Horse Thieves

A male and female American wigeon pair eat the plants an American coot has brought to the surface

Visit Ridgefield during the winter and nearly every body of water will have American coots on it. I spent a good deal of time this past winter photographing coots at Horse Lake, a seasonal pond at the start of the auto tour, trying to capture different aspects of their lives, such as how American wigeon will dash over to eat the plants a coot has worked loose from the lake bed.

The wigeon will swim over after a coot dives and try to eat what it brings up when it surfaces. Many times it seems to me they spend more energy chasing after the coots than if they had just dabbled in the shallow water to feed themselves. Other ducks like gadwall also participate in this thievery – as do other coots as well – but the wigeon are relentless. For their part, the coots put up with it without much fuss. Here, a male and female pair come at the coot from each side.

Future Parents

Future Parents

2011 turned out to be a good year for watching killdeer for me, all thanks to this pair. I first saw them up close near the refuge parking lot, then early one winter morning I spotted them again running in front of Horse Lake. Suddenly the male jumped onto the female and they mated, and later I had the privilege of seeing them raise their family at the edge of the lake. A little slice of killdeer life, all witnessed in the short space between the parking lot and the end of Horse Lake.

Can’t … Quite … Reach

An American bittern tries to dislodge a bit of plant material on its bill with its tongue

While this American bittern may look a bit knackered with its tongue hanging out, it was just trying to dislodge a bit of plant material that was stuck near the base of its bill. It could have reached it with its foot, but perhaps to minimize movement it kept trying – unsuccessfully – with its tongue.