American Coot – Everglades National Park, Florida: Found from the Yukon to Mexico and from California to Labrador, the American Coot is one of the most wide ranging birds of North America. While on one of my shooting forays into the Everglades long ago, I found this bird at Eco Pond near Flamingo. I had little interest in photographing such a common bird as a coot, but this bird, in its prime breeding plumage with white bill and deep red eye set against the dark water was striking. I took just a few shots then continued around the pond stopping often to photograph Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, and Little Blue Herons.
At one point I took-off cross country hiking through coastal scrub to follow a pair of Bald Eagles that were on wing performing a nuptial flight. The Eagles flapped high into the sky and then clasp talons and began spinning topsy-turvy as they hurdled in freefall toward the earth. Just before striking the ground the birds released their locked talons to soar in a sweeping arc upward into the blue. It was an exciting day and the first time I had witnessed and photographed such an aerial display.
After returning home, and in anticipation of seeing the eagle photographs I could barley stand the wait that it took to get the film developed and back in my hands. As soon as the yellow boxes arrived I eagerly laid each image on the light table and scrutinized each one. Upon seeing the images of the eagles in flight my heart sank with disappointment. The eagles, while exciting to watch and photograph did not hold the same excitement and command on film, it was a photographic failure.
As I continued through the boxes of slides I found other images I shot around Eco Pond that same day, and much to my surprise those few shots I had taken of the American Coot jumped out at me. I found the coot images ethereal as the water y background floats in airy wisps disappearing into the darkness. My day around Eco Pond had not been a total photographic failure after all. Looking at those slides that day I quickly realized that there is no such thing as a common bird, only opportunities.
Nikon F3, Nikkor 400mm 2.8, Kodachrome 64