It must be! For it’s not just the geese who are breeding – it’s the Plovers too, and the Hornbills, and even the Squirrels!
For those of you who read my Wilderness Diary, do you remember our Spur-winged Plover Stories from last year? There was the family two kilometers upriver, which we followed for three weeks (remember the heart-ache when the river flooded and took with it “our” three-week old chicks, who had so bravely withstood all challenges up to that point?), and then there was the pair much closer to home, which we could see from the balcony – probably the very same pair who are nesting again now – who last time lost their eggs to another flood. When (if ever) will these plovers learn not to nest in the river bed where any rise in the water levels threatens their offspring? This pair have not learned any lessons, for wait until you hear where they have nested this time!
I only managed to spot the nest because I noticed one plover foraging on its own below the house (normally you always see them in pairs) and then I heard their mating call…this made me actively seek out the nest with binoculars from the vantage point of our balcony…and eventually I found it, up to the left of the house, right where the grass is starting to come through, attracting all manner of grazing animals with hooves that could destroy those precious eggs with one misplaced step. There is no cover whatsoever for the nest – what on earth made them build it there? The parent birds have merely scraped out a small depression, collected together a few sticks and stones, and there the mother has laid three perfect eggs.
Perfectly camouflaged eggs
Now, of course, not having noticed it straight away, I cannot say precisely when the eggs were laid, but – coincidentally – I was looking through some of my photos from before I went to Nairobi – I had been photographing various animals grazing on the newly-grassed sandbank, and there in one of the photos of an Egyptian Goose is the plover, already sitting on its nest! So we now know the birds were already sitting on their eggs then (that was 30th May), so they must be hatching soon….?
This is the photo where by chance I noticed the plover sitting on its eggs (see the far left hand side of the picture)
What’s unusual about this pair of nesting plovers, is their “quiet approach” to potential intruders. As you’ll remember, most plover parents are noisy and boisterous in the extreme, in order to drive potential nest-raiders or wreckers away…but this pair seem to be adopting another approach: merely hunkering down and staying firmly put atop their nest, no matter who or what passes by.
Having said that, occasionally they do get a little nervy and revert to type, emitting their high-pitched chit-chit alarm call and trying to goad the intruder away by “shamming” – pretending they are sitting down on their nest, but in fact are just leading the enemy astray.
Recent daytime passers-by the nest include impala (frequently, including our beautiful young One-Horn and his friend), the Egyptian Geese, Waterbuck and the Hadada Ibis. We’ve also been seeing the tracks of a small leopard on the beach, but hopefully it will leave the plovers in peace.
In all the images below, if you look carefully, you can see the plover crouching low on its nest…also note the Oxpeckers on the back of the young Impala…
Further down the beach is another pair of plovers, and these are boisterous in the extreme – perhaps they are nesting too? This morning I watched them dive-bombing a troop of vervet monkeys, who did not seem the least concerned, much to the plover’s consternation.
By the way, as I write this, the full moon is flowing in through my office window…so beautiful… I don’t know when I’m actually going to be able to post this, as we’re having problems with our internet connection and only getting about five minutes access to the net every 24 hours…very frustrating, as so much of our work is internet-dependent, as is this blog of course… Living in the middle of nowhere certainly has many advantages, but when your internet is down, you are completely isolated…
Anyway, back to the story…yes, love must be in the air for it’s not just the Spur-winged Plovers who are feeling broody – the petite Treble-banded Plovers are at it too. The other day, as I was down at the beach photographing their bigger cousins, I happened to catch a glimpse of the little guys mating. The Spur-winged Plovers did not take kindly to that, and immediately chased the Treble-banded Plovers away (how ridiculous is that, I ask you? They’re about a third of the Spur-winged Plovers’ size and no threat to man nor beast…unless you’re a worm, I suppose!)
The Pied Kingfishers were also having a go, but way across the river where I could only get a poor shot of them in flagrante. The Von der Decken Hornbills are courting too (below), and so are the Sparrows!
Even the Unstriped Ground Squirrels are getting up close and personal. I notice they’ve been digging a huge network of burrows behind the house. It’s all going on here, you know! As an aside, take a closer look at the Ground Squirrels – don’t you think they are just so perfectly adapted for camouflage in the red Tsavo dust? Their mottled fur practically blends into the background.
As for the Rock Hyraxes, it seems like they have led the way in the love stakes. Here are a couple of very cute little babies as proof, emerging from our woodpile to warm themselves in the morning sun…
I saw the Dwarf Mongooses again today – their youngsters (which we saw being carried by their nannies back on the 24th May are now big enough to run along with the band themselves, but they’re still quite small and baby-faced. Unfortunately, they had dashed across the road and disappeared into the undergrowth before I had a chance to photograph them.
I took this shot of our road home, just to show you how dry the landscape is becoming inland. Where this photo was taken is only three or four hundred yards from the river’s edge. No wonder a lot of the animals are moving back to the river at the moment…despite the cold, grey, very windy weather, and the temptation of rain clouds which never fall, the country really is getting very dry. The long rains which are meant to fall April through June, have not been good this year.
I went back up to the old Hammerkop nest but could see no sign of the female goose in the nest…either she was hunkering down, or she is not nesting there…the mystery continues…
(It’s almost midnight, so I’m off to bed now – but at least I’ve caught up on a lot my posts which I wrote while our internet was down…a few more to go, and I’ll be up to date again…)