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

Friday, August 20, 2010

Brothers and Sisters, Mom and Dad

All the chicks seem to be fine, that I could see. Sometimes, it's hard to tell who is who when I see them, even with binoculars. So, I take photos of them and look at their breast bands and faces more closely for the subtle differences. But, when I first shoot those photos, I don't always know who is actually there.

In the morning, it looks like I first stumbled upon Tiny and his mom all puffed up and possibly sleeping. They flew away to another part of the same area and when I went over to that side, I assumed they were the only two killdeer there.

Martha and Tiny

The problem is that on a brown surface, like a lakeshore, killdeer almost become invisible. Luckily, they often stand by the water which makes them more visible against it. So, I shot pictures of what I thought were the same two killdeer. But, when I went home and looked at the photos, I could tell it was not the same two. The second set of photos I took look like Martha and Killer. Tiny was probably standing nearby, but I didn't expect to look for three, so I didn't see him or where he went. Therefore, when I witnessed some affectionate chirps between one and another, I originally thought that the brothers were getting along great, but it was really one chick calling after his mom and wanting to be with her.

Martha and Killer

Another photo of Martha and Killer

Later, dad was on duty along with Firecracker and Killer. All three look very similar with their markings except that one was a female. But, sometimes with shadows and if the light is in a certain angle, a female can look like a male and vice-versa, especially when there is high contrast. Dad always stays close to Firecracker, but watches over both chicks.

George watching over his children


Firecracker hiding behind a rock (sorta)

Killer trying to hide behind a rock, also.

When dad gets too close to one of his male chicks, he gets called at almost with a "kill-dee" sound, but not quite. It's almost like a territorial yell, but the notes aren't right and it's stopped short. There's no clucking or threat calls at all and no one gets chased. It may be a special call pleading for the resident male to not hurt him as he's just a baby and he's not a threat. When both brothers are together, it sounds closer to a territorial call, but always stopped short like it's saying "hey, you get out! Oh, sorry dad, didn't recognize you.".

I assume that whomever is missing is with the other parent.

A hawk scare?

When I was almost about to leave, the two young killdeer started making alarm calls and flew off, going around in a circle around the bay. I also saw several other birds like pigeons and grackles fly away from that area really fast. A few seconds after the young killdeer started flying around, I believe dad started after them. Two of them landed near where they were before, but one landed near a grassy area and the geese. Then, after a minute or two, the geese started running to the water. I didn't see anything other than a vulture fly by and the killdeer rarely react to them. Once in a while they do, but rarely, even the babies.

After it was all over, a killdeer chirped for everyone to get together (I assumed it was George calling for Firecracker, whom I think was the one who landed far away). I didn't go check on them as I was sure they were alright as they were the first to react to whatever it was. If it was a hawk, it probably made its strike and got what it wanted or moved on. It does bother me that the young killdeer were the first to fly off because it makes them easy targets for a hawk who likes to catch its food in the air. Maybe that's why George went after them to bring them back to the ground. Hopefully the killdeer moved out of the way of the panicking geese.

Ballpark killdeer flock:

Today, there were two killdeer missing when I first saw the group, but they were both on Cowels and Del Cerro Point. Later, one other killdeer flew away, making the total 8 when I left. It's hard to approach them close enough to get photos unlike when they are near water, so I have a hard time identifying individual ones. When I first arrived, I did see a young killdeer, a male, foraging in the field. I think that could be "Secret" and "Secret" is a male--not a female. It's possible since I never got to see him as a chick. This can be good, we've got two males and a female on one side of the lake and two females and a male on another. Maybe they'll get together.

Also seen:

Flycatcher, the almost grown duckling was seen today. I think I may have even seen a sibling or two of hers show up on the scene, also. However, the young duckling, who would now be two weeks old, was not seen. I was really sad as I look forward to him coming up to me every time I'm there. But, the weather patterns have changed and I think a lot of ducks have gone elsewhere for shade and to keep cool. Hopefully the little duckling is still around. I thought I saw his mom, but she would have come up to the shore when I threw some peas in, so I don't think it was her. A lot of ducks were missing this day, probably due to the hot weather.


Two sandpipers were seen and they were fighting. I've never seen two sandpipers at this lake together. They were still in their breeding colors, but are starting to get grayer.

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