I saw the lone bird first. A pale avocet, walking the shoreline, coming in from the left. Constantly bobbing and feeding as it went. The pale orange on his head and neck, instead of the usual rusty barn red, I attributed to immaturity, assuming this to be a young bird from last year's hatch. As it was straight out from me, it looked up the shoreline to my right and suddenly veered out into the shallow, milky lake. Still constantly bobbing and feeding as it went.
It was easy to see what alarmed him. A pair of avocets, both breeding adults with bright red tops, were working the shoreline from the right. If he hadn't turned into the lake, he would have walked right into them.
And I've seen avocets this time of year. While they look peaceful and serene, in the breeding season they can be downright feisty.
Moving into deeper water looked like a wise move.
So I was surprised when the pair reached my piece of beach, and then turned out to follow the youngster. They, too, were bobbing and feeding all the way, so I just assumed there was something unusually tasty in this shallow cove.
I was wrong.
Well, maybe I wasn't wrong. Maybe there is something tasty in that bay, but I ain't gonna go out there sucking up mud to find out. But it soon became clear the adult avocets weren't out there for the food.
Now, I can't tell one adult avocet from another. To my human eyes, the males look just like the females. So I'm not sure which sex of the pair wanted to chase the youngster. But one of them led the other right to him.
Perhaps it was the male, wanting to assert his ownership of the female, or just wanting a practice spar he knew he could win. Or maybe he wanted to show his mate what he was made of.
Or, for all I know, it was the female who led her partner into the open water. Wanting to check out another potential suitor, or maybe wanting to test the fervor of the one she already had.
Either way, it started in an instant, and was over in a few seconds.
One of the adults pounced on the pale bird's back, and drove him down into the milky water. A few fast pecks, him never trying to strike back, and it was over. The pale bird stumbled off towards the left shore, not visibly harmed, and the elder pair strutted off across the deep, shallow lake.
Bobbing innocently as they went.
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