The Moorhen and the Coot

Water Hen (Moorhen)

They are very common with us they make a nest of flags & bull rushes lines with grass & place it on a branch of thorn or willow that hangs over the stream & sometimes they make it on a clump of bull rushes in the middle of the stream they lay 9 eggs of a pale ash color spotted with lilac & jocculate colored spots the young ones are coveverd with brown down & take the water as soon as they get out of the shell They build in old pits in the meadows & in lone ponds about the closes if undisturbed…

The coot is like the more hen in its habits but larger it haunts lakes in meadows & solitary marshes but never builds its nest in branches that overhand the stream – it beats down a place in the midst of a reed bed or flag clump & rests its nest on them that touches the water it lays a great number of eggs as many as 12 or 14 larger then the more hens of a dirty white color spotted with dull spots the nest is made of flags bulrushes & grass like the more hens but it is wove together so stout as to resist the floods that happen to rise while she sits on her eggs & if the nest looses its hold of the rushes it floats on the top of the water like a boat & the old one is said to sit on it unconserned but I have not seen this tho I have found the nest landed on dry land as left by the floods with the eggs in it unmolested – the young ones take to the water as soon as they leave the shells & return to it at night like the more hen These birds are subject to lice which is so common to them that it has grown into a saying that any thing filthy is ‘as lousey as a coot’

Published in 'The Naked Fen' (Arbour Editions - 2021)