Killdeer Tactics

By Sue Ann Kendall

For the past few weeks, the killdeer at my ranch have been in a breeding frenzy. I have even spotted tiny new birdies down by my front pond.

Killdeer have a few interesting habits. When they create a nest, it consists of nothing more than a small depression on the ground, with eggs in it. While the eggs do a great job of blending in with whatever surface they’re laid on, they are just sitting there, exposed.

Killdeer sitting on eggs. Photo by Eric Schmidt, from iNaturalist.

The parents are vigilant about protecting their nests, though. They don’t want a hawk or snake to find them, and they’d prefer the livestock not stomp on the eggs, either.

Ignore the center of the driveway! Nothing there!

They spend much of their time while eggs are incubating making loud sounds and flashing their wings, pretending to be injured to attract predators away from the eggs. I can assure you it’s loud.

My serene butterfly and wildflower observation time has recently been accompanied by many killdeer trying to get me to go away from wherever I am (oh, and dickcissels are also bellowing, too). Those parents have got to get tired, because at least one pair led me all the way down the driveway and partway down the road.

Follow us! We are more interesting than our eggs!

I do wish they were a little more careful about selecting nest locations. So far, I’ve seen two on the pond shore get washed away in recent rains. The current one I’m watching won’t wash away, but I have to warn my family to stay on the driveway and not cross into the middle, because that’s where these two eggs are!

Aren’t they an interesting shape?

I hope they make it!

Eastern Phoebe Babies

by Donna Lewis

So once again our eave under the front porch has some darling little Phoebe babies. I am sure they are happy that they are not in the high winds we are experiencing now.

I love to see them every Spring.  Of course, it means that the front porch and the small doggy yard are off limits to me and our dogs till they leave home.

I do get to watch them every day and see how fast they grow up. Observation is also the best way to learn about their habits.

Both parents feed the babies. One parent will wait on the fence while the other is delivering delicious insects of one kind or another. The parents are very watchful and get fussy if I open the front door to look closer at their children. So, I generally watch out the windows at them.

Phoebes are flycatchers, eating mostly live insects. But I have found that they also eat dried mealworms that I put out for the Bluebirds. That is very handy during weather events when insects are not flying. 

This particular bird looks so sweet to me. I love it. It has the common flycatcher habit of tail-bobbing.  Its song says its name ( phoe-be). This bird is found from Canada all the way down to Mexico.

So listen up and you will hear their happy song right now.

A bird quote from Doug Floyd.

You don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note.

Phoebe on Our Porch

by Donna Lewis

So, we all know how warm it has been.  Maybe a little early for temperatures that cause both flora and fauna to be out thinking that it is Springtime already.  YEAH!

Many of you will be tempted to start planting things in your garden. You better think about it. I am sure at least one more freeze will visit us. My advice… wait a little longer!

Which brings us back to many birds who think it’s time to build nests and find their partners for the new generation.  They like Springtime too.

Every year since we have had this house, we have had Eastern Phoebes make a nest and raise about six little ones. Pretty muddy nests that make a messy porch for us.

We put plastic under their nest so it’s easier to clean up after they leave.

I love Phoebes.  They have such sweet faces.  Phoebes are flycatchers. They flick their tails upward when perched. They eat mostly flying insects.

The Barn Swallows try to run them off, because they like the porch also. They will swoop down after the Phoebes and me.  All I can do is let them work it out.

I too am happy about the warmer weather.

Remember all our nature friends and be considerate of their lives.

The Robins Pass through in January

by Pamela Neeley

Yesterday morning, while watching Sunday Morning, I finally focused on the flutter and excitement happening in my front yard.

“Turns out that Robins also like to start their day with a little gossip around the water cooler.” By David Patrick Dunn, January 15, 2023, used with permission

The robins were passing through that morning!  They were everywhere. Weaving in and out of the trees on the fence line, flying to and fro – ground to tree to roof of the house, and kicking up the red oak leaf litter with childish abandon!  They were looking and listening for prey.

I checked them out in my copy of Birds of Texas and found they had passed through “in the hundreds” February 29, 2020, at 8:30 am.

Yesterday, there were many to watch, but not hundreds.

Pamela originally wrote “February” and our editor just took her word for it. It’s fixed now!

Johnson Grass Postscript

by Eric Neubauer

Johnsongrass round postscript: This morning there was a flock of LBBs (little brown birds) on top of it. I couldn’t entice a single bird to come to my feeder in a year. Go figure.

Little brown birds par excellence, the English sparrow Passer domesticus. Photo by Sue Ann Kendall

Late yesterday there was a shrike and a kestrel sitting on the wire above the round.

Loggerhead shrike Lanius ludovicianus. Photo by Sue Ann Kendall.

Also, the pulled-up Johnsongrass is a commodity. The trashman stopped by and asked if I wanted to throw the grass I had just pulled in the truck, but I said, “No, it goes down there,” pointing at the round.