Monday, October 25, 2010

He's Back!

Cooter is back. If you don't know who Cooter is, Cooter is a Great Black-backed Gull who spends the winter with us here at Cape May Point and he's a gull who has developed a particularly nasty habit. He eats coots for breakfast! Well, pretty much any time of day really, but early morning raids do seem to be his stock in trade. OK, we don't know whether Cooter is a he or a she really, but somehow he seems too brutal to be a lady...

The first sign that Cooter is around is usually when you notice all the ducks panicking on Lighthouse or Bunker Pond in Cape May Point State Park. Here, Cooter drops in on the only American Coot that had ventured into the middle of the pond. The disappearing coot is responsible for the splash on the right as it dives for cover.

Cooter waited patiently an inordinate amount of time, but the coot inevitably had to come up for air. I think that coots are pretty much doomed here as the ponds are very shallow and full of copious amounts of water weed. Thus coots have no escape; they're not agile enough in flight to escape and they can't escape under water because the water weed impedes their movement too much.

In classic defensive pose, American Coots roll over to use their feet - with sharp, raking claws - to fight with each other. However, I think this tactic just doesn't work against something as big as a Great Black-backed Gull....

....because the gull has a much longer reach and can now get to the coot's exposed under belly. 
The coot is mortally wounded with nowhere to go....

....and Cooter deals the fatal blow. It's not a nice thing to watch a poor little coot be dispatched in this way, but it is, of course, the way of the world as the web of life goes on all around us. [All photos by Mike Crewe]

I notcie from the CMBO blog dashboard that Don has a blog in the making, so I won't pre-empt anything he may be reporting shortly. Suffice to say that, Cape May continues to bristle with great birds and a dampening down of light rain this afternoon has set the Spring Peepers off outside my office window!

The latest new arrival here was this juvenile American Golden Plover on the South Beach lunchtime, behind The Nature Conservancy's Migratory Bird Refuge. [Photo by Mike Crewe]

The same American Golden Plover beside Black-bellied Plovers. Note the golden plover's more heavily marked breast making the white throat more obvious and the dark cap making the whitish supercilium stand out more. Note also the birds smaller bill and overall smaller, more rotund shape. [Photo by Mike Crewe] 

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