I am so used to the squawking and shrieking of the Masked Lapwings (plovers) who like to feed in my driveway that I don’t pay too much attention to the noise most of the time. At this time of year, I do check on them occasionally because I know they usually produce their chicks in late winter. It seems to be a family tradition that when the babies are old enough they are brought to my garden to be shown their territory. I wasn’t able to photograph last years chicks but I did see them a couple of times.
Yesterday, in the late afternoon, I was sitting in the lounge and I thought that they were making a lot more noise than usual. It occurred to me that it might mean they had new chicks so I went to have a look out of the kitchen window. There were Mr & Mrs Plover both standing in the middle of the drive looking at me and squawking their heads off. I looked around and sure enough, there was a chick fossicking around in the grass nearby. They usually have more than one and after observing them for a short time I believe there are two. It was a chilly afternoon and mum went to sit on the grass where I think she was sheltering one under her wings. Later on, the other one crept in as well.
I had time to get my camera and put the 100-300 mm zoom lens on to take some pictures. They are not great because of being taken through the glass but if I had opened the window they would have been off as fast as the babies could be made to walk.
I think that these chicks are younger than the ones I photographed last time, they are quite small. It was quite funny to see mum and dad so close to the house and looking towards the window. Were they warning me off or announcing the new arrivals so that I would see them I wonder?
Have you been wondering what happened to the Plover family I wrote about some time ago? I had been too, after that very wet day I only saw the family one more time. A friend had told me that they had no road sense and that the attrition rate for the young chicks was very high. The last time I saw Mr & Mrs Plover they had the chicks down by the side of the road so I had grave fears for their survival. My friend also told me that plovers grieve if they lose their mates. For the next few weeks I only occasionally spotted a single plover on the grass or flying overhead so you can see why I was worried.
Well on Thursday afternoon I came home from the Op Shop to find six adult-sized plovers wandering around on the grass. Are they the same ones? I have no idea. I can’t tell one bird from another but I like to think that it is the same family with the chicks now grown. I wasn’t able to photograph them yesterday because they were startled by some cars that parked outside the power sub station and left until after dark but this morning their unpleasant sounding screeches informed me that they were back. I spotted five of them on the grass. It was raining and I was in my pajamas so I photographed them through the window again.
It could be my imagination but I think these two birds look young. Plover chicks fly at seven weeks or so and my original photos were taken early in October, two months ago so it is not impossible that they could be the same birds. When they arrived yesterday most of them were at the top of the slope looking down on the couple that were on the grass but this morning only one was up top keeping an eye on the rest.
I have cropped these photos quite a lot and again they were taken through glass so not the best quality. I used my 300mm lens on the automatic setting. If the weather allows and I can get near them, which should be easier now the chicks are grown, I will try to take some more.
Not long ago I photographed a Masked Lapwing, commonly known as a plover on the piece of land adjacent to my house. I commented at the time that these birds visit that area quite often. They never come into the back garden but they do like the lawn beside the driveway where they grub for worms and other insects.
Last Sunday I noticed a pair of them in the driveway acting in a very territorial way walking about and screeching. I hadn’t seen them act that way before. As it is spring I wondered if it had something to do with the mating season although one of the birds seemed to be standing rather oddly and I did wonder if there was something the matter with it.
The following day I found out what it was. Chicks. The adult birds were walking about screeching but on the lawn were four chicks. I’d never seen plover chicks before so I was very interested. I would love to have photographed them but it was raining heavily and very windy as well. I contented myself with watching them out of the kitchen window. Soon the chicks ran to their mother and snuggled in under her wings. She stood there in the pouring rain and wind protecting them from the elements and predators. She had no shelter at all and I felt sorry for them. I wished they were in a safer, drier place. I found a picture on the internet showing what the chicks look like.
Later I spent some time reading about plovers because I wondered where they had been nesting and how long it would be before the babies could fly. They build their nests on the ground, it is described as a single scrape usually away from ground cover. They often choose to nest in places like road verges, playing fields and other places you would not think were great nesting sites. The birds mate for life and they choose a territory during the winter; the female will lay up to four eggs which both parents take care of. Once the chicks are hatched they leave the nest within hours and the parents guard them while they wander about feeding themselves. That is the reason for all the screeching as the parents protect them from harm, even swooping on any creature they consider a threat including humans. According to what I have read the chicks will not fly until they are six or seven weeks old. I have no idea how old the ones I’ve seen are but I suspect not very old.
The next day I looked for the plover family again but contractors came to cut the grass on the part of the land that belongs to the power substation next to me. I was worried about the chicks and didn’t see the family until late in the day. They were up the top of a slope and I could not see how many of them there were. It was only late the next afternoon when they were down on the lawn again that I was able to count them properly and I was very relieved to see there were still four of them.
The weather was bad again but I decided to try to take some pictures with my 300mm zoom lens through the window. Naturally they did not come out well and I had to crop them a lot. I will keep trying though. I might risk going outside to take some when the weather improves but I ‘ll have to be careful or I’ll upset the parents. When I think of all the things that could happen to these little birds I feel quite anxious about them but I know there is nothing I can do about it.
I hope I’ll see the chicks grow up over the next few months and be able to continue to take photographs of them.