the second killdeer went off into the air and did evasive maneuvers while being chased by the third one. Both of those killdeer did not return, but Dad killdeer was still there.

I walked around the area and noticed he got very excited when I walked around some of the bushes. I thought that he might have already started a new nest, but saw none. Then, I sat down and waited. Soon, I hear the DEFINITE sound of a baby killdeer calling back, possibly two, though the other sounded much weaker. I went to the place where I thought I heard the sound and looked around, being careful where I stepped. I looked around this one big bush, but was afraid to step in any further because I knew one of the chicks like to dig under the leaves and was afraid of stepping on her. So, I went back and sat down.

I waited a while and listened to Dad call and for a long time, I didn't hear a response. I was worried that I had stepped on her. I moved further away and, finally, she started calling again. He continued to call and sometimes I would hear a response, sometimes I wouldn't. Dad was definitely responding to the call and sat down nearby, possibly offering a spot under his wing for his daughter(s). But, it was hot, so she (they) didn't come out of her (their) hiding places. Sometimes, the little chick will call back for several seconds.

Dad responds to his chick(s) calling him

Dad sat a little bit away and did very weak "broken wing acts", but not with a lot of enthusiasm. Then, he went back to the area where I heard the chick call. I left after that and it all got quiet.

I think that the little chick that likes to bury herself has survived and possibly her sister may have, too. I don't think there are three anymore, but I am sure there's one. I may name her Digger even though I really don't like that name too much, but it's the only one I can think of right now. I thought about naming her Firecracker, but that was the name I was going to give to the other chick across the lake.

Is Digger a good name for this 11-12 day old chick?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

M2 acting weird, M6 chicks and Mom missing, and a Quiet Female

M2 is acting "weird"

It was a very warm morning this morning. When I arrived at the lake, I saw no sign of killdeers at the entrance. I walked around the north side of the parking lot and found M2 near the east end. He immediately began making alarm calls. I walked away, but he continued to call even when I was very far away. In fact, he didn't stop calling until I was out of sight.

When I came to "Padre Point" where M2 and F3 like to nest, he began to call again--from across the lake. His calls became more excited when I headed to the area where the chicks liked to hide. However, I did not see any other killdeer or eggs. M2 continued to call even after I walked out of the area until I was out of sight.

When I came back a couple of hours later and walked across the shore in that area, he began to call again across the lake. When I went through the brush to the "display area" (this is where M2 likes to do distraction displays when his chicks were hiding), M2 got really upset and flew over and began to call me to chase him through the display area. He continued to make alarm calls until I was well out of the area and began to make them again when I showed up on the other side of the lake on the beach. I could hear him make calls for his mate and after making those, he calmed down and only made a few alarm calls calming down to none.

Does this mean that they've already started to lay a new nest? I see no signs of his females, but females can be very quiet while nesting if they need to. I never found the first nest before. Also, Little Male, their son, was residing in that north side beach in the past, so that may have had an effect on their behavior regarding their nests before. Little Male is now somewhere else with his own nest, so M2 is free to call and roam the area.

M2 has always been a very friendly male letting me get very close to him and rarely ever made alarm calls if I kept my distance. This is a total change in behavior. It could be that he is especially nervous about his new nest and wants to make sure it's completely safe. I am going to try to keep more of a distance this time with him and his chicks, should I be privileged to know them and see them. I may even rent a better lens so that I can get photos of the chicks running around and not crouching on the ground.

M6 chicks and Mom missing

I needed to check on the status of the M6 chicks because more construction on the lake is being planned right in their exact area. When I first arrived, I found no killdeer. Walking along the beach, I did find the dad killdeer in a very hard to reach area where I had first found the chicks long ago. Dad was very excited to see me there, but there was no sign of Mom or the chicks. Dad killdeer followed me around as I searched and seemed to get very excited when I looked into the reeds, but I heard no response to his calls. He was acting very much like F3 did the first morning her chicks were missing--it was like he was sure they were there, but he didn't know where.

When I left the area, he began calling for his mate and chicks and did not stop. I did notice a crow or hawk under a shade tree, but it didn't not excite him. It was very sad as he never got an answer to his calls.

Whatever happened to them happened last night as Dad doesn't seem to be convinced that they're gone. What's strange is that the mom is nowhere to be seen. I thought, perhaps, she just left early after the chicks disappearance, or that Dad was hanging on longer than she did, or she became a victim of whatever got the chicks.

M6 Mom killdeer and chicks are missing

But, I remember back to other killdeer stories where a family was attacked while brooding the chicks at night and one parent and the remaining chicks disappear. It's entirely possible that the mom ran away with the chicks to another location and that the dad, in the excitement, didn't know which way they went. She may be in another male's territory and the Dad may not want to follow her. Or, one or two of the chicks were caught by something and Mom went with the other ones to a safer area and Dad was sticking behind "just in case" the missing chicks were only hiding nearby.

With killdeer, sometimes you just don't know in regards to their chicks. So, until Dad makes a new nest (or behaves like he's going to), I'm going to assume those chicks are alive with mom and maybe I'll see them again when they're bigger. I may check on them tomorrow to see if Dad's behavior changes to being a non-parent.

A Quiet Female

It's highly possible that there is a nest in the M8 area. I heard killdeer chirps and calls that sounded like a killdeer calling their mate in that area. When I went to check, I didn't see or hear anything. When I passed through that area later, I decided to check there and didn't hear anything, but saw a female foraging in part of that area. She flew away and didn't make a sound. I tried, twice, to take her photo, but she flew away across the lake before I could do so. She made no sounds at all. Very strange.

She looked a little bit like the female that was in the M2 territory earlier, not quite a smooth band, but almost a V shape with a little black rectangle underneath.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Fish Food Ducklings Slide Show!

Here's a slideshow of the "Fish Food" ducklings, three of which made it to their 5th week! Enjoy!

Again, if you have trouble viewing this, you can click HERE.

I think I know where Little Male went

I have an idea of where "Little Male" (M1) went. When I was looking for the killdeer chicks in this one area and came up a hill, I heard a killdeer chirp from an area on the other side of the road. But, I did not hear it again. When I was walking in that area a couple of times, I also heard a loud chirp from that area, but, again, did not hear it again. Perhaps his nest is up there. Killdeer don't always scream or make noise when they're on their nest, especially if they're used to humans. I just hope that they move their chicks safely to water without getting hurt/killed.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dear killdeer chicks in killdeer heaven:

**update** This was written when I thought that George's chicks were dead, but it turned out they weren't. However, I thought I would keep this on my blog for anyone else dealing with the sadness and disappointment of losing killdeer chicks they've been enjoying.

Dear Killdeer Chicks in Killdeer Heaven:

I'm sorry that your parents led you to an area where you were in danger. I was really worried about you that day and tried to think of a way to help. But, I trusted your parents to do what's best for you. Afterall, they're raised babies before and I felt that they knew what to do. I was going to check on you the night before you died just to make sure you were OK because I know there were a lot of people around and I didn't want any harm to come to you because of us humans. But, I figured that your parents would take good care of you, so I decided not to. Afterall, I saw you every morning and made you hide all the time. I thought you should have time away from me in peace.

I wish I did come to see you so I could see you one more time. I don't know if it would have helped you live one more day or not. I don't know what got you and if me checking on you would have kept it away or made it come closer. Or, if my presence there would have made your parents think twice about bringing you there and take you back to a safer area. I don't know what made your parents leave that area where you were hatched. I did notice the grackles eying you over there, but you could have hidden in the area with the reeds and would have been fine.

I will do everything I can to make sure your new brothers and sisters will not fall into the same fate. Hopefully, I will be able to see each one every day in case I need to move them away from that bad area, if possible, or call someone to help you. I'm hoping that your parents will not make the same mistake twice. I don't want to get involved in the killdeer life, just observe and admire. Your kind has their own life with their own problems and I need to stay out of it. I only want to help if there's a human causing a problem with killdeer or something a human did cause you to do something harmful to yourselves (such as the lake water being lowered).

Hopefully you are at peace and did not suffer in your final moments. I enjoyed your week of life and hope you did, too. I miss you very much.

Your human friend,


M2 and F3 now acting like non-parents, update on M6 chicks

One of the M6 chicks running around in the brush

M2 and F3 are back to their ways before the chicks hatched. I went to their nesting area and the couple was still together along with the second female. They acted like the air had been popped out of their balloon. They hardly made any cries and the ones they did mostly came from M2 and were weak and sounded sad. They did get a little upset when I walked around the bushes in the area possibly where the nest used to be, but I didn't have to walk far before they quieted down. They didn't follow me around anywhere and just seemed lethargic.

Maybe I'm just projecting my feelings on them because I feel awfully sad when I think about those cute little chicks having something painful happen to them. I think the parents made that fatal mistake to take them over to the area with the grackles and crows too soon. I can't believe all three disappeared so quickly. I feel that the low lake level made it easy to take the chicks to this area and it may or may not have happened if they weren't able to get easily over to that side of the lake.

But. . . you never know about killdeer, they always surprise you. It's entirely possible that they are being hidden, still and are safe, but I doubt it.

For comparison, I went over to the M6 area and found that they had two, possibly three chicks still around. I definitely saw two large chicks with long tails running around. I tried to get a photo of them running, but there was constant blockage with plants, etc. I did get two good photos of them trying to hide. I just hope I didn't step on the third one to get to one of these two. I thought I heard the third one calling later on, but I never saw it. I even came back later to make sure I didn't disrupt the family, stood far away and watched with binoculars. I saw two very healthy, cute, active female chicks running out to the water and then back to dad, who was guarding them. They were huge, too! Probably about 1/4 the size of an adult and very well fed. All is well over there.

M6 Dad, beautiful

Little female chick, hiding

2nd female chick, hiding

Another view of her

A passerby told me that the eggs were laid under a tree in that area and they probably hatched around July 4th, too. There were four eggs to begin with, I definitely heard three chicks the last time I saw them, and there are definitely two there now. Coyotes live in the area as well as some grackles and crows, too. But, there is a lot of cover hiding them. If all goes well, they should be flying in approximately three weeks.

I went back to M2 and F3's nesting area again a couple of hours later and there were no killdeer there. Back in M2's feeding area, he was wrestling with three other male killdeers. I recognized at least one to be the roaming males I see around. There was also a little sanderling running around and I mistook it to be the female killdeer chick at first as it's not that much bigger than her, but, of course, it wasn't.

The killdeer males and the sanderling

The killdeer were acting really strange towards the sanderling. I heard angry trills almost like a parent protecting a chick, or it could be a warning to the sanderling to stay away. All four crowded in on it and almost acted like they were going to attack it. But, eventually, all of them, including the sanderling flew off together each trying to attack each other. I am wondering if M2 thought the sanderling was a chick and was trying to protect it with his trills (or they just don't like sanderlings being around).

No sign of F3 or any other female around. I wonder how long it will take for her to lay a new nest.

Also seen nearby was the Cooper's hawk and a red-tailed hawk that managed to catch a squirrel.

Cooper's hawk

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chicks-Day 7, chicks missing, parents acting "weird"

When I first arrived, I saw both Mom and Dad killdeer in M2's territory without sight of any chicks. It's unusal to see them together with no chicks, but not unusual for Dad to be there all alone. I thought I heard at least one chick response to their calls, but it could have been a phoebe. Dad was acting like he was hiding something over by some rocks and brush, but I saw nothing over there. Meanwhile, Mom slipped over to where the chicks originally hatched and began doing alarm calls.

I went over to the "hatching" area and mom constantly did alarm calls and flew outside the area and across the road, doing alarm calls there. I walked about every inch of that area as well as every other area where I last saw the chicks and/or the parents in the past and saw no sign of the chicks. Mom pretty much followed me the whole time, doing alarm calls. I thought I heard at least one or two chicks respond, but it's hard to tell when there are phoebes in the area and they often sound like the chicks, too.

Mom did this all by herself, constantly making calls the whole time someone was in any of the areas where the chicks have been seen in the last week. Dad did not join in or come to her aid. She did not do any broken wings acts, trilling, or anything else that would indicate that I had ever gotten close to any of the chicks. I left without seeing any trace of them.

Since the chicks have reached a week old, an important milestone, this change in behavior may be completely normal. The chicks know the area and what to eat, they know what to do if a human approaches them on foot and they probably know that we can't find them in the brush. Also, they probably can better regulate their temperature, so they don't need mom or dad's warmth as much as they used to. So, now, they're allowed to roam around on their own with only one parent to watch out for possible predators.

However, they are still extremely small I am having trouble believing that their parents would just leave them like that. It's also possible that all three chicks have died/disappeared/were stolen by people and the parents have no idea where they are anymore. Or, it could be that the parents know exactly where each chick is and deliberately hide them in the morning and do alarm calls to warn the chicks to stay hidden. I've noticed that was how they protected their nest. They would do alarm calls every time a person got within sight of the nest and not exactly where the nest was at, but anywhere around there. If this is the case, it will be very difficult for me to find the chicks again until they're almost grown.

It would be hard to believe that all three chicks, making it through the toughest part of their life, would suddenly be eaten or disappear in less than 24 hours. I do think, though, that the parents will become less and less protective of the chicks during the next week and a half. By two and a half weeks, the chicks may be totally on their own with a parent keeping one eye out for them, but not constantly staying in the area.

If I don't see them again, at least I've enjoyed their first week of life, but I'm holding out hope that they will be seen again when they're older.

**Afternoon update**. I looked again in the late afternoon, a time I rarely ever visit this area. At first, no sign of any killdeer could be seen, though one was heard in the area where I last saw the chicks doing alarm calls when someone walked by. Later, I saw Dad killdeer fly over to his feeding area where he called a couple of times and became quiet. As I left, I thought I heard him doing alarm calls close to the fenced off area, but could not be sure.

There are two other killdeer couples over there as well. No sign of the chicks or Mom killdeer at all. It's entirely possible that they chicks were successfully brought over through the fenced off area and are living there totally out of reach. But, it's highly unlikely as there are still way too many predators in that area. Will try again tomorrow morning, early. I will also be attempting to check out the other killdeer on the other side of the lake, too. A new construction project is due to begin there and I want to make sure the baby killdeer will not have issues as they will be tearing out trees and other plants there.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chicks-Day 6, Parents leading them into danger?

The smallest male killdeer, getting bigger

Today, I decided just to go check on M2 and F3's chicks at the lake and that's all. I didn't have to go far, they were only about 1/8 of a mile from the parking lot. It appears that their parents (mostly the father, I'd bet) are leading them to the open area with about 100 crows, grackles and seagulls, not to mention a lot of ducks. The poor chicks won't have a chance.

Or, perhaps, they're not doing that just yet. It may be that the moved to this area because it has more food like tons and tons and ants and other insects. They may be teaching their babies more on what to eat. I think there isn't a whole lot to eat where they were before. Also, I suspect that another killdeer has laid eggs in the area where they were hatched--most likely their son, Little Male (whose name is going to be changed because there is another Little Male now). The female didn't look like his mate with the smooth band, but perhaps it's her with ruffed up feathers making her breast-band not so smooth.

I found the two near a drainage area where turtles and herons tend to congregate. They must have walked over there over the course of the day yesterday and last night. The parents actually went up to the bend of the road and almost got hit by three very fast cyclists. I sure hope that doesn't happen when I'm not around. A gnatcatcher father was found dead near there and I think it was hit by someone on a bike. But, after those bikes went by, they avoided going to that area on foot. And, by the time I left, they were no longer going up to the road at all.

It's possible that the dad might lead them across the road and parking lot to his favorite feeding area with lots of little sand flies all along the water. I hope he waits at least a week or two before he does that. It makes me nervous for them to be where they're at, especially with the near-miss with the bikes. But, I have to trust that they're experienced and successful parents and know what they're doing. However, I don't think there were as many grackles in the area last time as there are now.

Today, I only saw two chicks, the smallest and the big female, but a third one was definitely heard nearby. I went and photographed them and found that the small male (the two smallest are male) had run into an area and froze on a huge pile of ants. I could tell they were biting him all over, so I quickly left, but when I came back, he was still there. I picked him up (something I try never to do as I could easily harm the chick, get parasites/diseases and the fact that he doesn't want me to touch him, either) and moved him to another spot. But, he was listless when I put him down, and slowly crawled back to the pile of ants. I moved him again and he showed a little life kicking and protesting. I then left for a minute and came back to find that he had disappeared, so all is well. He was heard calling for his parents later on.

The tiny killdeer is getting bit by ants around his head and belly

The big female chick has doubled in size

I informed some people who were fishing along the lake and picking up trash about the little babies running around. I also picked up some trash and fishing line in the area. All the chicks had moved closer to the parking lot by the time I left. There's nothing I can really do if that's where they want to be. I can't move them if their parents want them to be there as they would lead them right back. So, I will just have to trust the parents' judgment and experience. Perhaps these chicks are tougher than they seem.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 5, chicks' voices getting louder

Possibly the last photo I will be able to take for a while. This is the largest chick, possibly a female

When I arrived, dad killdeer was over in his M2 area eating flies. He complained at me when I walked up to look at the ducks before he flew back over to where his family was at. I noticed that grackles were spending a lot of time in that area and I thought, at one time, that they were attacking a chick, but it might be one of the parents attacking the grackles. The grackles were not in the area when I visited a second time.

Today, I only managed to see the largest chick and photograph her. Yes, I said her as it appears that she might be going to be a female, but I probably won't be sure until later, if I see them again. I looked and looked and I thought I heard at least one, possibly two other chicks in the brush the first time I passed by.

A strange female killdeer stopped by and began feeding in the area. She looked like she was going to lay eggs any day now. The parents didn't react to her at first, but one of them did make an aggressive call towards her letting her know that she's not welcome. The strange female continued to feed and I assume she left afterward because she was not there a few hours later.

Strange female, possibly a grown chick or relative responding to the alarm calls the parents made.

The second time I passed by, about mid-day, I did not see any chicks at all, though the parents were obviously reacting to me being there and doing broken wing acts. I thought I heard at least one chick peeping, very loudly, from the brush but I couldn't be sure if it was a chick peeping loudly, or mom peeping softly.

I left the area and came back later and one person said that they heard a chick peeping very loudly in the brush, but when I went to check, I did not find it. But, as I went to leave, dad killdeer got very upset and flew ahead of me, probably thinking that I had taken a chick, so I must have been close.

On the way down the road, I passed by the more protected area and could see and hear dad calling for his chicks at that end. I, and the other person could hear two very loud, distinct responses from two chicks there. Mom was still over where the last chick was heard and continued to call. I assume she found him and directed him over to the protected area as she began to get quiet and made softer calls.

I hope all five got together. I'm sure they're all fine, killdeer are usually good at finding their babies and moving them away.

The chicks are getting better at responding by running and hiding more effectively. Instead of freezing where they're at when I approach, the scatter, usually two in one direction and one in another and hide near rocks or brush. It's nearly impossible for me to find them when they hide under brush. It's good that they're hiding behind rocks, even though they're still pretty accessible and able to be grabbed, but they are less likely to get stepped on by accident.

I am not going to be spending as much time looking for the chicks as I used to do. They hide very well now and as long as I know the parents are still protecting them, at least one is still alive. As they grow, their calls will be louder and, eventually, they will not rush to hide as quickly as they do right now. Or, they will be bigger and more noticeable when they do hide. So, mostly I will be listening for them and if I see them, that will be great, too.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Update on killdeer chicks day 3. Also, 3 new chicks found!

Tiny (the smallest one) waits for dad, who was standing nearby, to warm him up

Day three and I could only find two at a time each time I visited. They scatter, now, when I approach and hide behind rocks. They still freeze when I approach, which may be a problem, but at least they move out of the way when I initially walk up. And, they hide behind or near larger rocks, so, their chances of accidentally getting stepped on is lower.

In the morning, I found two on the shore and I thought I heard a third peeping in the bushes. I photographed the two which seem to be the biggest and the middle sized one.

The middle sized chick

The largest chick who likes to run a lot

Later, when I came back, they had moved into a brushy area and, again, I saw only two in the brush and maybe heard a third hiding in some nearby reeds. I think the two I saw were the biggest and the smallest.

The parents seem to be not as excited with me there, except when I start looking through the brush for their chicks. They also don't like me being on one stretch of land which is actually far, far away from where their chicks are at, but where I can still watch them. When I leave this area, they go out on the road and do broken wing acts. People don't really understand what's going on, though. Hopefully, they won't hurt anyone and I won't get blamed if they do.

Mom checks me out

When M2 was up on the road trying to distract me, he noticed the Cooper's hawk that was perching nearby. It's not unusual to see that hawk there and he was probably not watching the chicks, but M2 attacked him and chased him away.

Three new chicks discovered

Unfamiliar male killdeer in the M6 territory

I found three new chicks in an area where I rarely go, but I was only physically able to get a look at one chick. There were definitely two more as their peeping was really loud and distinct. I am unfamiliar with the parents. They were in a very brushy area that has a steep slope behind it. Except for coyotes in the area, they are very well protected from just about everything that could get them. I won't be attempting to observe them very often because by the time I find a way down to them, they have already scattered into the brush. It's very hard to observe them there because, even though I see the parents go into the brush to attend them, it's hard to actually see them. They appear to be a couple of days older than M1 and F3's chicks as the one I saw is almost double the size of theirs.

One of three chicks in this area hiding in some reeds

Next update is several days away during the weekend when people will be fishing on the shore and picking up trash there, too. I hope that their human evasion techniques will be better by then as they will be almost a week old and 25% grown. I am also hoping that no one hurts them or their parents because of the racket they raise or because they don't understand their behavior.

Hopefully, I will see all three together, but it's unlikely. And, hopefully, there will be happy updates to come.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Update on killdeer chicks, 1.5 days old now

Killdeer chicks this morning

I only saw three killdeer chicks, as I did yesterday, so there may have been only three to begin with. They were being brooded right at the edge of the water. Actually, I think what happened was that they went into freeze mode as I approached as they were already feeding there. The ducks were coming back to that area from being fed, so I thought I should leave the area so that the parents could move the chicks before they got stepped on by the ducks.

When I came back a couple of hours later, I saw a gull with a black, long-legged chick in it's bill, dunking it in the water. I couldn't get him to drop it and he flew off along with a heron and some other scavengers. The parents went crazy as I walked up to that area, so I thought, for sure, that the gulls had actually killed off all the chicks. Someone had also left bread in the area, attracting the scavengers. But, the adult killdeer seemed to enjoy it, too. I never knew that killdeer will eat bread.

Someone said, later, that she saw a small bird chasing attacking a gull somewhere else, so it's possible that it got another bird's chick, possibly one of a swallow or a phoebe. But, I was really upset and wanted to cry until I knew that at least two of the chicks were safe.

Gulls scavenging bread someone left, the brown one was the one with the chick

After sitting and listening, I was able to figure out where the chicks actually were, right where mom and dad left them, all three. When they stay hidden where mom and dad left them, they do not call out and stay really still and quiet. So, I found them, in the mud, behind some rocks. I went away and came back to check on them one more time before I left and found that they had already left and ran into the brush. Not worth looking for them in there as I knew they were OK and probably in separate areas. I heard them calling back to mom and dad's call. Very cute! Little peeps in response to the very noisy parents.

The three chicks were hiding 50 feet away. I moved a couple pebbles to get a clearer shot

Some fisherman walked by right where the chicks were laying in the mud a few minutes before. I was glad that they had moved as they might have gotten stepped on. Their instinct to stay immobile is a problem, especially when people are walking around the area. Hopefully, people will look and see where they're stepping and I won't be seeing a dead chick when I check on them tomorrow morning. A lot of the fisherman have been avoiding that area because of the screaming parents and that might be a good thing. But, some just ignore them.

More updates tomorrow, I hope some happy ones.

Monday, July 5, 2010

M1 and F3 chick slideshow

Here is a Youtube slideshow I did on the new killdeer family. I will try to keep up with them, but already they are very elusive. Their parents make a lot of noise and draw a lot of attention. I could get "yelled at" by someone because of it. But, enjoy the slideshow, part of the right side was cut off due to the formatting of this page. For the full video, please visit the link that says "here":


M1 and F3 had chicks!

Running Chick at Lake Murray

I went to check on the aftermath that the 4th of July fireworks had on the birds at the lake. When I arrived, I found M1, M2 and both their mates missing. M2 has been missing for over a week and I assumed he was flying back and forth from Mission Trails where his mate was. But, I was wrong.

I went and checked on what I assumed was Little Male's breeding area as I could hear two killdeer screaming at people fishing on the shore. When I arrived there, I saw an adult killdeer and a chick running under the brush. The adults appeared to be M2 and possibly his mate, F3 whom I had witness breeding June 7th. I immediately searched for the chick, much to the dismay of the two adults there, but found none. So, I waited and listened. Every time the two adults would call, I would hear responses from four different directions. With even more patience, I saw both parents brood three separate chicks. I managed to get up and find the chicks in the locations that the adults were seen brooding them.

The chicks stayed very, very still and I was able to move branches around them to get a photo of the three. They appeared to be about ten to twelve hours old, which meant that they were born right in the middle of the 4th of July fireworks celebrations. I got my photos and backed off, hoping to find the fourth. People were beginning to notice all the noise. I hope I wasn't waking people up in the houses, but I think they were too far away to notice. I decided to leave them alone and come back later.

An hour or so later, I came back and the parents were still protective, but I saw no chicks at all. I went around to the bushes to see how the parents would react, but they didn't seem really excited and I saw no chicks. Then, I saw a lone chick get up and run several yards away and disappear. I didn't find any other chicks. I walked over to where the chick used to be and the parents went nuts, but still no other chicks. When the adults made their calls, I also heard no responses, possibly because they weren't in need of being kept warm at that time.

I will be posting a movie-slideshow later on. I may not be able to see these chicks again because, at twelve or thirteen hours old, they were already very adept at hiding and running.

Update on other killdeers:

Little Male and his mate was nowhere to be seen. However, I thought I saw a third adult stop by the area where M2 and F3 were raising their chicks, but it didn't stay. It's possible that was Little Male and he may be nesting nearby.

M4 was not at his home, but several killdeers were heard across a small bay that could have been him and the two ballpark killdeers who were absent from the ballpark when I first arrived. The male arrived back on the field as I was leaving. M4's territory was ground zero for the fireworks yesterday. I expect that he will be back in his territory within the next few days. I also expect to see Little Male sometime in the next week either at a nest or on his beach.