Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


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Killdeer Near Nest on Beach 8021B

At Illinois Beach State Park on June 14th we noticed a lot of clutter in one place, as you see in the first photograph. Flitting in and out of that clutter was a bird that I learned is a killdeer, Charadrius vociferus.

The “cage” of dead branches rising from the beach sand obviously wasn’t natural but had been placed there by people. When we got closer we could guess at the reason for the uprights: to mark the killdeer’s nest and keep walkers from accidentally treading on it, given how easily a passerby might take the eggs for just a few more stones out of the thousands on the beach.

Killdeer Eggs 8034

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2016 at 4:50 AM

23 Responses

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  1. The eggs are well disguised but mean watchful steps are needed. What an awful sound that crunch would be. That people make those “cages” is outstanding.

    Steve Gingold

    August 24, 2016 at 5:29 AM

    • I’d seen speckled eggs before, but I’d never imagined how well camouflaged they’d be among rounded stones strewn across a beach. And yes, I’d hate for any unobservant walker to suddenly hear that crunch.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2016 at 6:28 AM

  2. I wrote about my spotting a killdeer a few months ago- what marvelous birds!


    August 24, 2016 at 6:37 AM

  3. How exciting! I see kildeer from time to time — my first bird photo with my new camera was of a kildeer — but I’ve never found a nest. The babies are wonderful. They hatch with their eyes open, and as soon as their feathers are dry, away they go, running at speeds I still can’t believe. They look for all the world like golf balls on long, spindly legs. I’ve seen them in the grass at one of the marinas where I work, and in a parking lot in West Columbia. They don’t seem averse to setting up their home around people.


    August 24, 2016 at 6:53 AM

    • It was the upright branches that drew us to the nest. I doubt we would have noticed it otherwise. From your comment about newly hatched killdeer, you might have been close to a nest too.

      What you say about not being averse to people seems to have been true of the bird at Illinois Beach State Park, where people come walking by every so often. At the same time, this killdeer did try to draw us away from its nest.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2016 at 7:10 AM

      • Double consonants strike again, I see. It’s killdeer, not kildeer. Through all the reading I’ve done on killdeer over the years, I never saw that. In any event, I was thinking about the birds this morning, and remembered this famous incident of a hunter who made a different sort of mistake.


        August 24, 2016 at 10:43 AM

  4. I love seeing eggs, and it’s so rare to see eggs in the wild. I love the way Constantin Brancusi paid homage to the shape of an egg in his “Essential Egg” sculptures. https://100swallows.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/brancusis-essential-egg/. “His philosophy of simplifying a shape to its very essence has affected all our contemporary thought on shape,” says Slobodkin.

    Ariana Vincent

    August 24, 2016 at 7:07 AM

  5. Good that some people first walk with their eyes open and then not just walk by such a nest!


    August 24, 2016 at 8:22 AM

    • I have no idea who marked that nest like that or how long before I encountered it, but someone was civic-minded, biologically speaking.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2016 at 2:36 PM

  6. Love your discovery, I really appreciate that others on the beech did something to protect the eggs.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    August 24, 2016 at 1:19 PM

    • Hi, Charlie. Yes, those people, whoever they were (assuming a plural here), did their good deed for the day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2016 at 7:27 PM

  7. Love the fact that someone has taken the time to protect those eggs.

    Raewyn's Photos

    August 24, 2016 at 1:41 PM

  8. Outstanding camouflage, both for the bird in your first photo and for the eggs among the stones with no nest to give them away. Thank goodness that there are other folks out there who go out of their way to help to protect them when they are in an area endangered by people.


    August 24, 2016 at 8:39 PM

    • It is hard to see the bird in the first photo, isn’t it? I wish I could’ve gotten a closer picture of it, but that didn’t happen. In contrast, I was fortunate to be able to stand right by the four eggs and get a good downward view of them.

      Every commenter so far has been vicariously grateful for the markers that warn walkers where the nest is.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2016 at 9:32 PM

  9. I’m surprised the beach was open for walkers during breeding season, actually. It’s good someone was attentive, particularly given the incredible camouflage.

    Susan Scheid

    August 26, 2016 at 8:54 PM

    • I never thought about the possibility that the beach might close during breeding season. I suspect it would be difficult to enforce, given that the Illinois Beach Resort sits on the beach right in the middle of the state park.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2016 at 9:29 PM

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