The North Basin water this morning lay like a mirror. For a photographer that’s an irresistible temptation to shoot two birds with one click, such as this American Coot and its reflection, facing the morning sun. The coot normally looks quite black, but in this early golden light, it seems to be a brown bird. In any light its eyes are red. A half hour later, the mirror began to undulate, the bird snapped out of its reverie and began its morning ritual of preening.
This bird’s solitary autumn is now over; it has company. At least two other coots hang out with it, and a family reunion has begun, with a dozen cousins arriving, probably the pilot crew of larger numbers. They’ll be paddling wing to wing, and fluttering up on the bank to forage on the new grass in competition with the squirrels.
Coots are sometimes mistaken for ducks. They may hang out with ducks, but they’re quite different. They have narrow bills, not flat ones like ducks. Their feet don’t have webs connecting their toes, like ducks; instead their toes have pockets that let them paddle very efficiently. Coots are in the rail family, like the Ridgeway Rail, the King Rail, and others.