Sometimes you just have to give your friends a helping hand.
Scott Plein, owner of the White House Farm and Shawn Bradley, the farm manager, recently had the opportunity to do just this: A little killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) lay her eggs in the habitat she favors the most – open ground free of predator-laden vegetation.
This just happened to be in the middle of the gravel driveway leading up to the brick farmhouse.
Like the respectful naturalists they are, Shawn and Scott neatly stretched safety ribbon around her nesting site to protect the eggs from traffic. Since then she has sat on her eggs through wind and rain, sunny days and cool nights.
This act of kindness has ensured that four small killdeer chicks will have a chance at life and underscores our relationship with the natural world. Walking a few extra steps to get to the front door? Not a big deal.
If we can make slight accommodations to help out our avian friends, why not? They, along with many other species, have certainly lost many acres of habitat due to human encroachment. Plus, birds are simply a pleasure to listen to and watch and do a great job keeping pest insect populations in check.
The killdeer is not considered rare but they are interesting: mamma bird has developed a very clever way of distracting prey from her babies: she will move away from the nest, chirping loudly and pretends to be hurt in order to make herself seem like an easy meal. She drags a wing on the ground and draws the predator away, then, to its surprise flies off.
We are also pleased to be hosting a nest of robins (Turdus migratorius) on the upstairs window ledge. Though the large maple could have provided a nesting spot, the momma bird decided the corner of the bathroom window would be nicer. It has been a rare opportunity to watch her and we look forward to seeing the little ones hatch – again, many thanks to Scott Plein and Shawn Bradley for letting the mother bird raise her chicks on the porch
We are very pleased to be hosting a nesting pair of barn owls (Tyto alba) at the EMJ Farm, our sister farm two miles away from the White House Farm. The male and female owls were first seen roosting in the silo during the day. As work began on the roof of the brick farmhouse, the contractors realized the momma owl had a nest strategically hidden in the angle of a roof overhang. Josh Sours captured these great photographs of the flight of the female as she left her nest.
We have enjoyed the opportunity to help out these avian friends and many others at the farms. It is a rare chance to observe these species so closely.
Mr. Plein is in the process of reestablishing native warm season grasses and wildflowers in the riparian area adjacent to the South Fork of the Shenandoah River at the White House Farm. This vegetation will provide food and habitat to many bird species.
White House Natives nursery, immediately across the road from the riparian buffer has more than 9000 native Virginia trees and shrubs representing 85 species and this also provides food and habitat to birds along with host plant material for many important native caterpillar species which then become food for the birds. We encourage others to respect nature – and, if possible, provide a helping hand by planting more native species and protecting bird nests.