Not Without a Fight

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. 

14 Comments on “Not Without a Fight

  1. Beautiful post and photos, Bonnie Rae. It reminded me why I am drawn to take photos in the first place. The best of them memorialize a moment in a great flow, the circle of life, time’s movement through its seasons, our own passages that bring us to a specific place and time. You captured that beautifully here; thanks!

    • Thank you so much, Alan. I think we share a purpose in using our lenses to tell a story, both our own and a Universal one. So happy to join you on this path.

  2. Beautiful Bonnie Rae. Nature can be heartrending when we compare it to our own species, and I appreciate the allegory. How do we hold both, the tragic and the sublime? It’s a journey for me for sure.
    PS remember when you were worried that you couldn’t write? This is so lovely.

    • Thank you, friend. I’ve since learned some awful things about coots and their behavior, but their motivation is never random. Oh, nature. Sigh.

    • As someone mentioned, sad but not tragic. Quite the range of emotion in just one morning visit.

  3. The brilliant color is amazing! And they lose it all. Their death is the way of nature, and horrifying nonetheless. The chicks, not the children. I’m glad they are immortalized on your camera; that you saw them honors their short lives.

    • I’ve seen some heartbreaking things in nature but there is never randomness in the act. Horrifying, yes. I’m so glad for the chance to bear witness to their short little lives. Thank you for writing.

    • Predators are everywhere… at least, in nature, carnage doesnt usually happen for sport. I am so happy that you were able to capture their sweetness when you did. Circle of Life…*

  4. The only time I have seen Coot chicks was on a trip to the Klamath Falls area. It is such a complete surprise to see the red feathers.

    • I had never seen them and I was over the moon to watch these little creatures swim and climb for the first time. Thanks for sharing, Keitha.

  5. At least the coot chicks’ death wasn’t senseless. Sad, but not tragic. Thanks for sharing your poignant experience!

    • Thanks Dan. Yes, so are the ways of nature. It was quite a thing to see. I’ll be back to check on my little Virginia rail chicks. It is a very active pond and only the strong will survive.

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