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Posts Tagged ‘American Coot’

In addition to the large raft of American Coots (Fulica americana) that I spotted in the waters off of Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge last week and featured in a posting entitled A raft of coots, I also saw three coots near to the shore swimming around in a little circle like they were lost. I do not know if they had somehow gotten separated from the group, but they struck me as being very vulnerable—as several readers have noted, coots are vulnerable to being picked off by bald eagles.

This close-up shots highlight some of the notable characteristics of this species, including their red eyes and their legs that are placed rather far back on their bodies, making walking a bit of a challenge.

American Coot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally when I see American Coots (Fulica americana) I see only a few of them at a time, but last Friday I spotted a whole raft of them in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. They seemed to be of mixed ages, not just old coots like me.

I zoomed out with my 150-600mm lens to capture the whole raft and then zoomed in to capture some details. I recommend that you double-click on the images, especially the second one, to see wonderful details, like all of the red eyes. There seem to be a number of different colored beaks in the group, suggesting the possibility that there are some other species mixed in, though it appears to be mostly coots.

American Coots

American Coots

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Coots look clumsy when bobbing about in the water, but amazingly they look even more awkward out of the water, like this one that I spotted Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. Their green feet, which are not webbed like those of a duck, seem disproportionately large and almost cartoonish, like the oversized Hulk hands that I have seen little kids wear at times in the past.

When I first started photographing birds, I assumed that American Coots (Fulica americana) were part of the duck family. After all, coots swam in the water, were about the same size as some ducks, and sometimes seemed to hang out with ducks.

When I did a little research, however, I learned that coots are not at all related to ducks. As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology points out, “they’re closer relatives of the gangly Sandhill Crane and the nearly invisible rails than of Mallards or teal.”

American Coot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do coots laugh? I don’t know for sure, but that’s certainly what this American Coot (Fulica americana) seemed to be doing when I spotted him on Monday morning at Huntley Meadows Park.

American Coot

A bit later in the day, when the direction of the light was less harsh, I saw some more coots and was able to capture an image that shows more accurately the color of the coot’s body and its eerie red eyes.

American Coot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The wind was howling yesterday afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park, making the water really choppy and threatening to blow me off of the boardwalk. A solo American Coot (Fulica americana) was one of the few birds that attempted to navigate its way among the waves—it looked almost like a scene at the ocean’s shore.

American Coot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the early morning sun reflected on the water in pale shades of pink and blue last Friday at Huntley Meadows Park, this American Coot (Fulica americana) looked unusually happy as he foraged in the vegetation, occasionally glancing in my direction with a smile on his face.

It must have been a young coot—we all know that old coots are crotchety and don’t like to be bothered by others.

American Coot

American Coot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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American Coots (Fulica americana) have strange-looking feet. I mistakenly assumed that coots had webbed feet, like ducks, and was shocked recently when I saw one out of the water to see that is definitely not the case.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website had this description of their feet ”

“Although it swims like a duck, the American Coot does not have webbed feet like a duck. Instead, each one of the coot’s long toes has broad lobes of skin that help it kick through the water. The broad lobes fold back each time the bird lifts its foot, so it doesn’t impede walking on dry land, though it supports the bird’s weight on mucky ground.”

Recently at the edge of the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, I came upon this coot that seemed to be grooming itself. After a short time, it assumed a pose that reminded me of the crane kick position that featured so prominently in the movie The Karate Kid. Perhaps the coots have their own martial art.

Eventually the coot became aware of my presence and stopped what it was doing and looked in my direction. There was a disapproving look in its intense stare and it almost looked like it was giving me the evil eye.

American Coot

Practicing martial arts

American Coot

Giving me the evil eye

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Another coot? Yes, as I was going over my recent shots of an American Coot (Fulica americana) at my local marsh one more time, I decided that I liked this image even more than the one I posted yesterday. The coot has a kind of determined look in its eye and the tilted head gives it a sense of tension, like it is exerting effort to pull that plant out of the water. Besides, I seem to be attracted to birds and animals with unusually colored eyes.

I find it tough at times to choose the best shot quickly when I have shot a series of images. Probably I need to take a little more time in reviewing the images, but I am often in too much of a hurry to find an image (or images) to post. A year ago, I felt compelled to attempt to post every single day, but I have backed off slightly and miss a day now from time to time.

Nonetheless, I still like to post images that appeal to me, which are often, but not always, my “best” shots. Sometimes the photos will merely document the experience that I want to share with readers and may not be technically great images. It’s a little selfish, perhaps, but I shoot mostly for me. Fortunately, I sense that my skills are improving and hope that the quality of the images I post tend to reflect that improvement.

coot_redeye_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Thanks to some recent rains and a major wetland restoration project at my local marsh, we seem to have a lot more American Coots (Fulica americana) than last year. Most of the time they seem to like to keep their distance. This past Monday, though, one of them drifted toward an area relatively close to where I was standing and I managed to get this shot of the coot feeding on some of the vegetation growing out of the water.coot_hungry_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Have you ever watched a coot swim? When I first spotted this American Coot (Fulica americana) earlier this week at my local marsh, I thought it might be a duck. Once it started swimming, I could tell immediately that it was a coot.

Coots have a really clumsy way of swimming. They thrust their necks forward and then back, as if to generate momentum to propel themselves forward. The two photos show two different positions that the coot assumes while swimming. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology that coots, unlike ducks, don’t have webbed feet, but instead each one of the coot’s long toes has broad lobes of skin that help it kick through the water. In fact, they are closer relatives to Sandhill Cranes than to Mallards.

This coot was by itself and may be migrating through this area or may become a resident here for the winter. I was happy that I saw the coot in a relatively open area of the marsh. A short time later, the coot swam into the cattails and disappeared from sight.

Given the popular use of the term “coot,” I wonder if I am old enough to qualify as an American coot too.

coot_swimming2_blogcoot_swimming1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever tried to take photos with an umbrella in one hand and your camera in the other? Mixed snow and rain fell during most of today and things were pretty quiet in the marsh today. I walked along the slushy boardwalk with an open umbrella, trying desperately to find something to photograph.

I was surprised to come across an American Coot (Fulica americana) for the first time in the park, although I saw lots of them earlier in the month when I was visiting in Georgia. This coot was by himself—I didn’t see any other coots and he was not hanging out with ducks either.

coot_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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