Monday, July 17, 2017

Saving the Birds One Chick at a Time

I had an exciting morning at the Montlake Fill this past Saturday.  On Saturday mornings, Connie Who Practically Lives There conducts a four-hour shorebird survey as part of a citizen science project to document how the recent mitigation and restoration effort affects shorebird populations at the Fill.

I never manage to get there as early as she does, because ever since I retired, I've been sleeping in until six a.m.  Sometimes even seven.   Goodness.  This past Saturday I arrived at the Fill a little after seven and found Connie sitting at the Main Pond with Scott, a biology professor (and keen birder) from Alabama here on a one-year sabbatical.  They were watching this Long-billed Dowitcher:

We also had a few Least Sandpipers fly in to forage for a bit, like this one:

On the far bank there were a whole lot of Mallards, plus a bonus heron:

The most exciting bird, though, was a juvenile Virginia Rail which actually came out of the reeds (rails normally stay well hidden).

Next we got to briefly admire a lovely Lazuli Bunting, an uncommon visitor (and too brief for a photo).  Then a Merlin zipped past overhead.  Meanwhile, Truman got a little bored.

There were plenty of the resident Killdeer about, along with several chicks.

When Connie and I moved on down the trail, the real excitement began--we heard a frantic peeping, and spotted this poor Killdeer chick ramming itself over and over into this fencing, trying to reach its parent and siblings who were on the other side:

There was a big gap ten feet down, and Connie suggested I flush the little chick towards it.  I was making good progress until the chick caught one of its stubby wings on a blackberry vine, and began flailing wildly.  I quickly disentangled it, and for one second, I held this tiny fluffball in the palm of my hand--it weighed practically nothing--like holding a cotton ball!

Once freed, it quickly scurried the rest of the way to the gap to be reunited with its family.  Whew!

There was more family fun at the Osprey platform -- the chicks were finally large enough to see over the nest.  At least two have been spotted thus far (last year they had three).

Things settled down after that (well, seriously, how could anything top the rescue of the Killdeer chick?).  Connie and I continued working our way around the Loop Trail, stopping to sit here and there, mostly chatting and occasionally spotting a bird or two.

Meanwhile, Truman got a little bored.

A very fine morning indeed!

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