The Black-necked Stilts at the Herman (Grant County) sewage ponds are nesting. We visited the area today and observed nesting behavior by what seems to be the female and were able to obtain permission from the city to walk into the ponds to photograph a single egg on a small nest depression among the rocks. We will get the photo on the MOU website as soon as possible. As it was a hot (85 degree) sunny day, the bird on the nest would walk out into the water and dip itself down into the water several times getting the belly feathers wet. It would then walk quickly over to the nest and sit down lightly, cooling the eggs with the moisture.
This pair of stilts were originally found by Doug Keiser (with others) two days earlier and also observed by Herb Dingman (with Craig Mandel) yesterday, among others. Neither observers saw this behavior because of different weather situations. For instance when Herb was there it was relatively cool with a light rain in the area. Thus the bird did not need to cool or warm the eggs so was seen feeding with its mate in a corner of the ponds close to the nest. Today the mate was at the far end of the ponds because of a city employee mowing the area near the nest. The presumed female would leave the nest for a very short time when the tractor came close but would return immediately upon its passing.
The earlier observers and ourselves observed an aggressive behavior toward other species that came near the nest. Doug mentioned seeing the birds chasing Lesser Yellowlegs and we observed the birds chasing Common Grackles away from the area. Interesting was that there was no aggressive behavior toward a mixed flock of peeps that were in the area of the nest. This flock included Dunlin, Pectoral, Least, Semi-palmated, and White-rumped Sandpipers. Also present in the ponds were a flock of Willets and a Hudsonian Godwit, although these left presumably because of the lawn mower about the same time as we arrived so we observed no interaction between them and the stilt.
This is presumed to be a first state nesting record, at least in modern times. We haven’t had time to look at Roberts, etc. to see if there are any historical records.
The city of Herman welcomes you to visit their ponds but you should not go past the gate. The nest is probably less than 40 yards from the gate and at least one of the birds seems to always be in the area. Also there is no need for photographers to get any closer as good photos were obtained by Doug and ourselves. If after looking at the pond you do not see the birds it is acceptable to enter the ponds 20 feet or so as to better observe the close shoreline which can be hard to see from the gate. Under no circumstances should you go anywhere near the nest which in on the south shore of the north pond and visible from the gate You will notice a small point extending into the pond near the middle of the shoreline. The nest is 4-5 feet closer to the gate from this point, just below the whitest rocks.
The ponds are located 1.2 miles southeast of town on Hwy 9 on the east side of the road. The north pond is drawn down and is the one attracting all the shorebirds. The city had started to refill the pond but because of the nesting by the stilt they are going to hold off on refilling the pond for a while. The city employees will also be limiting lawn mowing, as they said they can find many other places to mow. They are very interested in this nesting and will be checking the ponds regularly for signs of a successful nest and to make sure no inappropriate behavior occurs. They are very excited about this nesting and were even calling others to tell them about it.
Dennis and Barbara Martin
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