Saturday Aug 1, 2009
Volume 8 Issue 8

Nesting Day

American Coots are prolific builders of structures associated with nesting. As many as nine nest-type structures may be built and maintained by a mated pair of coots. Different types of structures are built in a specific sequence and consist of display platforms, egg nests, and brood nests. This and other information is provided in THE REPRODUCTIVE CYCLE OF AMERICAN COOTS IN CALIFORNIA by Gordon W. Gullion published in the Auk Volume 71 number 4. Here in the marina, however, suitable nest material, locations, and of course, a female are all lacking. According to Gullion, the female usually provides the leadership in site selection and nest construction. How this coot perceives and deals with these problems is so abstract, that his intentions and accomplishments are always a matter of conjecture.

Being a patriotic American Coot, Beaky makes his nest on the Independence Day holiday weekend. Usually the people on the opposite dock arrive for the holiday and remove their Zodiac from a jetski "Jetdock". This reveals a perfect coot nest with a ramp leading to a small pocket for the nest.

That did not happen on July 4 so the coot tried another spot on the back of a catamaran hull. He called using the "come here" call, and was crowing from this new nest location. He also used an odd version of crowing where the first part of the call is distorted into a sort of "squawk." The meaning of this variation is unknown.

The previous favorite nesting spot was uncovered later, but the coot had no interest in it.

In past years the coot has been observed to be in a terrible hurry gathering sticks and paper, and other small items. One time he was seen tugging on a 3/4 inch nylon rope dock line. Perhaps the urgency is because July is so late in the season. "Nesting" usually only lasts a few days, and he may stop on his nest looking around as if realizing the futility of his efforts.

The Zodiac was replaced on the jetski platform, but the coot returned to it in the second week of July.

This construction is more extensive than ever before, being made mostly of eelgrass.

He squawks and squawks when I walk over and hand him some worms. It's hard to know what his plans are without a female, but probably not much. His frontal shield remains swollen indicating high testosterone in the breeding season.

By the last week in July, the coot no longer crows or calls "come here" from his nest. Nesting is over, and the molt is coming.

The Doves

After two successful turns at nesting, the pair of doves returned to the boat where they first nested in April. After July 6, they were not seen again.


The last of five fledglings raised by the crippled old Brewer's blackbird is named "Fiver."

Fiver's father stopped feeding him by June 30, but still comes for a worm in the mornings.

This leaves Fiver free to concentrate more fully on the source of the food. The juvenile blackbird follows me and stares at me intensely.

After July 9, Fiver does not appear for morning feeding, ending this attempt to study the development of a juvenile blackbird. His cohorts, and his father still come for a bit to eat every morning, however.

Poison Bait

Plastic boxes located around the marina, RV resort, and Port of San Diego parks may contain a poison bait called Bromadiolone. Boxes are not plainly marked with warning labels, so it is important to recognize and avoid them.

Poison bait boxes appear in various colors and shapes. Recently some different shapes (right) have been seen around the property. Some appear to be abandoned.

This poison is thought to be the cause of the disappearance of the squirrels at Chula Vista Bayside Park in March of 2008.

Detailed information about Bromadiolone poison bait is given at the following link:


Victims die slowly from internal bleeding. As described above, the anticoagulant effect can be successfully countered by vitamin K1, but a prescription is required, so the availability of treatment for wildlife is unlikely.

Bromadiolone is toxic to mammals (including humans), birds, and fish. Other animals may be poisoned by consumption of poisoned animals. The bait itself may be marked with a bright colored dye visible in or on a poisoned animal.

Water Conservation

As San Diego begins official water rationing, the ducks have no problems finding water. In addition to the parking lot, streets and sidewalks being flooded with irrigation water, birds find water in the plastic bottom liners. A hose connected to the water on the dock fills the bottom liner with fresh water. Since there is no way to meter individual users, there is no need to turn off the faucet.

The ducks have fouled the water making it filthy, and there are feathers scattered in the water making it look as if a dove was killed here recently.

Regardless of these inconveniences, a bath in fresh water is an opportunity not to be missed by the coot.

The Clover

Last March Port employees said that they were spraying Monsanto Roundup® herbicide on this lawn to kill the clover.This picture taken July 20 shows the area of clover thriving while other parts of the lawn appear dead. In spite of enactment of water rationing in San Diego, the lawn is damp with water.

A lawn of four-leaf clovers creates its own fertilizer and has deep roots that resist drought. According to David Beaulieu of

The Swallows

These small flies appear in the first week of July, and most of the swallows are all fledged out of their nests. However, the weather is still cool, and nothing much happens until the tenth of July when the temperatures warm up into the 80s.

In the third week of July the swallows join into flocks to fly through the air, swooping and looping to catch insects.

The Ducks?

At the end of July, large containers that seem to contain cracked corn and water appeared in plain sight just behind the "DO NOT FEED THE DUCKS" signs. This is inside a fenced and locked compound used as a sales display area. The amount of feed is virtually unlimited, in containers not easily accessible to ducks.

July Movies

Jelly.wmv shows an unusual jellyfish seen at the marina in July.

Click on the above link to view this short movie in Windows Media Player.

Sorry about the reflection of the camera at lower right.

Wormhead1.wmv shows the proper food preparation for eating a super worm, Zophobas moria. Watch carefully as two quick nips to the worm's head make it safe to eat.

Click on the above link to view this short movie in Windows Media Player.

The Olde Camera Bag

Pocket Cameras

This department provides important technical information for the professional wildlife photographer, and advanced amateur. Current developments in new equipment are covered, as well as handy "hints and kinks" to help you get more performance from your old camera.

If you are familiar with any kind of film camera and buy a digital pocket camera, you will likely be very disappointed with it. The first problem is to try to make it do anything at all. Constant mashing on the "shutter" button may have no effect if the camera decides not to take a picture. The embedded software is usually infuriatingly slow making the camera useless on any moving object like animals or children. The viewfinder, often added as an afterthought is virtually useless. It is amusing to see people holding a tiny camera out at arm's length trying to look at the display screen. Sometimes, as in use at night, it may be best to cover the display with tape when it becomes a blinding nuisance. In every case, the small size just doesn't allow the high quality images that a digital single lens reflex camera (with an assortment of large glass lenses) produces.

If you accept all that, and allow your blood pressure to settle down a bit, the pocket camera does have a few advantages. It will, after all, fit in your pocket, allowing you to carry it and use it in places where a big camera would be unworkable. You can take it with you on a bicycle or a boat and you won't lose thousands of dollars if you smash it or drop it in the ocean. The tiny camera can be kept in a plastic bag for protection. This brings to mind the tiny "spy" cameras of the first half of the last century. The small camera is convenient and inobtrusive. A tiny camera can be very useful if you want to look inside or under something where your head and eyes won't reach. Just stick the camera down the hole, push the button, and pull it out to take a look at the display. The biggest difficulty of this method is to get the camera to focus on your subject instead of the background.

Best Ultracompact Pocket Cameras | Digital Camera HQ's Buyer's Guide

How to Buy the Best Pocket Digital Camera

Stupid Sign of the Month

You will seldom see a valid Keep Out sign on a legitimate business in California. Nobody wants paying customers jailed. California real estate law has a legal theory called Adverse Possession. In the case of property that is accessible by the general public, any individual who uses the property on a routine basis in defiance of the owner's efforts to stop him, may be able to establish a legal easement on the property. The sign at the right is evidence of the owner's efforts to stop trespassers.

Adverse possession would be limited to people who walk by taking a short cut between public parks, bicycling, or walking their dogs, having no legitimate business on the property.

The trespasser would need to prove that he had been doing this for some time, and would file suit if suddenly denied access.

To prevent a lawsuit, a land owner would post a sign saying "Permission to Pass Revocable". By properly posting such signs, the property owner would grant access to anyone, but reserve the right to keep trespassers out at any time.

Be sure to check this with a qualified lawyer first: San Diego Bar Association lawyer referral & information service can help you.

However, you may find your car impounded if you park in this lot at the marina. The article in the following link:"Eat Here and Get Towed" describes what happened recently at the Denny’s restaurant at the corner of Pacific Highway and Hawthorn Street. You too can become famous just by eating at a restaurant. I think I'll pass on that myself, and eat elsewhere.

Links of the Month

(I don't make this stuff up department)

San Diego Port's Maritime Accounting Questioned A KPBS investigation of the Port of San Diego

The Port is owned by the state of California, but the people who run it are appointed by the five cities around the bay. They are not elected, so are not necessarily responsible to the voters or to the state. They tried to promote a port redevelopment project recently that was highly supported by all five mayors of these cities. When forced to put it on the ballot, it was soundly defeated by the voters. As we have seen in the past (Sunroad Towers) mayors can get campaign contributions from wealthy developers in exchange for illegal construction permits and other benefits. Politicians can convert contributions to personal income by declaring it for tax purposes.

Port of San Diego "The Port of San Diego was created by the state Legislature in 1962"

voice of san "A Kearny Mesa office tower has become the center of a political quagmire for the mayor and the fiery city attorney."

San Diego Taxpayers Association Proposition B: Port of San Diego Marine Freight Preservation and Bayfront Redevelopment Initiative

Ok, this is Tuesday, but where is everybody? "If you're a duck or a fish, Mission Bay has been ruined." The history of 4235 acres of critical habitat loss.

Huge blob of Arctic goo floats past Slope communities "Something big and strange is floating through the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow.

SD Imposes Mandatory Water Restrictions The San Diego City Council voted to declare a level two drought in the city

Will Water Rationing Become a Way of Life? longer term, that seems more of a potential problem.

Water Shortages May Not Be Temporary The current water crisis is a long-term problem that won't be going away anytime soon.

Mosquitoes deliver malaria 'vaccine' through bites How to stop West Nile Virus?

US FWS News Release Rocky Mountain Power was ordered to pay over $10.5 million for killing eagles and other protected birds.

New study offers possible explanation for winter die-offs of alcids French scientists have come out with a study

NOVA Science Now Clues to the origins of human language are turning up in the brains of birds.

Who Can I Sue . com’s mission is to provide equal legal opportunities to internet users regardless of economic or social status. Users will be able to determine whether they may be eligible for a lawsuit.

Ocean fish now half as big as they used to be FISH have lost half their body mass and smaller species make up a larger proportion of fish stocks as a result of global warming,

Wisconsin: Officials: No bird feeders in summer Do you enjoy watching the birds at your backyard feeder?

Massive Collaboration of Dolphins, Sharks and Birds A fascinating video showing dolphins, sharks, whales and birds all working together on a sardine hunt.

Tenants Legal Center Legal information and assistance for boat owners in San Diego

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service News Release Search Engine

Seafood mislabeling: fishy business So what? Most of the 52 species of the genus Sebastes found in southern California are called "Red Snapper"

FRONTLINE/World Mark Schapiro: How to investigate an oil spill

OPINION: Will there always be another fish in the sea? Who will appear in the evening news holding up the very last fish?

Research shows high numbers of turtles are good indication

Jumbo Squid Invade San Diego Shores, Spook Divers

Seal meat becomes tasty delicacy Solve your sea lion problems; eat them

Big Picture:

Click on the image to view it full size. Use your browser's Back button to return.

Fiver's Father is not the best picture of the month, but certainly is the best bird. The crippled old male blackbird struggles through the July molt, perhaps contemplating his chances of still being alive next spring.

He currently holds the position of the most dominant male in the flock.

Barn Swallow

Beaky the Coot

"Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion 
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty." 

Albert Einstein


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  2. Background
  3. Coot Food
  4. Recipe for Coot Pudding
  5. Coot Misinformation
  6. Bibliography of Research
  7. Coot Calls and Movies
  8. Historical Summary
  9. Links to Important Sites
  10. Opinion

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