So yesterday I checked on the nest. She was settled down far enough to make her difficult to see, but at least they appear serious about using that location. I snapped a few pictures to record her presence, then I continued on with a leisurely walk around White Rock Lake.
Near the meadows of Winfrey Point I heard killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) up the hill from me and decided to try for some photos. Thankfully one of them was being vocal enough to make them locatable.
At that point all I could tell was that the one on the right was talking. Not vocal as in loud, but vocal in a way that had a “come hither” feel to it. I experienced an immediate sense of familiarity. With the one talking and the other one approaching, it reminded me of the hawks from last year. It didn’t take long to see that it’s that time of year again, the time of year when “go forth and multiply” becomes nature’s motto.
I felt somewhat like a peeping Tom. Worse even because I was taking pictures. Silliness aside, there’s something beautiful about nature doing its thing, not at all worried for appearances or prude human sensibilities.
The deed done, he dismounted—albeit not with the grace he intended. She flinched her wing as he stepped, so off he tumbled. But he recovered with dignity and walked away as though he’d done her a favor. I giggled.
She moved in my direction as he moved away. I was still some distance away from either of them, so I took a slow step toward her thinking I might grab a couple of closer shots before leaving them to their morning. That’s when something interesting happened.
He ran a short distance back in my direction before turning around. He watched me. Closely.
So I took one more slow step toward her. He then parted his wings enough to show some bright rufous as he took several quick steps away from me. He added some vocalizations to increase the effectiveness of his display. Having spent so much time last year documenting their diversionary tactics, I know well enough that showing the flashy rump color is meant to grab the attention of threats. Only I’d never seen it used without a nest to protect.
And when I took a few steps backward—away from her—he closed his wings yet remained where he stood, and he watched me closely. Mate guarding. I’d never seen the behavior before; nevertheless, there’s no doubt he was making himself a more obvious target to distract me from her.