OPINION

After such a tortuous affair, it's a sad end for this plover empty-nester

BEE LINE: The male plover comes in low and fast as the female was sitting on eggs.
BEE LINE: The male plover comes in low and fast as the female was sitting on eggs.

Nature can be gut-wrenchingly cruel - and human nature downright confusing.

For the last few weeks my wife and I have been altering our lifestyle to fit around a plover who decided it was a good idea to sit on eggs in our driveway, just outside the entrance to the garage.

It wasn't easy.

It took the garage largely out of play for starters. We moved our cars out so as not to disturb them. We let weeds grow in the driveway - all right, worse than usual - and mowed the lawn less regularly than we'd like. And no, I never thought I'd say that.

But all the while the male, and occasionally the female herself, would attack us anyway. Just their way of saying thanks.

It meant my wife using an umbrella overhead every time she went outside. Me, I'd throw on the Bunnings hat, or alternatively go from tree to tree to limit their dive-bombing opportunities.

I don't mind saying at one stage there if I had a cricket bat in my hand, I wouldn't have minded taking a swing. Then again, if you've seen me play cricket, you'd like your superannuation to be that safe.

But then things changed. We had a cold snap, and a couple of nights of very gusty wind and intense downpours. And through it all mum stayed tight, totally unprotected, drenched, keeping her eggs warm and safe. You had to admire that motherly instinct.

So, when two healthy chicks arrived, we were proud de facto grandparents.

Two speckled green eggs in the middle of the driveway.

Two speckled green eggs in the middle of the driveway.

But here's where this story turns sad.

On just their second day, instead of staying in our fenced yard where she had been safe for a month, she wandered across the road to a development where they're selling housing blocks. At this stage no houses have gone up, but all the trees have been cleared.

It's a place where neighbours let their dogs off the lead. It's not fenced, and totally unprotected. It's also the territory of a couple of magpies who, it should be said, have a chick of their own.

We don't really know what happened to the plover chicks, although at one stage we commented on the magpies swooping down on something. Next morning the plover parents were back in our yard, searching everywhere, calling out for the chicks. To no avail.

Eventually they stood there for maybe two hours, not eating, or preening, just standing.

It was sad and my wife was teary. She even jumped in the car and went across to the development site to see if the chicks might have fallen into a drain.

"How," she asked, "after generations could they not have the survival instinct to stay where they can hide, where there are trees and bushes for protection?"

It's a good question. And you know what, next year it all starts again.