When I posted Winter Swans, you might have noticed an amazing number of Coots in some of the images from Hogganfield Loch. I spent most of my camera time on the Goldeneyes and Goosanders, possibly mistakenly, because it is (in my experience) unusual to see many Coots in mutual proximity. Once they get to it in the breeding season, it’s serious “get orf my larnd” and proper street fighting to follow. These chaps were going at it on Frankfield Loch.
I found some Coots very close to the lens at Hogganfield Loch and not shy – desperation suspending caution, probably. Through the water, you can see the extraordinary feet.
They do lend themselves to contrasty images but there is that really strange bit of pink on the bill which is missed in black-and-white.
I have failed to find anything very interesting about their feet in the open literature but I did find a nice image at this site. I am made nervous by including this in my post as the headline appears to be the mating call of Gammonus brexitus (ssp. Clarksonii) but it’s a belting photograph of a Coot’s foot and I’m thinking that it would be unreasonable for these scaly semicircular flaps of skin to support the Coot as it prospects across rafts of weed on the canal margins, and propel it as it swims, folding back on the recovery stroke for less resistance. Thinking superficially about different types of proteins and their roles, there must be a few things going on here, with regions of hydrophobicity for the coating, stiffness for resistance, and flexibility at the hinge. Connective and structural proteins are up to all tasks but I’d love to have some detail. Can you get a big grant to do Coots’ feet? Unlikely – the prefix Nano seems to be absent – but we could live in hope.
Coots do look a bit odd, and we all know the “bald as a coot” phrase. Any slaphead should be thrilled to have the generous thick weave of a Coot’s breast, but that’s not the answer – it’s the white bit!
I was extremely fortunate to visit WWT Slimbridge recently and a pair of Coots caught my eye – I guess I was in sniper mode and just hit them before I thought about it too much. There’s usually a video of anything you want on YouTube but the Coot courtship I can find is less intimate than this, and a bit squabbly. I’d prefer us to make our own narrative from the stills.
So a shorter post this time, and no homework – I hope this is agreeable.