photo of the week

The Stare Says Keep Your Distance.

This Killdeer momma stays on her nest in the blazing hot delta afternoon sun. She’s ruffled her feathers to dissipate the heat as she casts a stare of belligerent disapproval in my direction. She’s in a public flower bed. Over the next few days, we got to know each other well, but despite our familiarity, I was still unwelcome, persona-non-grata, and considered to be downright rude. Oh well. Ain’t the first time.


Sunday, March 29, 2015
Pine Buff, Arkansas

Author's Note:

Back in July of 2013, during the short time that I actually worked an 8-to-5 job, I had a unique and memorable experience at my workplace, Davis Life Care Center in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I watched in amazement as a pair of Killdeer set up housekeeping in a flowerbed just inches from a public sidewalk on the Davis premises. I knew when I first noticed the new family in the making that sooner or later they would be Nikon targets.

I watched for a week or two and decided when an how to orchestrate the shoot. The birds reacted to the big grey-bearded interloper as they are programmed to do. They went into their act to draw me away. The first day, I made my shots using the parked truck as a blind. The second day, I dismounted and went for the gold. I was not disappointed. Take a second look below. And be sure and click to see a continuation and expansion of the story at Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.

Enjoy the show, 

Joe Dempsey 

bird and eggs

Does a Killdeer Cuss?

Enduring the stifling heat and an interloping photographer was too much for Momma Killdeer as she rose and chirped a few Killdeer obscenities. At least we got a glimpse of the eggs.

A Very Good Mama.

First Published on Sunday, July 21, 2013
Pine Buff, Arkansas

Size apparently does not count when it comes to maternal instinct, or so it seems if you happen to be a Killdeer momma. For reasons I have yet to plumb, a pair of Killdeer decided to make their nesting place of choice in a flower bed adjacent to a sidewalk and busy driveway. The sidewalk and driveway are at Davis West, a nursing home at Davis Life Care Center in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Davis is near and dear to my heart since I go to work there five days a week. That said, I can assure you there is plenty of foot and vehicular traffic within a few feet of the Chez Killdeer.

The day I decided to shoot, it was as hot as jumpin’-blue-blazes. As the good ol’ boys say, “a ‘hunnertnten’ in the shade.” Momma Killdeer was panting a bit in the blistering sun as I approached. She eyed me immediately. I fired a few shots, went away, and came back in a few minutes. By the time I returned, she was standing slightly above her eggs with her feathers ruffled to dissipate the heat. I’m thinking dedicated parent here.

bird in profile

The Raindrops Signal Dedication.

A big change in the weather came when an Olympic-class thunderstorm rolled across the premises. Momma Killdeer remained in place — as oblivious to the torrential rains as she was to the blistering heat. She understands her job description well.

As I slinked a bit closer, she rose over her eggs and aimed her disapproval straight in my direction, uttering foul Killdeer chirps. Satisfied that I had seen the bird and the eggs, I repaired back to the office to get some actual work done. In the meantime a big-time thunderstorm rolled in and dumped a lot of welcome rain on our acreage. I decided to see if Ms. Killdeer stayed the course during the storm. I was not surprised to see her soaked feathers — and a big drop of water clinging to her bill. She had not budged from her maternal duties despite two big-time climatic extremes. Folks, that’s dedication.

Would that a lot of non-feathered, non-flying parents demonstrate similar dedication to their offspring. If we made the request publicly, their rejoinder would probably ring something like this: “That’s for the birds.”

Photo Notes

Nikon D7100, hand held, ISO 200, AF VR –Nikkor 80-400 f4.5-5.6D, 1/1000@f5.3 for both sunlit shots, same lens and camera for the raindrop shot, ISO 400, 1/800@f5.6. Post processed with Photoshop® CC.


see more
See more of the killdeer and spouse as they go into the “wounded bird” routine to draw me away from their nest. You'll find it at
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind. We are showing 15 pictures of a performance deserving of an avian Academy Award. A lot of birds do this routine, but few as well as this pair. Click to see the show.

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