I had to take a different route to work yesterday, so I didn’t get to see the coots.
They must have missed me, because this time they were right next to the canal bank.
It looked like it was a mix of learning how to dive and learning how to eat along the canal. The parents are still feeding them, but they’re also picking up their own bits and seeing if they’re edible.
They’re getting closer and closer to the adults’ size. They apparently develop their adult coats around three to four months.
The problem with the baby coots learning how to dive for food is that all the photos of them turn into blurry disasters.
Even when they get closer to the side of the canal I’m on, they’re still moving around too much.
I managed to get one vaguely in-focus picture, and while it’s great to see them grow up, I just want to say “BE STILL.”
Today the coots were down by the overspill again, apparently learning how to dive underwater to get food.
So they go down…
Then pop back up.
Their feathers, despite looking really fluffy and soft, are really waterproof. You can see the individual water droplets sliding off them, which I didn’t expect. They always look a little bedraggled compared to their parents, but the feathers spring back up into nice fluffiness right afterwards.
One of them had something in their mouth. What’cha get, little coot?
What I really like about baby coots, aside from the name, is how they go through three stages of feather growth.
First there’s the little fluffy grey baby feathers and the scraggly orange ones on the head. Then there’s the slightly longer grey with the white bits on the breast and neck. Then there’s the sleek black and white coat the adults get.
The five babies are definitely in the middle stage now. All fluffy grey and white.
I wonder if it’s a camouflage thing. When they’re mostly in the nest, they need to look more like twigs and debris. When they’re swimming in the water, they need to look like grey clouds and dirty water. Then when they’re adults, they’re fine.
They’re also well disguised against the metal walls of the canal bank. So they have that going for them.
Right past the Castle Lock, there’s an overspill.
The coots were swimming around there today. One of the babies is very adventurous and wasn’t anywhere near their parents, but the other four swam alongside one of the adults.
They’re definitely getting white feathers on their neck and breast and losing the scraggly yellow head feathers.
What was particularly great about them being at the overspill was that it meant they were in a place where you could get really close to them without getting down too far.
Which, of course, meant even better baby photos.
I think the black feathers might be the start of their adult coats coming in.
And you can see that their feet still don’t have the white bits on them.
And they look awkward as hell.
As they enter the awkward teenager stage, they get white feathers on their neck and breast.
This is, of course, adorable, because they still have the remains of those raggedy yellow head feathers, and it just makes them look even more awkward compared to their sleek parents.
Today they were along the canal learning about the delicious algae that grows on the sides of the bank.
At least, I think it’s algae? It could be a type of grass or moss.
Still five babies, still growing up big and strong and swimming along the canal.
That was roughly where I saw the cat eating grass yesterday, so I hope that A) the babies don’t decide to go onto land and B) the cat doesn’t decide to take a swim.
As a bonus: Goslings
The babies are learning how to eat algae and other bits from the side of the canal.
Which is great for me, because then I get better shots of them.
I only saw four, but I could swear I saw a fifth baby hiding under one of the adults. But there were definitely four swimming around.
I also got a good action shot of one of the adults diving down.
“Where’d they go?”
Also on my walk in, right by the Castle Lock, I saw a heron.
And a cat eating grass along the canal bank.
They were down by the lock again, on the side of the canal with the path, so I was able to get really good pictures.
There are still five babies, but they were spread out a bit, so I don’t have a picture of all five together.
The babies would swim away from the edge as I approached, and the parents would swim closer. But, after a few seconds, the babies would swim back when it was obvious I wouldn’t snatch them.
There are just five babies now. Since two of them are visibly larger, I’m guessing the two that are gone were probably late hatchings and were easy to pick up by predators.
They were all hanging around the nest today, which made it easier to get closer photos, and I managed to actually get my phone to focus right today.
One of the adults was picking up twigs and other debris to add to the nest – I guess the squatting ducks pushed everything out of place.
But the two bigger babies are happily swimming around and causing trouble.