My father landed D-Day +3 on Utah Beach and survived the Second World War. Five years ago, my husband and I took a long awaited trip to France. One of the places we went was to Normandy. As I stood on this beach (the only one of the five landing beaches we were allowed to walk on), I tried to take in not only its sheer beauty, but also the enormity of what had happened here in 1944. I bent down, scooping up a large handful of sand, and held it, thinking of all the soldiers who had landed here to help liberate France and Europe. Many lost their lives in the process.
Everywhere we went in Normandy, we saw plaques, statues and museums to commemorate the beginning of the end of the war and the breaking of the Nazi’s death grip on France. I couldn’t help but be humbled by France’s gratitude.
I think the beauty, vastness and history of this beach has something to impart to us in our own troubled time. The scourge of COVID 19, like WW II, leaves us in a world with the stark differentiation of before and after. Our world has changed, never to be quite the same. I take comfort not only from the memory of the soldiers who landed on this beach, but also from the people of France. They endured great hardship and privation, yet emerged into a world they could rebuild. For me, it helps put the current #ShelterInPlace directive in perspective. Added to that I realize that while this is difficult, I am among the lucky in that my income and housing are not affected while I remain confined to my apartment, and I have access to enough food. All of that makes me think, “This is hard, but I can do this. I may at times be teary or grumpy about it, or overwhelmed, or scared, but I can do this. I must do this. It is a small price to pay to keep myself and others safe.
The beak has a white shield growing up from the beak and at the top there is a red spot in the adults.
The feet are rather unique for water fowl because they are not webbed. The coot splays them for walking and standing and puts the toes together when swimming. They feed on aquatic plants, either dabbing on the surface of the water, or diving down to pull up the plants. Out of the water you can see that their body looks rather chicken like, round and plump. That is to help them keep afloat. The disadvantage to this is that it’s quite difficult to get airborne. As a result they have to run across the water for several yards all the while beating their wings before they can actually get in the air. I have not yet seen this, but I hope to at some point, as the sight must be quite remarkable. And because of their fat and plump body, when they dive underwater to get food, they look rather like a bobbing cork, which is quite hilarious!
The American Coot
Red eyes, black feathers and funny feet,
And a white shield growing up from my beak.
Tipped at the top with a funny red spot
That makes me unique along with my bright yellow feet.
I’m a Coot, don’t you see, why just look at me.
I’m a handsome odd fellow with my feet dressed in yellow.
So go on yonder to the websites and ponder.
You’ll learn a lot about my bright red spot.
It’s quite a show, just think what you’ll know!
(Not poetry, but at least it rhymes, hopefully providing some amusement.)
Literally. Lake Merritt, in Oakland, California, is actually a tidal lagoon and includes the oldest dedicated wildlife refuge in the United States, which was established in 1870! I am fortunate to live across the street from the Lake, which is why I take so many photographs of birds!
I had not seen this bird before, nor have I seen him since. He appeared one day last March when I was out with a camera, and sadly I didn’t have a repeat opportunity to take a focused shot. Does anyone know what the species is? And where he might more normally be found in North America?
And here’s another little guy I’ve only seem once – on the same day I saw the above beauty. Can anyone identify this one for me?