I visited Ed Levin State Park in Milpitas, California and found different types of waterfowl in the lake: Coots, Pied-billed grebes and Mallards. Then the waders, with night and blue herons. I also saw red-tailed hawks, and was hoping to see a bald eagle that did not join the party.
Wildlife is punch-in-the-face wild. Every living being in the lake is a meal for someone else. The moment I stepped in, a grebe was eating a frog, and I later saw a mom with an pretty big shell fish. It was huge! Could have been my lunch. She patiently break the shell with her bill and distributed the vibrant pink interior to three or four hungry kids.
Mother, father and son relationships are short and independence means getting ready for survival, something we human moms don’t understand very well.
The story of this morning, featuring American Coots (Fulica americana). While I was very focused on a Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) perching on a big willow by the water, I heard a rather impatient squawk coming from an immature coot. That little one was so loud!
I wanted to tell him to be quiet, or he might be eaten by the heron watching from above, which sparked a debate in my mind on wether I should alter the circle of life or not, if the Blue heron decided to eat (I can’t see a baby swallowed, I can’t).
Fortunately, the little one swam under the “protection” of the willow branches and I saw his mama joining him there. I sneaked in and saw the cutest scene. That immature coot was really happy with his mama. And wanted food. It looked like the mom “told” him something like “you are trained to eat now, you can do it yourself”. But that little one just wanted to be fed, like a weaned off baby who wants to have the comfort of his mom’s breast one more time.
The American coot fed her baby patiently until he was satisfied, grabbing algae and letting him grab them from her beak. He got some himself, but wanted all that was coming from his mom’s beak.
After five minutes, they swam again toward the center of the lake. The little one followed and started squawking again. She grabbed some more veggies from the underwater pantry and shared again. This time, they were grabbing it together and eating both at the same time.
Until the mother thought it was enough and took off. No matter how much and how loud that young coot called for her, the mom did not come back. He did not try to follow her, it is like his natural instincts were kicking in. After a while I did not hear him anymore (but I saw him safe and sound).
The process of separation and independence is much longer among humans, and we make this even lengthier. Sometimes I see myself holding my baby forever, and he is already 13!