We overlooked a Coot swimming close below Causeway Hide when Great Crested Grebe took to the open water in courtship display. Here was the spectacle we'd hoped for so we watched the pair preening, shaking their fulsome headdresses, gazing at each other and duetting on the water. Here's panache in a display of showy crest-feathers and neck-ruffs. All this to the sound of bittern booming somewhere in the reed beds.
The morning was overcast and the Great Crested Grebe seem without colour. They disappeared into the reeds to emerge, after a while, further off. Someone called Coot chicks and an adult broke cover from an islet of reeds followed by a chick. A glimpse, then a long wait. Birding is about watching and patiently waiting in hope. And sometimes a revelation. One of the adults swam to and fro, the other tended the nest and the chicks within. Spring is a heady mix of panache and courtship display, of mating, of keeping a nest and its eggs hidden, and of parenting. Coot is one of the commonest birds seen on the water at Leighton Moss but their chicks are startling in appearance. The adult bird is black with a white face-shield and beak. Across the Leighton Moss Reserve coot were sitting on nests in the reeds, tending them- 'housekeeping,' said my friend. Chicks swam in the fringe of reeds, hard to distinguish from clots of decaying reeds which spiked the surface of the water where zig-zag reeds reflected in a gloss and dazzle. What colourful chicks born of a black and white adult, how can this be camouflage but reeds show rosy where the stem meets water and it is effective.
How might this strange chick morph into a sleek black Coot with white shield and beak? The chick looks bedraggled with an aura of wispy orange down over its body, a mask of red and the tip of a white beak showing. Only when trawling through images do I discover we've been watching two adults with three chicks, maybe more, the bird can lay between six and nine eggs. Images show attentive and careful parenting as the family leaves the islet nest for the nearby reeds.