Hart Beat by Hart Rufe

First published August 1, 2014 ... Contact Hart at hartrufe@gmail.com

If you keep your eyes open, you may find some surprising feats of Mother Nature, and Mother Killdeers.

Parking Lot Plover










It’s been a tough winter, physically, for Jewel. In November she twisted her knee. She assumed it would resolve with rest; it didn’t. In December, just in time for Christmas, she dislocated her elbow. That needed medical assistance and rehab, and all the while the knee still bothered her, getting worse instead of better. Finally in May, she sucked it up and went to First Orthopedic Surgeon, who after looking at MRI’s of her knee announced, “Torn meniscus, you need surgery; I’ll get you scheduled for it in three weeks.”  

Not sure she wanted surgery, Jewel did some internet research and decided to get a second opinion. Second Orthopedic Surgeon, after exhaustive testing of the knee and study of the same MRI said, “Yes, you have a slight meniscus tear, but from the location of the pain in your knee, I think you have a muscle pull and physical rehab should resolve it, without surgery.”  Off to rehab Jewel went and (drum roll and applause) Happy Ending: Jewel quickly recovered: no surgery and no pain!

What is the point of all this? Coming out of the rehab facility the first day she went, Jewel discovered the Parking Lot Plover, happily incubating four eggs (photo above), in the stone divider between two parking areas while many cars and pedestrians closely hurried by, most of them completely oblivious to her presence.

We went back that evening, after the facility was closed and were fortunate to arrive just as Mother Killdeer rose to turn her eggs, so that we could see the four eggs even though they blended in so well with the stones. One could hardly call it a nest, or even a “scrape,” a term often used when some birds nest right on the ground without any kind of formal nest. Two days later, Jewel went back for her next rehab session and took the camera along, “just in case.” She took photo 2, documenting an older first born chick, a smaller second-born chick, a third born chick, still wet from having hatched just minutes before the photo, and a fourth egg, not yet hatched. She also took photo 3, as the oldest chick takes its first wobbly steps, on relatively large unfamiliar legs, exploring the vast world 6 inches from Mother Killdeer.

The very next evening, we went back to see how the Parking Lot Plover Killdeer family was doing. All four babies were wandering all over the area; in and around the parking lot; in the grassy plains and muddy patches adjacent to the lot (photo 4); and along a small water course nearby, where you can just see the two babies in photo 5 thinking, “Mom wants us to go through that?!?” But they did indeed screw up their courage and make the trip through the water (photo 6).

Later in the evening Mother Killdeer gathered all four chicks together on the parking lot preparatory to herding them back to their rocky resting place (photo 7). The driver of the blue car in the photo came out of the rehab facility and walked right by the birds, got into his car and left, without ever noticing the Killdeer family or us photographing them. It was very impressive to see the little day-old chicks scurry out of harm’s way as the big blue car backed out toward them. We realized that such activity must have been going on all day, every day.

Two evenings later we returned to again see if the babies had survived all the parking lot dangers. Only three babies were still present, and we have no idea what happened to the fourth. The three remaining babies were now exploring far and wide, learning to forage for themselves (photo 8), and trying out their newly discovered wings: “I’m here on the runway, why can’t I take off?” (photo 9). But at the end of the day, Mother Killdeer called all three of her charges together, now on the grass rather than on the stones, and all three of them found refuge under her ample breast (photos 10 and 11).

We returned 11days later (Jewel had long finished her rehab) to find all three babies developing nicely, still traversing the parking lot and the surrounding areas. They were beginning to develop actual wings and seemed to be doing well. One was checking out its birthing place (photo 12) and another one posed for a formal portrait (photo 13). One final visit five days later disclosed the entire family had moved out of the area, for not a single Killdeer could be found anywhere.

Two points are to be made here: One, Be your own advocate regarding your own health and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion; and Two, Be alert to the natural world and birds around you everywhere you go. You never know when a sore knee might lead to a fascinating discovery and a delightful experience. And feel sorry for those poor souls who wander through life without a clue of what wonders and mysteries and just plain excitement may exist if they would only open their eyes and be aware during their most mundane meanderings. Now don’t go out and purposely get hurt, hoping to duplicate our lucky Parking Lot Plover exploits







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