Clark’s Grebes Rushing in September at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

/, Birds, Box Elder County, Clark's Grebes, Utah/Clark’s Grebes Rushing in September at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Clark's Grebes Rushing in SeptemberClark’s Grebes Rushing in September – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Two days ago I was photographing Forster’s Terns at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on a very smoky morning, the terns were coming in at irregular intervals so I paid attention to other birds in the area including ducks, geese, pelicans, egrets, herons, coots, gulls, swallows and a few grebes while waiting for the terns to fly past.

There haven’t been as many Western and Clark’s Grebes and their young at the refuge as there have been in previous years and that has been disappointing. Part of the reason we may be seeing fewer grebes and their young is a draw down of the water on the refuge; for some kind of maintenance project, that was done at the same time these grebes should have been building their floating nests out on the water impoundments. The project was postponed and water was released back into the water impoundment units but by then I believe the grebes had moved elsewhere due to the lack of water and their need to build floating nests for the safety of their nests and broods. Hopefully nesting was more successful for the grebes in other locations, like Farmington Bay WMA.

Any who… I was watching for Forster’s Terns to fly past when I heard grebes calling in the distance and turned my lens towards a pair of Clark’s Grebes that I could see on the water near a stand of rushes. I could see the pair “ratchet pointing” but didn’t think much of it for a second. Then I realized that the grebes were displaying mating behavior which I found very strange for this time of the year, I missed their breeding displays this breeding season because the refuge was flooded and closed while they would have been “water dancing”.

I started taking a images of the grebes even though I knew I wouldn’t get any stellar photos because of how far away they were but as soon as I started firing the pair of Clark’s Grebes performed their Rushing Ceremony. I was positively amazed to see the Clark’s Grebes rushing across the water this late in the year, personally I’ve never seen them rush past the end of July. This isn’t a high quality image but I am sure glad I turned my lens towards these grebes.

I do believe this is a male and female because the grebe on the right appeared smaller than the grebe on the left in all of my images. I don’t think these Clark’s Grebes are intending to nest this late in the season but I still found their behavior at this time of the year astonishing. I just never know what I might see when I am out photographing birds.

Life is good.



  1. Elephants Child September 7, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    If my head was on upside down like that I would be velcroed to the carpet under the bed refusing to come out. Or head down in a bowl.
    Love that birds (and nature more generally) keep their own calendar and ignore ours.

    • Laura Culley September 7, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      I think a lot of things happen that we don’t see, simply because humans aren’t out there to witness odd behaviors every day all day over time. Case in point, the whole idea of smaller birds attacking larger birds (raptors generally) by riding on their backs! I’d never heard of that happening before. The books I read never mentioned it, either. However, with bigger, badder cameras, some folks are catching that behavior. Think of the equation for that! First, a bird person with the proper camera gear has to be out there. They’ve got to know how to work said camera AND remember to pick it up while scraping their jaw off the ground in that Oh WOW moment. Then, the whole thing has to happen in their immediate vicinity while they’re out there with the right lighting situation! Phrew! That’s a long string of IFs! LOL!

      • Elephants Child September 7, 2017 at 3:24 pm

        And aren’t we lucky that through Mia and Ron we get to see some of those IFs come to fruition.

        • Laura Culley September 7, 2017 at 3:55 pm

          Indeed we are EC!! If all this depended on me, well, let’s just say that’s would NOT be a good idea. I fail completely at the camera part, although I can do the dropping-my-jaw part really well! LOL!

          • Elephants Child September 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm

            I hear you. While in Antarctica I just about dislocated my jaw because it dropped so far (and so often).

  2. Laura Culley September 7, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    LOL Patty! I was thinking it might be a juvenile male in the first rush of hormones? You KNOW how boys are when that happens! Just a thought.

  3. hummingbird lover September 7, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Hi! I have you as a site of your own! So you don’ Love ya’s momt need to put it on my e-mail page as of now!

  4. Patty Chadwick September 7, 2017 at 11:48 am

    You’d probably be rushing around like that too if you had your head on upside down like they do..

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