Little Grebes

 

            Little Grebe.

 

   These delightful little birds are also commonly referred to as Dabchicks. Although found on a variety of pond, lake and slow moving water habitats they are not the easiest of birds to photograph due to a normally secretive nature sensitive to disturbance. On those waters that they do frequent they are normally to be found around the margins where there is a reasonable density of aquatic vegetation, reeds and rushes, amongst which they hunt their prey. Their diet consists of fish, aquatic insects, molluscs and crustaceans. They have a number of “similar at first glance” cousins – two of the much rarer ones are also featured here for comparison purposes – Slavonian and Black Necked.

 

   Part of their appeal must be down to their appearance. They are small and “dumpy” and look as though someone has yanked their tails out leaving a fluffy “stump” behind. They are extremely agile in the water and their normal evasive action consists of diving rapidly beneath the surface and virtually disappearing. You can often wait with bated breath for their reappearance until you are convinced they must have drowned. A distinctive cry from the far side of the waterway will highlight the errors of your supposition as they are capable, with the help of their curiously “lobed” feet, of travelling enormous distances without the need to surface, thus frustrating all attempts to train your lens on an anticipated re-emergence point. They fly infrequently but will often attack interlopers or evade perceived threats by seemingly “running” across the water surface.

 

  One of their more endearing features is to carry their stripy coloured young on their backs for the first few days after leaving the nest and, much to my regret, this is one of the behaviour patterns I have yet to capture. What better “reason to go on” could one wish for?

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Similar looking Black Necked Grebe
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               Adult Little Grebe

          Little Grebe stretching

                      And again

           Taking a flying walk

            Mother and young

            Still dependent young

          Just about independent

              Fully independent

          About to take a Damselfly

                  Just surfacing

               Full Adult Little Grebe

  The very similar Black Necked Grebe

          Also similar Slavonian Grebe

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Great Crested Grebes

 

These beautiful birds must be every budding Wildlife Photographers dream. Apart from their unusual design and the constantly changing shape of their head gear, they have a very strikingly bright red eye which positively glows if it catches the light. Being fish eaters the target, of course, is to catch one eating a fish.

 

This target is a fairly obvious one but there are some other patterns of behaviour that are just as exciting, and difficult, to capture. As with most Wildlife subjects the majority of behavioural movement is fairly rapid and there is never enough time to bring your camera to bear and be on the right settings quickly enough to capture most behaviours. The only way to be in with a chance is to find a spot from where you can view a Grebe closely enough to provide you with an image size that suits both your wishes and the limitations of your gear. If you can do that then train your lens on your subject and keep it there.

 

You may end up with square eyes and a wait of sometimes hours, but at least when action occurs you only have to press the shutter release and not have to try to line your subject up and adjust your settings to suit the patch of water that it has inconsiderately moved into since you last did so!! Attached are some images displaying some of the possible actions.

Patience is the key!!

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The weed dance

The weed dance

Grebe stretching

Great Crested Grebe

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Showing off

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Feather adjustment

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How’s about that then

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