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American Coots Visit The Inner Harbor

American Coots Visit The Inner Harbor

If you’ve walked around the Inner Harbor lately, you may have noticed a different waterbird than those usually found there -an American Coot.  The American Coot (Fulica americana) exists year round in western parts of the U.S., where water is consistently habitable, but in the East, they are generally observed only in fall and winter during migration.

This dark gray to black shorebird is commonly mistaken for a duck, however, it’s slightly curved, chicken-like bill reveals that it belongs to the rail family of birds. The American Coot is often regarded as “noisy” due to its short repetitive squawks and noted as ungraceful, from their awkward landings and take offs.

Researchers at Stanford report “Coots are among the least graceful of marsh birds. Commonly called ‘splatterers,’ they scramble across the surface of the water with wings flapping not only to confront intruders but also to become airborne” and “Appearing somewhat like aquatic pigeons, coots also bob their heads while swimming.”

The American Coot is also “renowned for the aggressiveness with which it repels intruders, the male American coot marks its territory by patrolling, charging and water splashing, but on occasions fighting ensues, and it will viciously attack trespassers by striking with the bill and slashing with the claws” (

Greening Baltimore’s Inner Harbor


Truth be told, I don’t actually go to the Inner Harbor all that much.  As anyone who lives in Baltimore knows, the Inner Harbor is designed for tourists and the cost of parking, chain restaurants and crowds deter most of us who don’t live in the immediate proximity.  During a recent trip there (with out of town guests, of course), however, I noticed some distinct changes and I vowed to revisit Baltimore’s main attraction at a later date and look at it through fresh eyes.

Trash_Collector The following week I traveled via light rail early one morning to the harbor with a camera and was equipped with a good pair of walking shoes.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival was how clean everything was -yes CLEAN!  It was sparkling, in fact.

It was a weekday morning and the sidewalks were quiet, but employees were busy preparing for the day’s masses.  In an inlet near the National Aquarium I observed a skilled boatsman in a “solid waste” t-shirt doing figure eights in a small watercraft while simultaneously scooping trash. Harbor_Dragon A little further east the “Harbor Dragon” was doing its own thing by dipping into the water and pulling debris up onto a conveyor belt and dropping it into a receptacle.  In addition to the water ballet of trash collecting, everywhere I went there were city employees picking up trash, weeding and watering plants, wiping down benches, cleaning glass windows….

I also noticed the  inclusion of recycle bins around the area of the aquarium.  I had heard about the new trial recycling program at the harbor, but I hadn’t noticed the cans before.  Getting visitors to recycle in a festival-like atmosphere like the one that occurs here on the busier days is going to be difficult, but I hope the city hangs on to the effort for long enough for visitors to catch on.


The most exciting new green initiative at the Inner Harbor is the inclusion of actual green spaces.  For decades the area surrounding the harbor was void of anything resembling what was there originally, but now there is at least a gesture to a natural habitat.  A 3.5 acre park has just been completed between the Maryland Science Center and the Visitor Center and the are more gardens in the area near the aquarium.


No, that picture at left was not taken at Deep Creek, MD, but rather in front of the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  Here, there is a group of native plant gardens with each one representing a different plant community of Maryland.

The Maryland Science Center is also in the process of installing a green roof, and, although it is not currently visible from ground level, it will be open to the public in the future.

Finally, I checked out the new vegetarian-friendly restaurant, Pizzazz Tuscan Grille, featured in Baltidome’s last post.  I noticed that there was little advertising at the actual restaurant regarding the eatery’s organic, vegan and raw food offerings as compared to the website, but nonetheless it seems worth trying.  Although it was too early to grab a bite on this day, the inviting outdoor seating makes it worth giving a shot in the future.