Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Scootin' Coots and Sinister Cowbirds

The weather is finally behaving now in Phoenix, and Sunday evening I walked around Steele Indian Park just to enjoy the temperate outdoors...and to see what'd arrived at the local pond. Unlike some of the other Phoenix parks such as Grenada and Papago, I've never seen anything unusual or uncommon and Steele Indian. There are usually a half-dozen Wigeon and Ring-necked Ducks, along with about a dozen Mallards and two dozen Coots throughout the winter. Unlike the other parks though, Steele Indian often hosts a flock (swarm) of Brown-headed Cowbirds.

This doesn't seem noteworthy on the face of it, but I must admit that I don't actually see Brown-headed Cowbirds that often. They're certainly not uncommon, but compared to the Grackles and Blackbirds their urban presence is relatively light. But like other icterids they can be sinister. They're brood parasites, meaning they lay their eggs in other bird's nests sometimes, and they have a mean streak in em' even within the flock. This plain and pleasant female here is about to be ambushed by the jealous neighbor rising up in the background, while a male looks on complacently.

But the real action of the day, the BIG action, came when a quartet of clumsy Coots decided to enter the pond in as ponderous a way as possible--much to my delight. It might be a mean streak in me, but I find great pleasure and chortling satisfaction in observing the awkward machinations of American Coots. They have the shape of Guinea Fowl, which is to say, like a football, with big clown shoes and plodding personalities. And every once in a while they'll build of a head of steam running across a pond just to attack some other Coot that seemed to be minding its own business.

The first pair of Coots cleared the ledge with confidence, even panache.

The second team were a bit more hesitant, and they kinda flubbed it.

So yeah, pretty exciting stuff. They may be grumpy ol' Coots by nature, but every once in a while they can still be spry.