Oh dear, the photo tank is draining dry/I get know pics; do you know why? Send ’em in, please.
Today we have photos of grebes, one of my favorite birds, from ecologist Susan Harrison. Her notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
Grebes at Upper Klamath Lake
These pictures are from Putnam’s Point on Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon. It’s so well known as a grebe-watching spot that the city of Klamath Falls recently put up a statue honoring grebes.
The birds are a mix of Western Grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) and Clark’s Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii), which are nearly identical and flock together. The less common Clark’s was declared a separate species in 1985 based on DNA differences. The only visible difference is that Westerns’ eyes are surrounded by black plumage, while Clarks’ eyes are surrounded by white plumage.
Courtship happens in May (photos are from 5-14-22). Single birds sing “creet creet” (Western) or just “creet” (Clark’s). Pairs of birds form and begin swimming around together, mirroring each other and performing ritualized preening. You can tell males by their slightly larger beaks.
“Rushing” is the high point of the courtship drama – the pair runs across the water with necks outstretched, still perfectly mirroring each other.
Fast-forward two months (7-16-22) and the happy couples now have 2-3 kids and a station wagon, or rather, mom and dad ARE the station wagon.
Chicks often hop off one parent and swim to the other to try to be fed first, as you can see in the last two photos.
At around one month old, chicks become too large to ride, and swim around their parents incessantly calling “feed me”.
At around two months old, they’ll begin diving for their own food, and several months later they’ll fly off with the adults to overwinter at the coast.
4 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos”
Excellent photos – and such adorable birds. Thanks!
What great photos of great birds. Thank you!
I’m always intrigued by the difference in plumage between young and adult birds of a species. I don’t think I’d ever seen photos of young Western Grebes before. They are strikingly pale compared to the adults. I’ve been seeing young pied-billed grebes recently. They are stripey whereas the adults aren’t. A particularly weird example that immediately comes to mind of a difference between the plumage of young and adult birds is the Little Blue Heron. The adults have sombre plumage whereas the young are bright white, which you’d think would make them stick out like a sore thumb to predators. Perhaps the “idea” is to pass them off as egrets!
The split of Western and Clark’s Grebes has always struck me as dubious, but I guess DNA doesn’t lie.
Such wonderful photos! I love the “rushing” photo. Those long graceful necks are gorgeous.
Thank you for this lovely collection, Susan!