Sure signs of spring; some good, some bad

Living in Balance
By Jenipher Appleton

Robins, cardinals, and red-winged blackbirds are all singing at the tops of their lungs. The high-pitched screech of the killdeer is another sign that spring has sprung.
The killdeer, Charadrius vociferous, a member of the plover family, is named for its piercing call. I recently heard the familiar “killdee!” and noted a female killdeer sprinting away from her nest. In an effort to divert my attention, she went into the usual broken wing act, crying in a pitiful voice. Treading carefully, I finally located the nest; a shallow scrape in the gravel, beautifully camouflaged and endowed with four brown speckled eggs. When I glanced away toward the frantic mother, it was very hard to relocate the nest when I looked back, although I had not moved an inch. I took a quick photo and promptly left the mother in peace.
The killdeer offspring are among the cutest of baby birds. Fluffy replicas of their parents, they come out of the egg running and with eyes open. These ‘precocial’ babies are much closer to independence than most newborn birds. They are incubated longer and so are further developed at birth. Camouflage aids in their survival rate after hatching. One of the first lessons is to teach the chicks to ‘freeze’ on signal from the parents. The fact that the offspring are so cute is often an attraction for curious onlookers, especially children. Parents need to make their own offspring aware of the importance of leaving things in nature as they found them. A curious human intruder can seriously disturb a family of killdeers or other birds, sometimes causing the death of the baby birds.
The killdeer is very helpful to farmers because of the large numbers of insect pests they consume. Unfortunately, they are quite vulnerable to pesticide poisoning. The use of these chemicals has a very negative impact on the entire food chain. I don’t need to see a “pesticide use” sign to know when the stuff has been sprayed. The odour lingers for a couple of days. Any birds which eat insects or worms are affected, along with countless other species. We must dispense with the use of cosmetic pesticides. It is the least we can to do help repair some of the damage toward nature we have caused. As Tom Hayman (the bird man of the London Free Press) says regarding pesticides, “You can’t pick dew worms off a golf course any more…and now you know why.”

Ontario backroads are not a garbage dump!
One cannot help but notice the amount of litter strewn along our roadsides during spring. Not only is it unsightly, but it can cause serious harm to unsuspecting wildlife if they think it is food. Since the recession of the snow, I have been dismayed to see all types of garbage while on my ‘balanced lifestyle’ walks with Fergus the yellow Labrador: glass and plastic bottles, plastic six-pack rings, bleach bottles, liquid detergent bottles, beer bottles, cigarette packages, pop cans, and even a soiled infant diaper. Yecchh! The plastics are unlikely to break down in the next 1000 years. What a dreadful legacy to leave behind for our future generations!
The most frequently occurring litter on our road is Tim Horton coffee cups… you know the ones with the big yellow arrow? Just because you rolled up the rim and got ‘zilch’ doesn’t mean you should roll down the window and pitch it to the shoulder! I have to believe that the bulk of this litter is coming from car windows, not from the people enjoying nature while out for a stroll down the road. That means that it is likely the people in the sixteen and older category are the perpetrators. Perhaps children need to teach their parents to show more respect for the environment!
Jenipher Appleton: nature at