Have you ever heard of a killdeer? It is a pretty little bird that looks a lot like a sandpiper, but it lives up here in the foothills instead of (or maybe in addition to) the beach. Here is a beautiful picture of one posted by hart_curt on flikr. I love the big, reddish eyes:
The killdeer has some interesting habits, and we had the good fortune to observe a pair as they set up house. We knew their nest was in a section along our driveway, because they'd show up swooping and diving around us as we'd drive along it. The protective display got even more interesting as time went on. If we lingered at all in the area, one or the other would land and chatter, dragging a wing, pretending it was hurt. Just like Darzee's wife in "Rikki Tikki Tavi"!
So the kids went off in search of the nest, and when they found it I was amazed. It's a wonder I didn't drive on it or step on it...right next to the road! And the cattle are out there all the time too!
But you can clearly see why they chose that location. Boy, don't those eggs just blend in?
After about a month of this display, one day the eggs were gone, and the birds were too. My exhaustive five minutes of research tells me killdeer chicks hatch with eyes open, and as soon as they are dry, they are ready to run. However, there were no egg shell bits, no sign at all of the eggs, just a little bare spot on the ground.
Were the eggs just swallowed whole by a gopher snake, or do the parents somehow clean up the pieces? I will simply choose to believe the latter.