Yesterday, I told you about the brooding and hatching of our little killdeer, but there's a lot more to this story.
As we watched them scamper around the parking lot, pecking at specks on the asphalt and heeding parental instruction, we could see only three babies. We were concerned, but nature is harsh, and we enjoyed the babies we had. But as the day wore on, we began to notice the parents weren't leading the babies away from the big, ugly humans. We have a marshy area nearby and we assumed they would disappear, but they didn't. They stayed near the parking lot, chirping to the babies and cuddling them under their wings. (You should be able to count 3 sets of baby legs sticking out in the photo above)
I had a midday appointment and noticed Papa was standing over a drainage grate chirping while Mama had taken the babies a short distance away. I remembered we had been nervous when the babies ran toward the grate, but Mama had spread her wings and shooed them away. I ran my errand and returned to the office. I was pleased to see them in the same place, and I went inside.
At the end of the day, nothing had changed. It was cold and blustery, and I couldn't understand they hadn't moved into the field where the grass would provide a modicum of shelter. Then it hit me. I dropped my things next to my car, and ran to the grate. Papa barely moved as I peered down between the iron work. The city had placed a thick catch cloth in the bottom of the grate and there, in the center, was baby four! I was sure it was dead, but then it moved! I ran back inside to get help because I couldn't lift the grate because the baby was an arm's length away and alive! With help we opened the grate and I laid down on my belly to reach in. There was no time to waste. It was so cold and the baby was still alive.
(I think you can see how a tiny bird could fall into this death trap. The gap is nearly 2 inches wide)
I scooped him up. He was a light as a cotton ball and just as soft, but incredibly weak. His head flopped to the side, and after pausing for a second to show my friends, I moved onto the grass and laid him about 10 feet from the others who were hiding under Mama. I was sure he was minutes from death, but I thought at least the parents could move on now. I went home sad, but knowing I had released the little family. There are no photos of this event. It wasn't the time to snap photos, and my friends were stunned I had found the baby, but something inside screamed, "look in the grate." I was angry I hadn't looked earlier, but I couldn't change things.
When I returned the next day, I drove into the parking lot very carefully, but I didn't see the little family. I don't know why, but I went to look for the dead baby, but he was gone. Surely a fox or raccoon had eaten him.
An hour later, my friend arrived "Did you see the babies; there's four of them!"
"No way." I ran outside and together we tried to count the tiny things, but they were hiding under Mama. First one ran out, then another, then Mama stood and walked away leaving baby three and FOUR standing there. Baby four was alive, and I had rescued him. We didn't stay long, but when we turned to go, Papa (they're slightly bigger) was right next to us, quiet
So unlike a killdeer. I like to think he was saying "Thank you."
Nobody would believe this story if I hadn't had two witnesses.
They stayed nearby all day, and I have resolved that should they decide to nest in our rocks again, I'll cover the grate as soon as they hatch.
But Wait. There's still more to this hatchling story. Come back tomorrow.