Monday, February 19, 2007

Killdeer on Ice

Not quite as exotic as Kiwi on Ice, perhaps, but I was none-the-less taken aback one day last weekend when, while driving down a rural road just west of Martinsburg in Berkeley County, West Virginia, I spotted the distinct flight profile of a Killdeer winging across an open field covered in 2-4 inches of hard-packed snow and ice, then watched as if alighted on the frozen tundra-like surface.

Considering the environmental conditions, a bird could hardly have been more unexpected. Killdeer are hardy birds, and commonly winter at this latitude. All of my previous winter encounters with Killdeer in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, however, have been along the Shenandoah or Potomac rivers. I have seen them along those streams when the banks were snow-covered and the rivers clogged with ice. In those situations, they probably feed along the ice-water interface, where food of some type can be expected to be present.

The “Killdeer on Ice” had flown from the direction of Tuscarora Creek. This is a much smaller stream than either the Shenandoah or Potomac, being, in fact, a secondary tributary of the Potomac. Tuscarora Creek was still flowing on this date, and the creek banks probably provided a source of food for this bird.

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