A post-dawn walk at Palo Alto Baylands rendered a view to cuteness. “Cute” is a term you’re not supposed to use in wildlife rehab circles. You’re supposed to say “aesthetically pleasing” so as to keep those personal designations and anthropomorphism out of your work. But let’s face it: some things are just cute. And my weakness is anthropomorphizing. So, high on the cuteness-o-meter are ducklings, goslings and — in the case of my Saturday outing — baby avocets.
You’ll notice the outstretched neck of this Canada Goose parent, usually signifying a protective and potentially aggressive stance. This photo was shot from a distance with a long lens, but the goose family was entering an open pond area where herons, egrets, raptors and other predators could make easy marks of their little ones. It’s the unfortunate hazard of spring — the peril of being a little tike in the marshes of San Francisco Bay.
For American Avocets the predation dangers are constant. Their chicks hatch into the world as self-feeding entities, so they have instant exposure as they forage in the shallows where mom and dad guide them. It’s a difficult paradox to care so much for the welfare of these tiny creatures, and to then witness the arduous nature of their survival.
Both avocet parents will generally stay with the young until they reach an adolescent age — at which time one parent will leave. Until that moment of dissolution, both parents aggressively fend off predators, including fellow American Avocets who venture too near the brood.
The young seek shelter under the feathers of their parent. The resulting visual is priceless: an American Avocet with the appearance of six legs . . . a few tiny legs tucked under the wings, facing backward.