Go West, Young Grebe, Go West

Continuing the Greberrific theme from last post, I bring you a semi-new bird from Australia.  Just kidding, this one came from our trip to Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve just like all the other birds over the last couple of months.  Fact is this bird doesn’t stray far from Canada through lower Baja) .  What can I say, the shutter was quite the workhorse those two days (and yes, we are still posting from the first day’s discoveries).   In a slight deviation from the long list of Henderson birds that came before it, this one is “technically” not a new bird to the Blog and it did have a check mark in the Bird List.  Truth is, the previous mark was written in lightly due to the weak shot I was able to capture.  The original pictures can be found back in 2010 from a trip to Yellowstone (link here).  You can tell it is a bird and if you squint a lot you can discern it is indeed a Western Grebe (or a Clark’s since the pixilation makes it hard to tell if the black goes above or below the eye).  Compare that with this:

Now that is an official Western Grebe check mark.  I really like this bird for a number of reasons two of which is the sleek profile and the cool coloring.  The red eye and the deadly looking bill give a nice finishing touch to the overall appearance of this bird.  A bill that could inflict some serious damage when paired with wing propulsion.  Similar to the Eared Grebe from the post before, they are reluctant fliers – damn you winged creatures that prefer to float on the water.  According to the Stokes guide they can even one up us on the water by being able to run on the top during their takeoffs or courtships.  Sorry folks, no shots of that while we were there.

Hit the jump to read more about this cool Grebe

Continue reading Go West, Young Grebe, Go West

It’s VDay and Love is in the Air

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!  Hopefully you were able to spend some time with your significant others and remember the first time you knew she/he was the one to complete you.  In honor of “Couple’s Day” I bring you some water fowl I came upon while out on our Yellowstone trip last year.  I don’t think I am ever going to get through all the wildlife pictures we took while out there.  Thankfully we’re in the digital age or the film bill would have been horrendous.

First off is the Lesser Scaup.  Warning, these pictures are not tack sharp due to having to pull them in from so far away.  Based on the blurs, I am guessing I also did not have time to put the glass on the tripod either.

As you probably assumed, the male is the more colorful one.  His bill is actually a pale blue which blends in perfectly with the water making him look slightly odd from this angle.  Unfortunately, I cannot tell from the guide books the real difference between the Lesser version and the Greater version beyond the size (Lesser is ~1.5″ shorter and 3″ shorter between the wingtips resulting in about .5 lbs less in weight).  It does appear the Lesser’s have a more southern population during winter than the Greater.

Here is a better set of pictures from a small lake bordered by evergreens.  The trees gave an interesting green reflection on the water.

The green brings out the pale blue on the male much better.  The spooky aspect of the male is the yellow eyes.  In person they really pop against the dark purple head.  As you can tell the Lesser Scaup has all the standard male characteristics as he turns to check out the female’s tail feathers.  Clearly she is playing hard to get.

But in true Valentine’s spirit, she gave in to Cupid’s buckshot.

Just to contrast this romantic scene, there was another water fowl that wasn’t experiencing the joys of courtship.  This Western Grebe was trolling around all alone in a lake to himself/herself.

Unfortunately, once again I was pulling this fowl in from the extent of the glass.  The male and female do not seem to differ much from the pictures in the guides so I can’t tell if this lonely bird was a female or a male.  Following the trend of colorful eyes, this bird actually has a red tint and like the Scaup, really stands out against the darker head coloring.

This shot is pulled in a little more to help show the interesting coloring.  It is amazing how naturally camouflaged it is for his environment and when it moved out of the darker tree reflections you could barely distinguish it from the white clouds being mirrored in the water.   Based on the information in the Smithsonian Field Guide to Birds, the Western Grebe has quite the courtship ritual involving synchronized scooting across the water (just their feet touching the water) and a cute “weed ceremony”  where each bird dances upright with the other while holding water weeds in their bills.  I definitely have to try to get a shot of that the next time I am out West.  Here’s to hoping our little friend above gets his chance to experience this interesting courtship.

Gotta go now, the Olympics are starting up again and this is one sports junkie who never gets enough of athletes trying their best to represent their country… unless it’s figure skating in which case I’ll switch on over to Spike TV.