A watery nursery
The Coot family is doing really well. It’s unusual for the Coot to choose a place like Long Pool in Highbury to breed, as it generally prefers larger bodies of water than the Moorhen; but it’s safe to say our resident family is thriving.
Yesterday I watched in the sunshine as the female Coot sat on the nest being fed by her attentive mate, and then in turn feeding a snail to her young. At first I thought it had only successfully hatched one young, as I only saw one head pop up for food. But later in the day the parent was briefly standing in the nest, and beneath her were two young chicks – and a third that boldly moved to the edge of the nest and seemed to be eyeing up the water. I’m sure it won’t be long before it takes its first dip.
At the moment the chicks are tiny balls of fluff with comical yellow and red round their face and neck. The adult black plumage will develop when they are about three or four months old, but the characteristic white face shield won’t be fully in evidence until about one year old.
The Moorhen chicks (above) are growing quickly too. Already their legs grow gangly, though they will still look like cute little balls of black fluff for a while yet (they differ from their young Coot cousins by having no yellow on them and only a little bit of red). They scurry beneath overhanging undergrowth around the edge of Long Pool pond, scud quickly across the surface of the water as they chase one another or after their calling parents, scramble onto pieces of root and twigs then fall off again into the water; they are a delight to watch. Three of them managed to balance on a tiny stone just beneath the surface of the water yesterday, huddling together. Occasionally one would lose his balance and fall off, but quickly got back up again. It seemed the perfect vantage point for them to watch the world go by.
The Canada Geese family are doing well too, with all seven of their gosling making it so far. The parents some a fearsome couple, hissing at anything that comes near their young, ready to defend or even attack if necessary.