These strange sociable little critters may take over the marshes some day. It seemed like every body of open water had a covering of Coots. I’d never thought that many would be in the same place.
Personally I really enjoy them. When they form a ‘raft’ and play follow the leader it’s like a few hundred (thousand) in a Conga Line.
While they are very similar to the Gallinule, running away screaming loudly is not their way. They just talk. To each other, to other birds they pass, or just to themselves. When you get a marsh full it’s a constant noise.
In some parts of the south Coots are known as Mud Hens.
While out in the ACE Basin and Wildlife Management Areas the other day most all the locals, us included, were out soaking up the warm sun. Just the day before we actually had ice!
While my preference of shooting is to capture a sequence of photographs I did slow down to (almost) single shots for a time. The following are a few random photos from the morning.
First here is a single Roseate Spoonbill, preening of course. He was part of a small group, maybe 6, however the others were tucked in the brush sleeping through the warmth.
Below are several locals around first light. The golden hour goes overboard when it shines on the gold winter reeds. There were a few Spoonbills just waking on the left, a Great Egret hunched over getting warm, and Gallinules already swimming about.
Here are the resident Turkey Vultures sleeping in. They weren’t there long. Once the sun hits open water the warm thermals make it easy for them to fly and glide off for the day. Not very pretty, but masters of flight.
Last here are the winter vacationers. I think they should be around until February. However, they will change marshes unless the dike trunks are open keeping a large flow of water, and fish. White Pelicans feed in groups, lines of predators eating everything in their path. A large group, like we now have, can deplete the food source fairly quick.
Shooting at a slower rate, even for just an hour or so, makes a big difference. I don’t fill a card as quick. Also less work digging through images, but I know there were some action sequences I just watched go by. 😂
It’s not very big, but he was catching enough for a meal in the swamp waters. It’s was not deep, and of course muddy yet there were fish (and critters).
You can barely see this catch.
Below he flipped it in the air, caught then swallowed. He made sure it was head first to avoid any sharp gills.
Anhinga and Cormorants are similar species. A Cormorant has a hooked bill and dives in deeper clear water. It can be salt water. Cold doesn’t bother them much, they are common in the northern US.
Anhinga dive for fish also. However they spear prey with a sharp beak. Swamps/marshes are their preferred territory, not salt water. They are also a tropical South American bird that has moved up to the Lowcountry. They can tolerate cold for a short period.
They do well in swamps because they are very aggressive. The only real danger to them are the Alligators.
Photographed in a smaller local swamp, Magnolia Plantation property.