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MOORHENS : Gallinula chloropus

Coots and moorhens are related to rails and crakes. In West Dunbartonshire, you may well come across both coots and moorhens. They tend to keep to keep to calmer water such as reservoirs and canals.

Moorhens are smaller than their cousins the coots. They are black with a red and yellow beak and long, green legs. While they can swim or at least paddle quite well, they are often seen walking over partially sunken vegetation looking for food. They may even leave the water and wander across a path or lawn. 

This one (or perhaps a descendant) has frequented the lade within the Lomond Industrial area for several seasons. Rather a dirty habitat, but generally out of the way of marauders. It (or a partner) has been seen in a tree, but they usually stay on the exposed mud and near the water.

A moorhen mum looks after a small black chick. She got anxious about being photographed, got off the nest and hid it, calling in sharp tweets all the time.

A lade off the Leven near Alexandria, first week of May.

And this is what all the fuss is about. A single chick just over a week old. Hardly visible in the gloom below the lade wall and in amongst the vegetation and rubbish. But it is well able to dart about at the beckoning call of its mother. A second adult moorhen was close by too, presumably the dad. 

Two weeks later and we find a solitary moorhen on the lade. No sign of a mate nor of a youngster. These may simply be very good at hiding, but it is of concern.

But in the second week in July, there it is. Mother and chick. She instinctively keeps it in the dark gloom of the lade. The low branches, the mud where exposed and the light are all dark. The chick is difficult to see for both predators and inquisitive humans.

This and the next 3 photos were taken on the skating pond above Helensburgh. (Once used for that). Perhaps the constant number of walkers and the refuges in the water grasses gave this young family, one of three, more confidence to be out and about.

That little black pompom starts to grow and mum tries to keep it under her watchful eye while ......

......they go through a somewhat straggly phase...

.... before becoming rather elegant grey teenagers

Their adult plumage though is very striking.

Moorhens can be seen swimming on inalnd waters. Or are they really swimming? Their long toes enable them to walk across floating vegetation and are quite happy out of the water for short distances. In many cases what appears to be swimming is actually walking along the bottom of shallow water.

A fully grown, but immature moorhen wanders around a jetty in the upper Leven in late September.

Its long toes test a rope before stepping across it and back into the water.

RSPB : https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/coot/



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