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Killdeer nest between rock and a hard place

BIRDWATCHING — The delightful killdeer we see making short sprints ahead of us as as walk along streams, fields and open farm and ranch country are programmed to build their nest in the uncommon comfort of gravel.

So it's no surprise that graveled driveways or parking lots seem like prime locations for them to hatch a brood. They are technically shorebirds, but are not totally linked to water.

The photo above was snapped Tuesday by S-R reporter Mike Prager after he nearly stepped on the eggs while interviewing a homeowner near Davis Creek and the Pend Oreille River.  The photo shows how well a batch of killdeer eggs blends in with the granite gravel used in the driveway.

The giveaway that a family's in the making is the noisy broken-wing act the adult performs when an intruder comes near the nest. The bird gets its name from one of its calls:  kill-deeah, kill-deeah.   Sometimes it just blurts a rising dee-dee-dee.

Unlike robins, which hatch helpless,  killdeer chicks are almost instantly ready to go. They hatch with their eyes open, and as soon as their downy feathers dry, they start scurrying about, following their parents toward cover where they quickly begin searching the ground for something to eat.

A killdeer chick has one black line across its throat and chest.  An adult has two.

Apps making birdwatchers foes of their feathered friends

WILDLIFE WATCHING — As a hunter and conservationist, I could see this coming. 

I've written stories about the impact of elk bugle calls on bull elk behavior and stories about the regulation of electronic devices and calls for hunting in Washington. There's reason for concern.

When I starting seeing wildlife photographers and birdwatchers giddy with the proliferation of recorded bird songs and electronic devices and then the advanced technology of smartphone apps — an eventual train wreck seemed like an obvious possibility.

The Seattle Times has published a good report on the growing use of the smartphone's field access to the internet  and recordings to flush out species for better viewing and photography.

The technique is controversial among some experts who say it can stress male birds that believe a recorded song signals a rival invading their territory.