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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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