A Year on Clear Lake-Jan 17, 2013

Homeland Security – Jan 17, 2013

A huge heron stands sentry atop a bulkhead while a small killdeer (bottom right) patrols the shoreline. Okay – so these two are not guarding our coastline against enemy invasion, but still I would hate to be the unwary prey – be it fish or bug – that wanders into their line of fire.

I had nearly forgotten about the killdeer, a small shoreline bird that can be found just about anywhere. They like wide, expansive places such as playing fields and parking lots. In fact, my first encounter with them was in the parking lot of the Johnson Space Center. They build their nests atop the ground and their chicks, little puffs on two long sticks, race erratically about in all directions. They are quite fun to watch.

The killdeer’s sudden sprint has purpose, of course. Rather than slowly digging its way through sand or dirt, rooting for worms or insects, the killdeer races across the field in an effort to startle its prey into showing itself.

These birds are known for the “hurt wing” act they pull to distract predators away from their young. They are also known for their adaptability, a trait especially beneficial when sharing space with the human species. The killdeer’s ability to adapt to the changes wrought by humans, i.e. transforming its natural habitat into parking lots, helps keep it off the endangered list.

And that, of course, is a good lesson for all of us. Change is inevitable. We need to embrace it, rather than fight it. We’ll live longer.