Saturday, March 30, 2024


Kildeers arrived from their cold weather habitats while it was still officially winter here in south-central Kentucky.
By February they were in evidence as I walked along the gravel lane that connects us to the main road.
They swooped low over our neighbor's cow pasture, alighting to strut along the verge of the lane uttering their distinctive cry, 'Peent, peent!'
Watching them I hoped  that avian wisdom would caution against eggs laid in weather that would surely drop below freezing.
During the past two weeks the warning cries of the kildeers have become more strident, their zig-zag flights more pronounced whenever I walk along the lane or in the adjoining meadow.

Friday as I walked along the freshly graveled portion of the lane, a kildeer flew up from the bank screaming frantically, doing the classic 'broken wing' maneuver in front of me.
Stepping cautiously along the stony edge of the bank I discovered the nest--if it can be called that--eggs deposited in a slight depression in the rough ground.

I fetched my simple camera from the house, trudged back to where the kildeer once again went into defensive display.
The nest contained four or five eggs, several of which were split open with baby birds motionless amidst the shattered shells. One egg had only a hairline crack. I suspected that the tiny birds were dead.

When I returned in the evening there was no sign of broken eggshells. One baby bird was on the ground, legs tucked under its body. I touched it ever so gently with one finger and it stirred.
Jim and I walked that way at about 6 Saturday evening. 
I had built a small cairn of light colored rocks to mark the place.
Several kildeers swooped about us, following us to the mailbox, but there was no frantic diversionary display or interest in the spot where the eggs had been.

No baby bird remained, there was nothing to indicate that the spot had been a nest site.
Standing quietly by the fence we observed the tiny birds scuttling around a tussock of grass at a little distance, while the adult kildeers circled nearby, vocalizing.

A google search informs that kildeers spend 22-28 days incubating their clutch of 4-6 eggs; kildeer chicks hatch fully feathered and as soon as the feathers dry they are ready to toddle about.
It is estimated that only 53-60 percent of the hatchlings fledge.

This is the second kildeer nest I've discovered here; kildeers apparently don't choose nesting spots with safety in mind. Their distinctive markings and behaviors make them an interesting addition to our rural landscape. Of my several efforts to zoom in on mother kildeer's protective antics, I'm pleased with the photo below.


Friday, March 22, 2024

Evening Walk

Willis and I walked at nearly dusk. I had been reading, rather muzzy and sleepy [last night's rest disturbed by sciatic pain and cat antics] and considered not going out. There is a certain pride involved in this daily trek around the meadow that I have set for myself, so jacket pulled on and headed up the slope of the north ravine toward the east fence line.

A grey squirrel shot part way up a slender sapling, sprang to a larger tree, tail afloat. I paused, looking upward while Willis twined ingratiatingly around my ankles, but the squirrel had disappeared.

All through the winter fallen hickory nuts and black walnuts have lodged in heaps beneath the trees, small hard nubbins rolling under the soles of my boots.
Now the brown hulls have shucked away leaving the bone-white balls of the hickories and the dark ridged spheres of the black walnuts. 
Burgeoning pasture grass, dandelions, purple-headed stems of dead-nettle are fast covering the nuts, but they are still a presence shifting beneath my feet.

Walking over them during winter I've thought of how many potential trees lie there, thousands, surely. So long as the meadow and verges are mown the only possibility for tiny new trees is farther down the slope of the ravine. 

Dandelions emerge in scattered spots throughout the winter months, blossoms held tightly against the cold damp ground. I noticed that the blooms don't fluff out with seed; instead they curl back into themselves, sterile and forlorn.
Now with warmer weather dandelions, taller stemmed, are in bloom everywhere--in the gravel of the walkway, pushing ruthlessly up around the roses, squatting in a clump of peonies.

Tiny yellow violets shrouded in last autumn's curls of oak, beech and maple leaves.
Their hardier purple cousins crowd into the flower beds, spread in profusion along the lane.

The air was soft this evening, heavy with the possibility of rain, fresh with the scent of green grass and budding trees.
After days of brisk wind the tree branches were motionless, the stillness part of the soft cloak of grey twilight fading into night.


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

A Blustery Arrival

The warm days of late February and early March have given way to a chilly first day of Spring.
Blue sky and bright sun, but a bitter wind held over from yesterday. 
I did walk two loops of the meadow path today--gave up yesterday after bending into the wind for a quick tramp around the lower path.

The early spring weather hastened the blooming of the hybrid magnolias, 'Susan' on the upper slope and 'Jane' below. Both were at the height of their beauty over the weekend. 
Monday's wind began to shatter the petals before overnight frost made limp brown shreds of the brilliant blooms. 
The fire-damaged magnolia at the west end of the property [site of a former owner's house] was slower to blossom. Walking around there late this afternoon I noted from a little distance the tree is still brilliant. Coming closer the frost blight is evident.
The wild daffodils that swept over roadsides and meadows in February are now also 'gone by.' They made a brave showing, bowing their bright yellow heads through cold rain, then standing firm and seeming to stretch upward when the sun returned.

Sunrise has moved back toward the east, outlining tree branches that while not in leaf have acquired a subtle nubby texture of buds.

A few yellow violets crouch in the damp that lingers on the slope of the lower path.

On warm afternoons I've puttered about in my flower gardens; clematis pruned; winter-dried stalks of coneflower, monarda and nepeta clipped. 
I made several attempts to tidy up the so-called rough strip of perennials along the driveway.
The soil is heavy, damp, cold. The mats of over-wintering weeds have flourished seeming to thrive on the bark mulch piled on every year. 
Hours of toil put my back out, but did almost nothing to improve the planting strip.
I fear it is time I come to terms with this situation which isn't likely to improve.

I moved several clumps of my seed-grown Michaelmas daisies into the rough strip--these were surplus plants stuck into the raised bin planters where they have grown sturdy. 
Last fall I grubbed out most of the goose-neck loosestrife which over-ran that section of the rough strip.  I think the asters can hold their own against any remaining roots of loosestrife. 
I'm planning more tubs for summer flowers by the front steps--what to do with my beloved perennials?
They may have to survive amongst the weeds with such tending as I can manage.
Hands and knees gardening is no longer an option!