Friday, May 21, 2010
The Tiniest Heartbeat
Thursday May 20 2010
Remember the killdeer nest with 4 eggs that I roped off from the horses? Ma or Pa Killdeer has been sitting on that nest every day (for about 24-28 days). Every day I've been checking on her, and then suddenly yesterday morning, she was gone. And the eggs were gone.
From the moment of hatching, killdeer babies are "precocial 2" - downy, open-eyed, mobile at birth, and capable of finding their own food while following their parent. So they had moved out, already out in the big world.
Darn, I missed the babies - until this afternoon when, about 40 yards away from the nest near the creek, a killdeer did its broken wing display, trying to distract my attention from where I was walking. I thought there must be babies around, and I walked ever so carefully forward - until I saw it.
It was so tiny and fragile and defenseless, about the size of my thumb - it took my breath away. It was standing, motionless, silent, helpless, completely vulnerable. I ran to get my camera, then ran back - and had a hard time finding it, even though it was at about the same place, now sitting in the dirt. I held my breath the whole few minutes I looked at it, fearing I'd blow it away or scare it or reveal it to a predator.
How on EARTH do these animals survive - indeed, they thrive around here - first, laying eggs on the ground any ol' where, where they have a great chance of getting stepped on, then the babies surviving when at this stage they can certainly not avoid predators?
Doubtless there were more baby killdeer around - but I left before the dogs came galloping after me, or some kestrel happened by.
It's that ol' Darwinism thing again - I guess it knows what it's doing.