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…)




25 comments to Western Grebes – Old And New

  • Selfishly I am happy for myself that you are starting to see these beauties again. Your images, and the stories and back stories have brightened many a dark day for me, and the back-brooders are guaranteed to produce smiles. And I always smile at the reminder that ‘red-eye’ in photography is not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Laura Culley

    Just love it! I especially love that the parents feed molted (down?)feathers to the kids for digestion. From the number of shed down feathers around here, I can only imagine how many shed feathers there would be there (clogging the waterways?). 🙂 Another example of reduce, reuse, recycle practiced in The Great Out There!
    Overall, spring and fall are my favorite times of year. Yes, I know some folks will think it’s trite, but the renewal and hope of watching the Earth come back alive with boys and girls doing what boys and girls do (of all species), we’re reminded that life goes on.

  • Alice Beckcom

    I’ve never seen anything like these chicks riding on the back of their Mother. The picture are spectacular and your lesson so welcome.

  • Patty Chadwick

    “Snug as a bug in a rug”, my grandmother and one of my uncles used to say when they tucked me in at night…Those cute, fuzzy little ones look so safe and warm…Especially appealing on this cold, windy, drafty St. Paddy’s Day. Do I see a couple of tiny floating feathers? I never tire of seeing the same birds again, or seeing “old” pictures of them again…always see something new even in “old friends”. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful photo with the babies! 🙂 I have yet to get Sandhill Cranes as they aren’t close by for the most part. We do mark seasons by when various birds show up/leave rather than by the calendar. 🙂

  • Marty K

    I really like the position of the grebe in your first shot, especially with the swirling water next to it. There’s something very intriguing about the composition.

    And who can say no to adorable babies? 🙂 Glad their breeding grounds survived the flooding.

  • Joanne O'Brien

    Beautiful photographs, Ron! Always an education and an inspiration!

  • Dick Harlow

    Great shots Ron, documentation is important..
    Thanks for sharing. The sun is out and the reflection off the snow is bright!

  • Roger Burnard

    I never tire of looking at your images, even if there are of subjects I’ve seen before.
    You’ve just started my day with a big smile on my face… ;-)))

  • Robert (RJ) Davis


  • Charlotte Norton

    Wonderful shot Ron! The one with the chick’s is awesome!


  • Marina schultz

    Love it!!! No Grebes here at basin yet but 2,500 cranes was very exciting!!!! Its a great start for crane days in Eckart…