Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Just Sitting on the Roadside: December 24, 2011

Ford's Pond, Douglas County, Oregon
Often on Christmas Eve we are off on a seafood gathering expedition to the Oregon Coast to pick up crab, oysters and fish. But we took advantage of good weather and did that two days ago, and feasted on it while it was fresh. So a simple supper is planned for tonight. We’re looking forward to dinner with friends tomorrow. We’re so far from family we’ve given up trying to get together at Christmas time. Meanwhile we have one more clear day predicted before a week of rain is supposed to set in. We’ve come to a nearby pond, Ford’s Pond, to photograph birds. Dale has gone in one direction looking for sparrows. I’m that funny lady sitting on the shoulder of the road torn between photographing and sketching. I’ve got my camera to my right and my fanny pack on my left. It froze last night. The ground is cold and a little damp, but there is a little wintery sunshine. It occurs to me sitting here is an odd thing to be doing on Christmas Eve.

Sketching wins for awhile. Most of the cattails fluffed out before the falls rains came. They look a little bedraggled now, but still pretty. Their long stems are doing all too good a job of hiding a Virginia Rail. I can hear him, maybe ten feet from me, but all I see is an occasional wiggle of a cattail stem. I’d love a chance to sketch him!

Coot will have to do.

Sometimes I’m guilty of taking coot for granted. They are a plain bird. They spend much of the day swimming about and diving here and there to come up with soggy strings of aquatic vegetation. It’s a busy life. When I sat down on this cold shoulder I saw one duck, some coot and one shy pied-billed grebe on the pond. Suddenly the coot grab my attention.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “two is company and three is a crowd.” Well five is also a crowd. This little pond has five coots swimming about, two pairs and a loner. The paired coot aren’t happy about that fifth coot. Head low, one of the coots swims in a bee line towards the unwelcome coot. When near, both erupt into a mad scramble across the surface of the water. Water flies, green feet flash, coots squawk. Mr. Unwelcome heads for the cattails. The water settles back into gentle ripples.
But life isn’t quiet for long. Head low and stumpy little tail held low, one of the coot is making a beeline for the extra coot. Mad spashing and off they scramble again.
This time the fifth coot heads to my right. Apparently that portion of the pond isn’t valuable real estate. The chaser turns and joins his mate.
Oops! Now two coot are ganging up on that fifth coot. Side by side they cruise towards the odd coot. They just aren’t going to give him any peace.
Away goes Mr. Unwelcome again! Does he keep coming back hoping to make an impression on a female? Or is this just the best feeding spot? In any case, I gave up sketching and am concentrating on trying to get photographs.

Eventually the aggressors win and peace settles on the pond. I’ve lost track of Mr. Unwelcome. I suspect he is resting somewhere in the cattails, gearing up for another round of being chased.

And I’ve discovered we’re not the only people enjoying this lovely day. While we’ve been here two other cars with birders from our small birding group and stopped by to check out Ford’s Pond. We all seem to be thinking that savoring a day out in nature is a good way to appreciate the spirit of the season.


  1. Oh what great photos you got. It's been so lovely here lately. But that's about to end. Nice you got out to enjoy it all and get some sketching in.

  2. "It occurs to me sitting here is an odd thing to be doing on Christmas Eve." Ha ha! I must say I also think artists are a bit peculiar Elva! Just LOVE the scramble of the Coots, it's really GREAT!

  3. I think coots are pretty birds. They look rather elegant with that white bill, red eyes and shiny black body. The younger ones with green feet are quite handsome when standing on ice. Your sketches are nice and the photos tell a good story.

  4. What a triad! Great sketch, fantastic photos and a good story. Thanks, Elva.

    I tried to draw my first ducks yesterday and while I have always admired your work, I'm now even more appreciative of it :-)

  5. Sounds like a wonderful outing! I guess I've not ever really studied coot all that closely. I'll take a closer look the next time I'm out and about.

    As for being odd.....beats being "normal!"

  6. Thank you all for your nice comments.

    Larry: did you notice the awful buckling of my paper! Maybe someday I'll learn to use decent paper.

  7. Wow Elva, fabulous photos and story. Love the sketches also.
    You have really had a wonderful year of paintings and photos to share. Thank you.
    Sunshine is now in a frame on the wall. Thank you again. We love it.

  8. Elva, these are wonderful images, and I love the sketches! Coots are so entertaining, aren't they? I think of them sort of like chickens of the water! LOL... I don't know why, but that's what they always remind me of! The sketch at the top has great gesture and motion. Nice work!

  9. Your pictures are great and have an abstract quality in some that are calling to be painted. Have a great 2012 packed with nature's marvels!

  10. ...loved this post, Elva...the sketches and the photos! Sounds like a perfect day to me!