Saturday, June 21, 2008

Grebe chick swallowing fish

I returned to Lake Henry yesterday to watch the grebes some more and try to get some better pics of the chicks (they are so small, the pics of them do not enlarge well). I might add here that Clark's Grebes look quite similar to Western Grebes but the white on their faces goes just above the eye and onto the lores, while the white goes below the eye in Western Grebes. Also, Clark's Grebes have brighter yellow bills, with paler backs, less extensive black on flanks, and some more subtle characteristics. There is a caveat regarding characteristics since during winter some Clark's Grebes have an intermediate plumage including the white not extending above the eye.I was delighted to watch as a parent grebe fed a fish, which looked awfully big for the size of this chick, to a chick. In the top pic, the Clark's Grebe parent has come to the surface with a fish in it's beak. In the middle pic, the chick has the fish in it's beak and with it's head pointed up it is trying to swallow the fish while the parent watches nearby. During the process of swallowing the fish, the parent intervened a few times either taking the fish back or maybe helping reposition it for it's chick (they were over a hundred feet away and there were big waves and so I couldn't always see exactly what was happening).The last pic shows the chick working on swallowing the fish from a more close-up perspective--actually the chick successfully swallowed the fish shortly after I took this pic.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Grebe eye color

I should have noted that Western and Clark's Grebes have red irises (described as scarlet in Bird of North America online)as shown in this pic. Additionally, both Eared and Horned Grebes also have red/scarlet irises. One of the regular blog readers mistook this for the artificial "red eye" sometimes caused by photography. Many birds have eyes of various colors including yellow, white and black as well as red.

I have run into the problem of photographically induced "red eye" when taking pictures of owls with a flash. It is also a common problem when photographing dogs. But the red eyes on all the Western and Clark's Grebes pics here come naturally. SeEtta

Thursday, June 19, 2008

W.Grebes with babies on their backs (back-brooding)

Both Western and Clark's Grebes engage in "back-brooding" of their young--after the young hatch, they climb onto their parent's back "within minutes of hatching" according to Birds of North America (BNA) online. They remain sheltered within the feathering on the back of either the mother or father, who take turns brooding the young.
As these pics show, the baby grebes will sometimes stick their heads up to look around. The hatchling grebes can be seen better by double-clicking on the pics to enlarge. I took these pics yesterday at Lake Henry, which is located north of La Junta. This year a vegetative mat formed on part of the lake and hundreds of Western and Clark's Grebes began nesting there.

Interestingly, when a parent is done with their turn at brooding, "the parent rises in water and flaps wings, young fall off and move to other parent. Adults may assist young in climbing back by holding one foot stiffly out on surface to rear, this used as foothold." (also from BNA)The non-brooding parent grebe catches fish and brings it to the brooding parent, a behavior I saw one time yesterday. SeEtta