On Mother’s day we acknowledge the gifts that our Mothers have given to us and the sacrifices they have made for our well-being. Today I am contemplating the incredible vulnerability of wild birds, rabbits, and other creatures who lie out on the open ground exposed to all kinds of weather and other challenges, with incredible patience and, could we not say, “love”.
At High Plains Environmental Center we have a Kildeer nesting on the ground in our garden. All day she sits on her three speckled eggs. If anyone comes near she gets up and walks away from the nest. First she writhes around on the ground feigning injury and if one comes closer she gets up and pretends to limp away dragging an injured wing. If you get closer still she will fly off screaming Kee! kee! kee! kee! kee! And, hopefully, after this brief chase scene, the intruder will have forgotten the location of her precious eggs.
This strategy has worked extremely well, protecting eggs from coyotes and raccoons, for millions of years but for human beings stomping around, or driving off trail, it has little effect. Many people would probably not even notice the elaborate dance that she performs. With the loss of habitat and increased population along the Front Range ground nesting birds are increasingly vulnerable. In fact, their numbers have dropped by sixty percent over the last 40 years. For that reason we have chosen to wait on tilling a portion of our demonstration gardens until late May/Early June when the eggs will hatch.
When the mother kildeer’s eggs hatch the young killdeer will emerge “precocious” that is, not all downy and fluffy but looking exactly like smaller versions of their mother. After a short period of time they will begin will to scream kee! kee! kee! and engage in their life of running and feeding along the muddy shorelines of ponds and lakes.
The People of Tibet have a lovely saying that we should regard all beings with kindness as they may have been our mothers in a previous lifetime. Whether we believe this or not, surely we can admire the devotion and courage that these small birds display, waiting patiently and protecting the lives of their offspring in a world that is increasingly disrupted.