Monday, November 24, 2014

A Salute to the Coot


Well, we have a nice pair of bald eagles patrolling the lake--and Mike Kenny reports that a very large group of swans were spotted.  The island has been graced with blue jays, cardinals, and a big bunch of gold finches in their muted winter plumage.  Among this great diversity of colorful birds sits the lowly coot.  I never gave them much regard till now. 

I've watched them for five winters now--patiently making their way from Rain Creek to Big Island in the dusk, and then returning in the early morning.  A group of American coots is called a "raft." and that indeed is what they look like as they travel tightly bunched--perhaps to look like a bigger creature when viewed from above or below.  Perhaps, instead, the ones in the middle are simply safer as predators work the edges. They move in silence, their raft getting bigger and bigger until it extends nearly from Big Island all the way to Rain Creek in late winter.  I have no idea where they come from or where they go at other times of the year--but they've become pretty good company here.

The photograph above is the exception to the rule. A small bunch appeared at the east shore of the island a bit ago.  The lake had a sudden freeze to ice, and they were able to find open water there as the rising sun on the concrete sea wall radiated heat to the water.  Soon the ice departed and I now look for their normal travels to resume.

The recent ice was a trial.  We spent three hours chopping our way to shore as the ice was too thin to hold weight but thick enough that it took constant pounding with bash poles to make very slow progress.  We had a place to be Saturday morning and nature had no regard for our schedule.  Now the water is open and now we needn't be anywhere in a hurry--such is the irony of life.