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, August 14, 2010

Firecracker and Tiny?

Martha keeps watch over two other killdeer

Please bear with me as I hang on to hope that the new killdeer I've been seeing in George and Martha's territory are actually the two chicks and not new killdeer arriving for the fall early. I may have some "false" sightings

Today, when I arrived, I found George and Martha on the north side of the parking lot, but no sign of any other killdeer anywhere else (not even the "chicks") on the lake until I got to the ballfields. There, I originally saw ten, all of the same size. However, the one that I suspect is "Secret", the third killdeer chick from the M6 territory, got really upset soon after I got there and flew out. Eventually, she flew back to Del Cerro Point and hid in the brush. Another killdeer, I'm assuming her mom, tried her best to get her to go back to the field, but she wouldn't. It's just as well as the starlings decided to visit and all the other 8 killdeer ended up being pushed back to one little spot in the field.

While Secret and her mom were calling to each other, I heard two very distinct killdeer calls coming from the M6 territory. I'm very sure that all is well over there with Digger and her dad and possibly Shy, too. I don't know when or if they will join the "flock" over at the ballfield.

Firecracker and Tiny?

When I checked through my photos from a few days ago, I found a photo of a very shy male with underdeveloped wings standing near Martha before she flew over to fight with the intruding male. I had originally thought that killdeer was George at first as he flew off to the north and then it seemed that he flew back. But, when I was watching the family fight this male, a male flew back to the same spot where I saw Martha and the shy male in the first place. I thought it was another male waiting his turn to court the young female. Now, after looking at the photos, I know it was a youngster.

Today, when I was about to leave, I heard killdeer peeps in the west side of Alvarado Bay (where the grackles used to live) and found Martha and another, slightly smaller, killdeer nearby. Soon, I found out that there were three killdeer. I approached closer and thought I heard a trill, but couldn't tell if it was from mom protecting them, a killdeer picking a fight with Martha, Martha picking a fight with these two, or a chick being very nervous with me. Martha made no attempts to call for back-up and have George chase the intruders out, especially the male, which reinforces the idea that these are the chicks.

Martha and "Tiny" the male. Martha was standing on a sand bar, I think

Martha watches over Firecracker

I noticed there was a young male and a female there, though the female didn't look quite the same as the one I saw a few days ago. She was more golden brown, but she was also more dirty with gold-colored dirt all over her. The new color could be a combination of dirt and exposure to sunlight, but I can't be sure. It was also cloudier today than the other day. I looked closely at these photos and the photos I took before and both females in both sets of photos look very similar if not identical. So, I think there's a good chance that this is the same bird I saw before.

Am I dirty? I didn't notice.

Both her and the male looked like something was wrong with their wings, not deformed, but missing a feather or two. This may explain the reason why they couldn't seem to fly very high or do certain moves that the adults can do. They were all the same size, Martha and the two others. I could see what looked like new black feathers starting to grow on the female. The male's "mustache" was almost non-existent, but there appeared to be a "template" for where one was to grow.

Their feathers don't lay right around the tail area, something's missing (Tiny)

An earlier photo of Martha and Mary. See how their feathers lay near the tail?

George was not with the family when I saw them. I don't know where he was. It's possible that he was trying to avoid a fight with the little male or causing some other kind of stress with him. His last son was very aggressive towards his dad and often attacked him even at a very young age. George was often within "shouting distance" in case his son needed help, but the younger killdeer didn't want anything to do with his dad otherwise. Both dad and son avoided and stayed out of each other's way. This young male already seems to be taking a protective role with Martha and the little female.

Or, George could be setting up a place for the other male killdeer chick to live as both male chicks would have a hard time sharing the same space as they get older and breeding season starts.

Martha seemed to be protecting the two new killdeer. She even "stood watch" as they went along foraging. She stood behind them on a rock and watched me. If I made any kind of move in their direction, she would give the alarm call. But, mostly, they were very quiet.

The reason why I think this might be Tiny and Firecracker and not Firecracker and Killer (the middle chick) is that Killer hasn't been physically seen since day 3. I thought I heard him after that, but I didn't see him. It may just be that he's good at hiding and may still be scared being out in the open, which is why I haven't seen him lately. At least these two young killdeer are not very shy and scared of me as most of the other killdeer.

I don't think they've learned anything about predators yet. Martha seems to be teaching them by giving her alarm calls when I get to a certain distance away from them. This is a good time for them to come out as there are no grackles, crows or hawks in the area right now. There are vultures, but they don't like to put any effort into catching their food, so they won't chase them down.

Also seen today:

A little duckling, now probably 8 days old. Mom is letting him come up to me. Maybe it's the peas I give them, though they don't seem to eat any when I'm around.

Where's the peas, where's the peas, where's the corn, where's the peas?

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