Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thick-knees: sunnyside up.

So on our second to last day in Venezuela we drove past the pair of double- striped thick-knees as usual when one of them started behaving weirdly. Naturally our canny driver stopped to observer

broken wing display thickknee

Here's a shot of the thick-knee doing his/her thing. Readers familiar with the broken-wing fakeouts deployed by plovers, kildeer and lapwings and their ilk will probably recognise it for what it is - a distraction. A distraction from what? Well either eggs or young. Since there were no eggs 24 hours earlier there obviously would be no chicks now. Having dismounted his trusty truck the driver prowled around slowly and finally, a look of triumph on his face, pointed this out.

khicknee egg

A single perfect thick-knee egg laying in a bed of matching pebbles. At this point I wasn't sure quite what to expect. Wader eggs are considered a delicacy by many who live on the land around the world and our crafty old driver had a glint in his eye. I needn't have worried - he had something quite different in mind. Our driver wandered off briefly and came back with a big log which he laid down about 3 feet away from the nest. When viewed in combination with a rock already sat on the opposite side it became immediately obvious that he'd created a protective triangle to prevent people unwittingly walking or driving over the nest (the thick-knees were on a well used bit of a busy farm/tourist lodge). His work done he remounted the truck and we drove off whereupon, her wing miraculously recovered, the mother resumed her incubating duties and we drove off feeling that bit happier about the day ahead.

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