Hello! Most of my posts take place around San Diego County, (Mostly Lake Murray) unless otherwise noted.
For more posts and photos, I also post on Hubpages, a site that is a bit different than others. Thanks!: Shorebirdie on Hubpages

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I saved a coot from drowning

I arrived at Lake Murray and went to where the geese were and gave some of the coots and ducks some peas. A red-tailed hawk was flying around and I watched it get attacked, severely, by several crows. The hawk was near where George usually hangs out, but there were no killdeer at all today, not even at the ballfields. The water level was really high.

All seemed well and the hawk began to soar at a high level. I figured he was hunting squirrels and rabbits. Eventually, I went away to another part of the lake for a few minutes and when I came back the hawk was gone. I was walking over to where there was a patch of trees that Tom the Muscovy duck likes to hide under so I could give him a treat, when I saw what looked like a coot swimming near the shore kinda funny. He was rushing and jumping around, sideways. I thought he was chasing minnows and almost walked on. But, then, his wings began to flop and his head went totally under water for a long time. He started moving slower and slower until he began to twitch like it was dying.

I went into the lake and pulled him out, but he tried to bite me and went back in. Then, I grabbed him around the middle, again and pulled him totally out of the lake, but is was more like a scoop as I tried to avoid being bitten, but it was only an inch or two from the ground before he was dropped. He lay there on the shore, breathing, but not moving. I was going to pick him up again to take it to wildlife rescue, but I had my hands full with my camera and tripod. Plus, I didn't think he would survive the trip as he looked almost dead. After a minute or two, he staggered to his feet and went into the water, flopping and kicking. He was weak, at first, but managed to get himself away from shore, though he almost couldn't keep his head up.

Very weak coot, but refusing my help

He swam over to his friends and tried to stand up on the shore, but couldn't and fell over every time he tried. His friends came up and checked him out at first, but then acted scared of him and moved away or pecked at him. But, the coot was getting stronger and was able to swim away faster, though in a lop-sided way. He got better and better and started swimming really hard and keeping his head up to keep up with his friends, who continued to peck at him.

Starting to feel better, keeping his head up, though still messed up from behind. A friend keeps him company.

Eventually, by the time I was leaving, about an hour or later, he was doing fine, except that something had damaged his hind thigh and he couldn't stand. He also looked roughed up in that area, the feathers not laying flat or straight. But, he could swim fine and was eating and playing with the other coots. He could even dive for food and the lower half of his foot seemed fine, but the upper part acted like it was paralyzed, except when he was in the water. He seemed to be adapting well, though. It was not bleeding and didn't seem broken. I suspect it was just sore.

A vulture came to see if the hawk left some left-overs, but there was nothing because the hawk didn't catch anything. However, he did not go away and waited around the area with a couple of friends.

Sorry, Mr. Vulture, no dinner at this time

I think the hawk attacked him and tried to pick him up from his thigh or hind quarters and when he couldn't do that, he tried to drown him. Then, something scared the hawk away before he could finish. The coot, suddenly losing his ability to use one of his legs and possibly suffering from hypoxia, got disoriented and began to panic. I think once he caught his breath and his adrenaline raised up because of me catching him, he was able to recover. I hope there's no after effects and he will be totally recovered tomorrow except for some bruises. Hopefully it was not a loose dog attack.

On other lake news, as I said before, there were no killdeer to be seen this afternoon, not even at the ballfields. I suspect that everyone is beyond the fence area near the dam or in another open area. They will be back if the water gets low. No other shorebirds were seen.

Water levels in George's feeding area are very, very high. No killdeers today

I found out that my cheap 2.1 MP camera does video. So, here is a video mix I made this afternoon of the non-coot drama:

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