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Little Fluffballs

August 11, 2013
Shannon Williams - Grundy County Seasonal Conservation Aide , Reinbeck Courier

You may notice a different Williams is writing this week's newspaper article. (I hope I can uphold the family name). Although I went to school for Speech Pathology, rather than Fish and Wildlife Biology like my dad, working as a Seasonal Conservation Aide presents many opportunities to observe, enjoy, and also learn about the environment that surrounds us.

It was mid-June when I first noticed a killdeer nest forming at the Grundy County Lake Campground. Mowing for the county can seem somewhat monotonous at times. Every week we mow all 20 areas, as long as the grass is growing. This killdeer nest added a little excitement to my mowing at this park. Cruising along on a John Deere Ztrak mower comes pretty natural to me these days. On that day in the middle of June, I happened to notice what, of course, I thought was a mama killdeer sitting on its nest. However, father and mother killdeer share the nest-sitting duties. Naturally, being raised by a conservation officer, I politely steered clear of the nest and continued mowing thinking how cute the small bird was.

The next few weeks, I continued to mow around the nest. I observed each time that killdeer, despite their small size, have the capacity to create a BIG sound. I was able to hear the bird's warning call over the sound of my mower as well as over the radio playing in my headset. If the bird feels more threatened, they will run away from their nest and pretend to have a broken wing. This is in hope of distracting the predator from disturbing their nest. Killdeer eggs are light in color with darker speckles. They blend in very well with rocks of a driveway.

I observed this nest for around four weeks of mowing, which is pretty close to a killdeer's incubation period of 22-28 days. It was nice to finally be able to mow that section of grass, but my excitement was gone. Little did I know, it would return in a few weeks.

Working up at the campground last week, I ran into the shop to grab something and saw two teeny baby killdeer running around inside of our building! And one worried mama making a lot of noise and running around outside the building. I had never seen a baby killdeer until that day, but I had no idea they would be so fluffy! Little fluffballs on toothpick legs.

Our shop is a big open space, but I found out it has quite a few hiding places. As luck would have it, Nick happened to come into the building and helped me shoo these little guys out. They made it through our shop, bathroom, and office before finally going out the back door.

These little guys still have some challenges ahead, and I don't know if they'll make it to adulthood, but I'd like to think that I've aided the killdeer numbers this summer.

 
 

 

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