A couple of days ago, around sunset, in a light rain with overcast skies, I traveled by the pond. I didn’t have a camera, and I was just trying to get out of the house for a few minutes before dark after an exacerbating work day.
I did toy with the idea of taking my camera, but I didn’t want it to get wet and I told myself that it would be good for me to just relax, breath in the cool air, and see without recording what I observed.
As soon as I entered the pond area I saw it. It was a duck at the water’s edge. I cursed my decision to have gone out without a camera because I could tell, immediately, it wasn’t a species I had seen before. Then, I remembered I had a cell phone with me. In the waning light, I pointed it at the bird that seemed to be listing back and forth in the marginal grasses. It was useless. I was too far. I decided to take a short video, in the event that it might provide a bit more information than the black blobs that were the subjects of the camera shots.
What I did do was try my best to recall any unique features so that I might look up the possible options for identification. Black. That was obvious. It as a black duck. White beak. That was obvious, it had a bright, white beak. I rolled my eyes and figured there were going to be a half dozen ducks that met that description in the bird guide.
Even before I went back to the house, I did a quick search of “black duck with bright white beak.” Wow! There was one bird that was listed over and over again. American Coot. I tried to compare the little image in my cellphone video to the description and I was 90% certain I had seen a Coot.
That night and all through the next day it rained, and rained. Finally, in late afternoon, I noticed a bit of sun. I packed up the camera and headed off to the pond, hoping that the single, American Coot had stuck around. It had! While the clouds still outweighed the short bursts of sunlight, I was able to get a few photos.
This bird is not a duck! It is a Rail. It’s in the same family as the Soras that visited a week ago. It doesn’t have webbed feet, but it has the same type of long toes of other birds in the Rail family. I suppose that is why it appeared to list back and forth a bit more than a duck might in the shallows.
This bird was eating – a lot! It took large beak-fulls of the green vegetation that ends up consuming our pond in certain years. My husband suggested we order in a couple dozen Coots to tend to that unwanted growth of the stringy plants.
And, here I present to you the American Coot!