Yellow Legs, Speckled Eggs and the Sounds of Spring

I awoke this morning to the sound of a pair of stressed red-shouldered hawks, who were screeching from the eucalyptus stand by the backyard. Two ravens uttered guttural calls nearby, seemingly eager to gain entrance to the hawk nest and whatever is currently inside. The bird world is alive with spring songs—yellow-rumped warblers, song sparrows, orange-crowned warblers, Bewick’s wrens, black-headed grosbeaks, warbling vireos, American robins and many more songbirds are sweetening the air with their melodies. And there is a tension, too. The stakes are high as eggs are laid and new life is born.

On a walk later in the morning, we discovered a killdeer “nest” with four eggs inside. I write “nest” because the killdeer chooses little more than a depression on the exposed ground within which to place its precious eggs. It’s amazing that such beautiful eggs can hide in plain sight—we easily could have walked right by these beauties, and we probably would have had we not been focusing intently on the ground as we trailed three trotting deer. I hope these young ones hatch.

A friend recently made a sad discovery in Ragle Ranch park, in Sebastopol: a dead fledgling great horned owl. It was downy and gray and incredibly beautiful. Spring brings new life but is also fraught with vulnerability. I remember watching Carolina wrens fledge last summer on the east coast. As they tried to fly from the fence near their nest, I marveled at how vulnerable they were. The clearly anxious parent wrens flipped out with a fury when a chipmunk emerged from the brush. They dove down after it, wings flapping ferociously and escorted the intruder far away from their chicks. You might not think it, but a chipmunk will definitely eat a baby bird. What fledglings have you seen this spring?

Four killdeer eggs found on the Sonoma Coast, nestled into a shallow depression in some dried ice plant. A coyote trail intersected the nest… the trotting coyote nearly stepped on the eggs!

The dried walking trail of a lesser (?) yellowlegs. These beautiful birds can currently be seen feeding (and shrieking) in the shallowing pools at Bodega Dunes. Magnificent creatures!