Clark’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.