Wildlife Perseverance

When construction of the Creekside Center began on the Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium’s Branchport campus in May 2015, a pair of killdeer staked a claim to a nesting site smack in the middle of the newly established gravel driveway. I don’t recall if they nested there in previous years but killdeer, which are migratory shorebirds, are known to nest in the same location year after year. When museum staff realized the nest was there, they cordoned off the spot with traffic cones and caution tape in an effort to prevent any inadvertent disturbance.

During much of the month of May, the female endured the comings-and-goings of bulldozers, concrete mixers, lumber trucks, and even a large crane that was used to raise the future kayak and canoe livery’s antique timber frame. She dutifully incubated her clutch of four speckled eggs, laid in a shallow depression in the gravel less than 50 feet away from the construction activity. She tolerated chainsaws, skill saws, and nail guns from within the security provided only by traffic cones and caution tape surrounding her nest, while her mate resorted to the “broken wing” ruse anytime he felt someone was getting too close to her. She eventually hatched a brood of four fuzzy chicks that were immediately able to scamper about in typical killdeer fashion.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the killdeer is a graceful plover that is commonly found on lawns, golf courses, athletic fields, and parking lots. And of course, the grounds upon which the Creekside Center is built was once an athletic field, which leads me to believe that they had been nesting there for some time.

In the spring of 2016, the pair returned and established a new nest in the same gravel driveway. Once again, it was cordoned off with traffic cones and caution tape. Construction of the building itself was nearly completed but an intensive landscaping program was underway. And once again, those workers were careful not to disturb the nesting female. Of course, whenever anyone approached the nest, the male appeared out of nowhere to express the familiar kill-deer call for which the bird is named and to display his broken wing in an effort to lead the interloper away.

Last fall, after they were gone, a parking area for the Creekside Center was installed smack on top of the killdeers’ nesting site. It was built using turf pavers, which are used in place of traditional paving surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, brick, or stone. They are designed in such a way that enables rainwater to eventually filter back into the soil at a slower and more natural rate, which results in the control and stabilization of soil erosion.

Somehow, I felt certain that the turf pavers would surely discourage the killdeer from nesting here again this spring. But the photo above shows that I am wrong again—traffic cones and caution tape notwithstanding.


Story and photo by John Adamski