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Posts Tagged ‘Grebe’

Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are rather strange looking birds. Their heads are unusually large and blocky, their bills are short and thick, and they have virtually no tails. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website describes them with these words, “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.”

Most of the times when I see a Pied-billed Grebe it is either disappearing from sight as it dives for food or it is swimming away from me. I captured this shot last week as the grebe was in fact swimming away, but paused for a moment and looked to the side. Yes, this is the notorious “butt shot” that we photographers try to avoid, but I like the way that you can see some of the details of the birds eye and the water beaded up on its back and decided to post it anyways.

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are small and often stay in deep waters, but I managed to capture these shots of one yesterday at a suburban pond not far from where I live. If you click on the photos, you can see the grebe’s beautiful eye coloration and the pattern on its bill.

As I was walking along the pond, I initially spotted the little grebe while it was napping. It had drifted a little closer to shore than normally, so I was pretty excited to have a chance to get some shots of this elusive bird. However, the grebe’s head was in the shadows, so I watched and waited, marveling at the patterns in the water.

I captured the second shot below shortly after the grebe started stirring and looked to one side. As it started to swim away, the lighting was almost perfect and I captured the first shot below, a wonderful little side portrait of this Pied-billed Grebe.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I do not know for sure if Pied-bill Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are migratory, but I had not seen any in a long time when I spotted a small flock of them on Tuesday in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Pied-billed Grebes have a rather unusual and distinctive look—especially the bill— that makes them relatively easy to identify. Northern Virginia, where I live, is far enough south that it is a destination for some birds that will overwinter here, while many other species will pass through on their migration southward.

According to 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.”

Pied-bill Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I captured this image of what I an pretty sure is a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). The subject was significantly backlit and is a bit dark, but even the most casual view will note that the bird has no horns. Well, only breeding adults have golden head tufts that someone decided look like horns.

Horned Grebes are diving ducks and most of the time that I see one it is in deep water in the distance. I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time when this grebe surfaced closer than normally with a small fish in its mouth. I posted this photo to a Facebook forum, but so far the identity of the fish remains a mystery. The best response I received when I asked if anyone knew what kind of fish it was— “a slow one.”

In any case, I really like how the warm orange of the skinny little fish contrasts with the overall bluish tones of the image. Needless to say, the fish was gone a few seconds later.

 

Horned Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The gentle paddling of this Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) produced such wonderful patterns in the water that it was easy to fight the temptation to crop this image more closely. This is another one of the waterbirds that appeared recently at a pond in a nearby suburban neighborhood.

Virtually all of the visiting birds are skittish enough that they will swim away toward the center of the pond as I approach. Fortunately for me they swim a lot more slowly than they fly, so I generally have a chance to track them as they swim, hoping they will turn their heads periodically to the side.

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) swim like ducks and dive like ducks, it only takes a quick look at one to see that they definitely are not ducks. The shape of the bill and of the body are quite different from those of a duck. I’ve always found the overall look the Pied-billed Grebe to be so unusual that it looks almost cartoonish to me.

I spotted this grebe yesterday in a small suburban pond not far from where I live. This little bird repeatedly was diving underwater. presumably in search of food, though I never saw him catch anything. If you look closely at the photos, you can see droplets of water on the body of the grebe and, in some cases, on his face.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Earlier this year I encountered an unfamiliar bird that turned out to be a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). On-line photos showed that the bird has really cool plumage during mating season and I remember hoping that I would see one this spring.

Well, this past Friday I spotted one in the distance in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The light was coming from almost in front of me and the grebe was a long way off, but I did manage to capture the sunlight glistening off of the blonde “horns” of this beautiful bird. I especially like the first shot in which you can see just a bit of the grebe’s red eyes and the feathers really do look like horns.

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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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As I gazed out into the center of a small, man-made pond, I spotted gulls and geese and a few ducks. Suddenly a small bird swam into view that I couldn’t identify. It looked a bit like a duck, but the bill seemed to be very different.

I’m stepping out into the unknown by speculating that this might be a Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), although it doesn’t quite match any photos that in my identification guide or that I could find on-line. I wonder if it is a juvenile bird. I would welcome a clarification, correction, or confirmation from more experienced birders. Thanks in advance for your assistance.

As you can tell, it was a bright, sunny day when I took this shot this past weekend, a welcome respite from the gray days of winter. Alas, it is cloudy again today, with rain forecast for much of the day.

Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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