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Posts Tagged ‘Grebe’

This Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) that I spotted on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge has incredible red eyes with a golden ring around the pupil. The beautiful details in the natural world never cease to amaze me, which is why I tend to do most of my shooting with either a telephoto zoom lens or with a macro lens.

When I first spotted this bird, it was swimming in the same direction that I was walking as I followed a path parallel to the water. The grebe would swim a little and then look in my direction for a split second and dive. I would hurry along the path to try to find another opening in the vegetation to reacquire the grebe when it resurfaced. I kept thinking that the bird would swim out into the deeper water away from me, but instead it stayed a consistent distance from the shore and we played our little game for quite a while until the trail turned inland and I lost sight of the little grebe.

Horned Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Thanks to some helpful folks in the Facebook forum “What’s this bird,” I learned that this little duck-like bird that I spotted on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). I have seen several other kinds of grebes before, but this was a first-time sighting of this particular species.

When I looked at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page for this species, I was a little shocked to see how different this bird looks when in breeding plumage. “Breeding adults have black heads with rich golden tufts, black back, and cinnamon neck, breast, and sides.” Wow! That would be quite a sight to see, but, alas, it looks like Horned Grebes do not breed in my area and are only visitors here for the winter.

Horned Grebe

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although they behave like diving ducks, Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are members of an entirely different family and have small, distinctive bills that make them easy to identify. They tend to hang out in deeper water, are in constant motion, and are pretty small, which makes it a challenge to get a good shot of one. I spotted this grebe this past weekend at the same little suburban pond where I observed the Hooded Mergansers and Wood Duck that have been featured recently in recent blog posts.

As I do research on my subjects, I often run across quirky little facts about them. I smiled when I read the following information about Pied-billed Grebes on the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

“The Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks”—an apt descriptor for these birds, whose feet are indeed located near their rear ends. This body plan, a common feature of many diving birds, helps grebes propel themselves through water. Lobed (not webbed) toes further assist with swimming. Pied-billed Grebes pay for their aquatic prowess on land, where they walk awkwardly.”

I haven’t yet seen grebes out of the water, but I am really curious now to get a look at their feet.

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Recently I posted an image of a Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) that prompted one reader to comment that the grebe looked like a “poorly drawn duck.” Now I’ll admit that the shape and proportions of a grebe are a bit unusual, but I was sure that with the right angle and lighting I could manage to take a beauty portrait of this little bird. I’m not sure that I succeeded fully, but I don’t feel at all uncomfortable characterizing the bird in this image as a “pretty grebe.”

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the most unusual-looking water birds that I occasionally see is the Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), like this one that I spotted in a small, man-made pond yesterday in Kingstowne, a suburban community near where I like in Northern Virginia.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology the Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks.” And I thought “grebe” sounded funny just by itself—imagine having that Latin name as part of your name.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The early morning light was a beautiful golden orange yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park and I was thrilled when I spotted a pair of Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) and a Bufflehead couple (Bucephala albeola), two species of water birds that I rarely have encountered there.

I took these shots from a pretty good distance away, so I initially wasn’t sure what kind of birds they were. WhenI took a quick look afterwards at a couple of the images, the shapes and markings of these birds were so different from the usual birds that I knew I needed to do a little research. Fortunately they were not hard to find in my identification guide.

Somehow I can’t help but smile when I speak aloud the names of these two birds—they seem a little silly and slightly pejorative, though not overtly rude. I can imagine a grizzled cowboy confronting another and saying, “You’re nothing but a pied-billed grebe,” and the other cowboy responding, “And, you, you’re a bufflehead.” (My favorite bird name that makes a great cowboy cuss word, though, has to be the yellow-bellied sapsucker.)

Pied-billed Grebe

Bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I don’t consider myself to be a birdwatcher, but I have to admit that there is something pretty exciting about seeing (and photographing) a new species. Early yesterday morning, I spotted a small bird swimming in a pond at my local marsh that looked unfamiliar.

I had no idea what it was, but took some photos so I could check when I returned home. If I hadn’t been a birdwatcher, I would have examined it more closely with binoculars or ideally a spotting scope and consulted a guidebook that I would have been carrying with me (and carried on a conversation with my fellow birdwatchers).

It looks to me like this might be a Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena), a species that I have never before encountered. With a name like “redneck,” I thought it might be a rural Southern bird, but it actually is found mostly in the north during summer months.

I am looking forward to seeing more new birds this spring and can’t wait to see what other birds decide to visit my local marshland park.

Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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