Story by: Sharon
Pictures by: Sharon & Catriena
I never really thought about plovers much – before this year. They were always just those slightly eccentric birds who insisted on having their nests in totally inappropriate places. Why would they nest on a handful of gravel on the side of the road? Or in the middle of a soccer field? Or a golf fairway? They obviously like to have a clear view of their surroundings, and anything approaching– including any unsuspecting pedestrians. Unfortunately, their nesting habits and the swooping doesn’t endear them to a lot of people, but I’ve found them to be all flap and ack-ack. Thinking back, I can’t remember ever having seen them make actual contact with a person. Unlike magpies!
The first 3 plover chicks I met were 2-3 days old and found in a drainpipe in the rain, in the middle of Lismore, in May. An unseasonal hatching, but I did mention eccentric, didn’t I? Ranging from 19 to 21 grams, they were incredibly cute little balls of spotted fluff on long legs. Being precocial birds, plover chicks are wonderfully independent and, as soon as you give them a pecking lesson, they are able to feed themselves, which makes them very easy to care for. They were very active, and I never saw them asleep, or even lying down. They did, however, like to sit down with their legs stuck out in front and their big feet pointing up – very funny. These lucky guys were named Tom, Fluffy, and Poodle by a 9 year old friend. They grew like weeds over the next weeks, exhibiting remarkably different personalities.
As the first 3 became teenagers they were followed by 2 more tiny chicks from similarly wet circumstances, Artie and Bennie, who were ‘warmed up’ by their initial rescuers in the oven! It was several weeks later that lonely Charlie turned up. He was left behind by his family after valiantly swimming across a small dam. No oven this time though. Charlie surprised me by liking to lie down and ‘sunbathe’ under his light while taking a nap. Davo, Eddie and Freddie came about 10 days later, which made them perfect stable-mates for Charles, who then proceeded to teach them to lie down for naps! They looked like a lovely plover puddle. These were also the only clutch that kept their sleeping area clean of poo. Amazing!
Birds were being successfully released and everyone was moving up the line into a larger tub, cage or aviary. It was a production line! And then an egg was found. Taken to Diana, who warmed it under a lamp, then hatched in an incubator by Catriena, and finally transported by another angel (Kerry-Anne?), I received this chick when she was only one and a half hours old and her eyes were still shut.
Her name is Diana and, not surprisingly, she’s the tamest of them all, having never been around any other birds.
Unfortunately, it was over three weeks later that the last chick, Special K, turned up making the size difference between the chicks too large to put them together. The large ones will just run over the top of the little ones in the small confines of the tub. Now Diana just seems to find little SK very disturbing if I put them together, even though they have both had a mirror to know what other
plovers will look like, so they may stay apart until larger quarters are found. I have also come to believe that, given the chance by being on their own, the chicks will lie down and sleep peacefully.
I have really enjoyed caring for the plovers – all eleven of them. The last ones I released have taken up residence in the paddock and on the driveway and visit us every day. They’re pretty and perky, with endearing head-bobs and peeps. So if a plover chick comes your way be reassured that they’re extraordinarily independent and easy to care for. But they do poo rather a lot.