During dinner a week or so ago, we noticed a couple of spur-winged plovers in hot pursuit of a swamp harrier; we were alerted to the aerial combat by the plovers' characteristic high-pitched screeching. The swamp harrier eventually made a dignified and unhurried exit and was not seen again.
We thought nothing more of it, but later Husband and son were out in the paddock moving the sheep when they looked down in the grass and found the source of the birds' assertive behaviour: a nest (well, a slightly hollowed out bit of grass really) with three speckled eggs in it. They had been defending their babies.
Unfortunately, the paddock in which the parents-to-be had set up their nursery was the one into which the boys had just moved the sheep. Proper farmers would have just left it to nature to battle it out. But not us. Off went the boys to get the moveable pen fencing, carefully placing it around the nest to protect it from marauding lambs.
The Husband returned to the house feeling satisfied that he had demonstrated magnanimity towards our fellow living creatures - even if, strictly speaking, they are Australian (though have been here for a long time).
However, two problems soon became apparent:
1. The lambs (now quite large and boisterous - see Sheep Diaries series), took the erection of this curious new structure as something done entirely for their enjoyment, and congregated around it, like teenagers around a mall, playing tag around its circumference, and cat and mouse with the now somewhat agitated birds.
2. The birds couldn't work out how to get in. (Despite having wings.)
So Husband duely went out and made an opening in the fence, tying it with rope so that (theoretically at least) the birds could get in, but not a rambunctious lamb.
But spur-winged plovers don't do 'openings'.
... So, the Husband went out and moved the sheep.
We were somewhat dubious about whether all this effort would be worth it.
But a few days later, a crack began to appear in one of the eggs, and then another. Two chicks eventually emerged (we are still waiting on the third egg to hatch).
And I think you have to agree, spur-winged plover chicks are pretty cute. (Not so much their parents ... )