Jill and I came across two Killdeer actively excavating a shallow depression on the side of gravel path last Thursday morning while taking our daily walk. It was astonishing to us to find that the Killdeer had selected a site so close to a high-traffic pedestrian path to build their nest. The area is one where dogs often out number people. We checked the depression at random intervals over the next few days to watch the progress. But by Saturday, the bicycle tracks and foot prints within inches of the depression assured us the Killdeer had made a good decision and moved on.
That experience piqued my curiosity and lead me to a look for Killdeer on a nearby community garden and private farm where I remembered finding them last year. After I discovered a (third) nest on the property which was clearly in the path of incoming community gardeners, I decided to see if I could recruit someone qualified to help me cordon off the area to protect the nest. The embarrassing part of this post is that a non-birding expert gardener tutored me in all things about nesting Killdeer; complete with accurate definitions of (precocial) and (nidifugous) which I ran home to verify. A great lady - who quickly but graciously rode over me, the obvious neophyte with respect to providing protection for nesting ground birds.
When I first approached her with my dilemma - she said "If you're willing to show me the nest, I'll help you put a barrier around it". My initial reaction was really, since I was thinking we needed to restrict access to within at least 20 sq. yards, and that would take awhile if it was going to be done right without disturbing the parents.
One minute later, my new best friend had five short stakes in her hand along with a very short roll of flagging tape. She tended to the nest with such maternal care that one of the Killdeer actually approached within just a few feet to watch her without demonstration - a reaction that was in stark contrast to their reaction I suffered earlier by simply taking a photograph of the eggs when I thought both adults were off the nest foraging.
When I asked if the cordoned area was large enough to protect the nest - she replied "this is way larger than I normally provide - and I typically have to do this twice a year for each pair of Killdeer. When nests are right in the middle of the path we put a small flag in proximity to the nest to help people avoid stepping on the eggs". Most nests fledge all four young. Go figure . . . . .
The nest of my concern:
Displaying very effective broken-wing syndrome
The protected nest!