A killdeer mama stood sentry in my neighbor’s garden and beeped at the crows trolling for snacks nearby. I knew from long experience with our own killdeer (aka the shrieking birds) that she was protecting babies somewhere.

It wasn’t the dragging wing display  to distract predators, but rather more the “car alarm” version: Warning. You are too close. Back up.

Not that the crows paid any attention.

I recalled the many summers when killdeer have moved on to our lawn to raise their babies. They have a propensity, shall we say, to shriek at everything –and nothing. The first year I would get out of bed to see what was attacking them. Nothing. At least nothing I could see at 2 a.m. Damned shrieking birds.

I wandered down the road and, on my return, she was still there, still holding the high ground, a mound of weeds. The tableau was unchanged–crows still picked through the hay–but she was no longer beeping. Detente. Now I could also see two half-grown killdeer toddling around looking for bugs and worms. One to her right, the other to her left, foraging among the squash. She tried to watch them both and fretted. “Whoa, not so far,” she’d direct. Turning to the other:  “Come out where I can see you.”

She’d call them back with soft notes, but really there was little she could do but offer directions and warnings.

How I can relate.

I have been teaching my older son to drive, which closely approximates the mama-fledgling relationship. He’s almost ready to fly off, but not quite, and I sit sentry (trying not to white knuckle the grab bar) and try to direct, though there’s not a heck of a lot I can do when he’s behind the wheel.

So far he’s done fine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see real and imagined threats just like the killdeer. And I’m just as helpless to do anything about them. Slow down, stop here, look before you change lanes, SLOW DOWN. A lot of the time I feel like I am trying to round up blowing leaves in the yard.

As I resumed my walk home, I noticed my neighbor’s cat sitting on their steps. One more threat–this one real–for mama killdeer to fret over. I think my neighbors will be in for a long night with the shrieking birds.


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