December 10 brought the first ice on the docks. Every year the winter is colder and the freeze comes earlier. Southern California is in the cooling phase of a twenty or thirty year climate cycle. The new resident coots have now established their respective territories around the marina, and work to maintain them. Freddie was pecked in the head in a coot fight. Other species of waterfowl appear in the marina. A new link to the Medieval Bestiary is added this month. Some of these ancient attempts at explaining zoology in an allegorical way seem laughable. However, you will still find similar odd material about coots on the internet presented as fact. Fortunately, in the case of the Bestiary, the coot information in this link is perfectly accurate. The flock of migrant coots at the park have been staying out of the street, and none of them have been killed by cars.
The following picture shows Freddie's mate. She has been named Molly and is doing well. She joins with Freddie to maintain their territory by the gate. She arrived some weeks after Freddie, indicating that they probably had not met before. They have maintained a bond with each other, showing how coots may form pair bonds in the winter, outside of the summer breeding season. A mated pair has a better chance to repel intruders and maintain territory used for foraging for food. Usually the female of the mated pair will attack female intruders, and the male will attack the male intruders, regardless of species. Given the opportunity, the female coot may peck at the adversary male that is engaged in combat with her mate. I noticed Freddie standing on a rock in the water by his territory. He was giving the hostile display to the other male coots nearby, but was also slapping one of his feet. This foot slapping was previously thought to be only a female display.
I didn't see it, but I think Freddie (shown above) may have been injured in a territorial dispute with another coot. His head was swollen on the left side. This only lasted about three days, and he returned to normal at the end of the month. I am only guessing at this, but I saw an unknown mated pair of coots that were defending territory around the storm drain near the office buildings. The drain provides fresh water at times, a critical strategic element. The female of this pair seemed unusually aggressive, and may have pecked Freddie in the head while her mate and Freddie were fighting. This would establish the northern boundary of Freddie and Molly's territory. Territorial boundaries often change, especially if the territorial coots discover that food or water is not available, and wander away.
Other species are in the news again as a small flock of friendly geese came to visit the marina on December 26. These are Greylag geese, Anser anser. These Old World geese are often hybirdized or join with Canadian geese in the Americas. Also, the sparrows that live under the hedge come out to steal crumbs from the coot's food by the sidewalk. They live in constant danger of being stepped upon.
Podiceps nigricollis, the tiny Eared grebe shown below often appears suddenly from under the water. The coots seem to attract other waterfowl, making it possible to get this picture. Otherwise, these tiny grebes are difficult to photograph.