A Pied Surprise

I’m fresh off another successful Bix@6! I wasn’t exactly feeling at the top of my game at the start, but made it through at a fairly good time for a training run (2 minutes faster than usual). Typically I come in 4 to 5 minutes slower than I do on actual race day. Always seemed a little odd to me but this year I figured out why – I took the phone with me this year (sans headphones – it isn’t really a closed course – no reason to take unnecessary risks), so the RunKeeper app kept me (and everyone around me hehehe) informed of the pace and distance. To my surprise, the 6-course is LONG. Not by a mile like the Chicago Marathon, but a few tenths enough to explain some of the time difference. I’m sure the rest of the time is due to adrenaline from being out there with 17K plus others. Not sure what to expect at the moment from the actual race, but the faster Bix@6 might just be a good sign – now if I can just get the cloud gods to cooperate again!

Are you getting the picture (pun intended) the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve is quite awesome when it comes to the diversity of birds available for photographing? At this point it is a little hard to rank this spot as my favorite thanks to the number of checks it has given me on the bird list or instead a lagoon in Florida where we were able to see less variety, but the larger species. Note, there is more to come of the Florida shoot but for now let’s spend some time with ANOTHER new bird from Henderson.

Anybody want to take a stab at what this interesting little waterfowl might be? No cheating by image hovering, but the post title might give a hint. Honestly, I thought this bird was simply a juvi of one of the other birds that were near it, but upon further research believe this to be a species unto its own. Better yet, a species that I can now check off my bird list. With the aid of the Stokes Field Guide, I was able to match the first two pictures with the adult Winter plumage of the Pied-Billed Grebe. The region matches up perfectly with our location and time frame so pretty confident the classification is correct.  True to the old adage, I got the water beading up on the duck’s (er Grebe’s) back.  Not to mention I was able to put a cross body shot in the tin as well.

Hit the jump to read a few interesting facts about this chicken beaked Grebe

According to the National Geographic Bird reference, they can hide by sinking until only its head is above water – guessing it probably teases the other waterfowl by sneaking up on them like that while uttering the Jaws theme dun dun dun dun…  The juvi of this Grebe are definitely more distinct with a white/grey streaking on the side of head.  They are rarely seen flying which if you ask me is a complete waste of the gift of flight.  Unlike ducks they do not have webbed feet -they actually trail behind the body.  Our friends over at Wikipedia noted their original name was derived from Podilymbus or feet at the buttocks… forever entertained by the lack of originality of our early discoverers.  Their bills are adapted .. or intelligently design per whatever camp you happen to be in,  for their food source.  They enjoy a tasty crustacean and small fish (who doesn’t?) and the chicken like beak allows them to crush the shells and bones.  For the curious, they obtained the Pied Billed name from their summer look which has a dark band around a grayer colored beak.  The specimen below appears to be going through the transition to the Winter look.

Wikipedia lists their Conservation Status as Least Concern but if you dig a little deeper into the write up they are considered Endangered in Illinois – truly a shame.   They appear to be skittish birds and have been known to abandon their nests along with their eggs due to loud noises or disturbances like boaters.  This is a great time to point out an interesting aspect of the Henderson location.  It is literally in the flight path for Vegas so plane crossings are fairly common along with the noise from the equipment used to run the water treatment facility next to it.  You would think this would NOT be the place to find such noise sensitive birds.  There is a BIG upside to these distractions — the birds have become accustomed to this to the point they could care less about humans walking around the area, which is a huge contributor to being able to photograph so many of them.  Around here if you get too close the birds will skedaddle before you finger makes it to the shutter button.

That’s all I got for you today folks – catch ya’ again in a few.

4 thoughts on “A Pied Surprise”

  1. Very cute bird! And a nice size for my cats to chase. Never heard of the bird, so the title was no help at all, thank you.

    So how do they swim if they don’t have webbed feet? Slowly?

    Ron

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  2. Well, I was curious about the lack of webbing as well and checked that out (didn’t put it in the post thinking I was the only one who had that question). Each of the toes have a lobe on them that provide the added surface area for swimming. Keep those killers away from these birds – they could probably single handed change their conservation status two notches down! … of course they could go into shark mode and they wouldn’t be able to see it

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  3. ummm.. I think any animal would be scared to death of being put in a blender or choked out by the cord or hit over the head with it… personally I’d invest in a bunch of squirt bottles and go all out fireman on ’em

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