Western Grebes – Old And New

Two days ago I visited Bear River MBR on the first full day it was open after being closed because of flooding. It was an interesting preview of things to come. Lots of Tundra Swans are still on the refuge but they won’t be here for long and I was delighted to see my first of year Tree Swallows, Clark’s Grebes and Western Grebes. Shorebirds are still scarce but with this warm weather I’m sure they’re on the near horizon.


This is one of the Western Grebes from yesterday – they were all too far away for decent images and most were in bad light but I wanted to take a few shots just to document their arrival. Most appeared to be resting after their series of night flights to get here but a few looked like they might be paired up already (courtship begins during migration or soon after arrival on their breeding grounds).

For me it’s a big deal when Western Grebes show up because I love photographing their breeding rituals, nesting activities and chicks. The following photo, taken two summers ago at Bear River, illustrates one of the reasons why.




1/2000, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Here an adult is back brooding two youngsters and there’s a third in the water just out of frame to the right. I love this image for a variety of reasons including:

  • those adorable chicks with catch lights in both eyes
  • the complete reflection of all three birds plus that arc of the adults feathers behind the reflections of the youngsters
  • the water colors throughout and the swirly patterns in the upper background
  • the two small floating feathers to either side and just behind the adult. Small downy feathers like these are typical of those the adults feed to their chicks as a digestion aid so I wouldn’t be surprised if those feathers disappeared at some point after this image was taken.

I have many images of these birds taken that morning that I like very much – this one is new to my blog but it may look somewhat similar to others I’ve posted.

So I suspect bird lovers among my readers can appreciate why I get a little excited when I see my first Western Grebes of the season. It appears that the refuge has survived the flooding with little damage to nesting habitat so hopefully it will be a highly productive season for them.

And for me (he says selfishly…)





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