Welcome to my 2018 Twelve Days of Photos, where I look at one of the images I chose to include in my best of year selection and talk a bit about it. To see the entire list of images I chose and learn more about my year in photography, please check out my 2018 Best Photos of the Year post. You can also look at all of the images over on my Smugmug Portfolio Site, and I’ve embedded a slideshow at the end of this post. To see a larger version of the image, you can click on it.

Killdeer Bathing, San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, California

Day Eleven of the Twelve Days of Photos, and we’re now in mid-November. I’ve helped lay my sister to her final rest, and on the way home I travel up I-5 one last time for the year, and I stop by San Luis National Wildlife Refuge outside of Los Banos on the way back as a diversion and to unwind and unplug for a bit. November 10 is still a bit early for the refuges to be in full winter glory, and San Luis this year was a bit behind normal in flooding some of their ponds, so it was still rounding into shape, and as sometimes happens, there were very few — almost no — birds along the auto tour in the refuge.

Except Killdeers. There were Killdeer everywhere. Dozens and dozens of killdeer. These are cute little shorebirds that you see basically anywhere there’s a shoreline on the West coast, 3-4″ tall and quite personable. Common, but not normally seen in the numbers I saw that day in one place, so I must have caught a migrating flock stopping by the refuge to recharge and feed or something, or a group of birds starting to move in for the winter now that the ponds were filling up.

Killdeer are known to non-birders as the broken-wing bird. They build their nests in gravel, usually on the shore of ponds and lakes, but if you have a gravel road, they’re happy to use that, too. And if a predator or thoughtless person gets too close to the nest, the adults will head off a short distance and put on a show of being injured — as if the wing was injured — to try to draw the predator away from the nest. When the predators follow, they’ll draw the predator away some distance then fly off, miraculously healed.

That is a behavior you’ll never seen in my images. As I mentioned yesterday with the Heron, the bird’s well-being and health is more important than any image, so I’ll never consciously trigger that act of protection, and if I do so accidentally I’ll never photograph it because I refuse to encourage others to do so, even by implication of having those photos on display. I’ve seen photographers do that to birds a couple of times, and it makes me want to slap them silly and yell at them for a while but I’ve found, sadly, most simply don’t care as long as they get the shot.

Don’t ever be that photographer in my presence, okay?