For me, Tuscan marshlands are one of the most amazing places to visit. There is something fascinating, soothing and peaceful hardly to explain, one must come and go for a walk to feel and understand. Inside this huge territory, actually one of the biggest in Italy, there is a busy life: birds, fishes, butterflies, hares, turtles, crabs, snakes, varieties of river rats all crawling, swimming, diving and flying around trying on one side not to be swallowed down and on the other not to die of hunger. Here in the marshlands there is nothing shocking or violent about the circle of life.
On my last visit and photo shooting my attention was caught by dark feathered birds, big like hens with a white facial shield on the front. Eurasian coots (Fulica atra), that’s their name, are not easy to photograph because they have not only a perfect black feather coat but dark eyes, too. Furthermore, they keep a prudent distance from people.
There were several coots swimming around but I had the impression that two of them were engaged or had at least a closer friendship. One must have even been playing with the idea of building a nest because every now and then he examined a blade of grass or a twig which means that his intentions were serious. They seemed to have great fun
swimming around and diving in search of food and there was something very intimate in their behavior. Then, apparently from nowhere, a third coot advanced, doing as if he was searching for food whereas he was actually trying to reach the young female. All of a sudden, the air seemed to be filled with testosterone and the two guys ruffled their
feathers trying to appear huge and scary. At first they just looked at each other, by keeping a security distance of about two meters which seemed to be sufficient to calm them down. But the intruder was either imprudent or blind of love, because he went on
courting the young lady making the actual fiancé losing his temper. Determined to defend his territory he chased the young coot who was running with much splashing faster than the wind across the water surface. Incredible, but they were really running over the water! In the end, the intruder was banned onto the tiny island in the middle of the pond, far away from the young female coot.
The brave bird swam back to his fiancé and she was there waiting for him and only for him – this time. Because what can happen is that while he is defending female and territory another young coot does not waste a second and enjoys a brief, passionate and spontaneous experience of sexual activity with the consentient (!) young lady. On the warriors return young Romeo has strolled away but the couple, at a proper time, will most likely have a nice enlarged family with several newborns from different fathers.
Almost all birds, water birds even more, stay with the same partner for the whole life. Female water birds, however, presumably aware of the high mortal rate of her youngsters, and the waste of energy of her partner while defending what he considers his, make sure that the progenies will be generously plentiful anyway. Mother earth’s divine design…
Anneliese Rabl …. finding a life in Tuscany