American coots are such odd birds. They are more like a chicken than a duck. A water bird, much like the Virginia rail, the coot mates for life and both male and female build the nest and incubate the eggs.
Once hatched, the coots are a bit like a prehistoric creature. They have black bodies and are covered by a shock of orange. You can’t miss them next to the adults. The chicks had hatched just days, maybe hours earlier. I had been shown the nest earlier this week by two new photographer friends at the Ponds.
When I heard there were chicks, I raced down Weds night to see them, but Mama had them nestled beneath her in their floating nest in the reeds. Safe for the night. When I arrived this morning they were being fed by the parents. I use a zoom, and I am fairly far away. These photos were the best I could get of the crazy little fluff balls. For about 15 minutes, we watched all four chicks swimming in the water with Pop.
Eventually I had to tear myself away. I walked off in search of the elusive Virginia rail. There were waxwings, and sparrow, blackbirds and finches. No rails. I was heading back around when I saw a familiar face walking toward me. A new friend shared with me that he had heard a great commotion when he arrived and headed straight back to the nest.
He arrived just in time to see a mink climbing into the nest amid a frenzied response from the parents. None of the chicks survived.
More carnage of young innocents.
I understand that what happened to the coot chicks is an ugly truth of nature. In this wetland pond, it is survival of the fittest. Both adults must have left the nest for just a moment. I wonder what it must feel like for them to suffer a loss such as this one.
It is almost too much sadness for one week. Life is such a mystery to me and those who can’t find the willingness to protect it at all cost leave me bewildered. I understand those coots fought fiercely, with all they had for those chicks.
We could learn a lesson from them.