Photographing Pied-billed Grebes With Crayfish – Oh What Fun Can Be Had

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Pied-billed Grebe surfacing with a crayfishPied-billed Grebe surfacing with a crayfish – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

For several weeks I’ve been having a blast photographing Pied-billed Grebes capturing and devouring crayfish at a local pond. When the grebes dive under the water I try to keep an eye on where they might surface to see if they’ll bring up a crayfish in their bills and when they do I start firing away because I never know what kind of action or behaviors I will capture in my photos.

I like the water dripping off of the grebe and crayfish in this photo along with the splashing water droplets in front of the grebe’s neck.

Pied-billed Grebe with a crayfish in it's billPied-billed Grebe with a crayfish in it’s bill – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I often feel I have to be quick to lock my focus onto the Pied-billed Grebes when they surface because a gull might come along and attempt to steal the crayfish and that is what happened right after I took this photo, a gull dive bombed the grebe, it sank under the water and I didn’t see it resurface with the crayfish, it may have swam underwater and come up behind some of the vegetation at the edge of the pond and out of my sight.

The two photos above were taken on December 11, 2017

Pied-billed Grebe tearing the legs off of a crayfishPied-billed Grebe tearing the legs off of a crayfish – Nikon D500, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

There is a lot of action to photograph when one of the Pied-billed Grebes catches a crayfish, they first thing they seem to do is to tear off the largest legs of the crayfish because of the big claws they have and they do that by grasping those legs in their bills and shaking the crayfish vigorously.

This photo was taken on Christmas Day, 2017, the three photos below were taken yesterday afternoon.

Pied-billed Grebe shaking a crayfishPied-billed Grebe shaking a crayfish – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

This photo shows the bill of the Pied-billed gripping the leg of the crayfish just behind the right claw while keeping an eye on the other birds that were nearby yesterday at the pond. Water droplets were flying so the bird had given the crayfish a good shake.

Pied-billed Grebe with Crayfish in mid airPied-billed Grebe with Crayfish in mid air – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

A few frames later the grebe shook the crayfish again, some of the smaller legs snapped off and the crayfish went flying into the air. Yesterday afternoon I caught four “flying” crayfish in my photos and each one makes me laugh.

Crayfish on a Pied-billed Grebe's headCrayfish on a Pied-billed Grebe’s head – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The funniest photo I took yesterday, the one that made me laugh out loud the hardest, was when a crayfish landed on the Pied-billed Grebe’s head after the bird shook it hard. When I zoomed in past 100% resolution I could see that the crayfish appeared to be grabbing the feathers on the head of the grebe with its claws.

Photographing these Pied-billed Grebes with Crayfish at the local pond has been fascinating and the action should continue until the grebes leave the small pond to head to larger bodies of freshwater or the marshes to breed, nest and rear their young.

Life is good. Birds are amazing.

Mia

6 Comments

  1. Denise Brownlie December 30, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Poor little crayfish — la skilled predator., that small Pied-billed Grebe.
    I agree with Patty Chadwick: “I hope [the crayfish] don’t suffer too much!!”
    The new science in biology tells us that whether the creature is an octopus or a snail (or a crayfish?), the intelligence of all manner of living beings is astounding.
    We don’t need to look to Aliens to amaze us. The Pulitzer-prize poet Mary Oliver can be our guide, teaching us to truly SEE what is all around us on this Planet.
    Mia guides us with both pictures and words. Mia and Mary: what a team!!

  2. Jane Chesebrough December 30, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    That is so funny, a day in the life of a grebe! I wish you a happy year with lots to capture in 2018.

  3. Bob mcpherson December 28, 2017 at 11:38 am

    As usual, amazing.

  4. Elephants Child December 27, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Love that the crayfish put up a fight. And marvel at the action your photos capture which my tired eyes would never, ever see.

  5. April Olson December 27, 2017 at 10:20 am

    I am surprised more gulls don’t dive bomb and take the crayfish when it is airborne.

  6. Patty Chadwick one of my favorite birds December 27, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Great action photos…like the wetness of the bird…This proves that crayfish can fly!!! Thanks for sending it…..you have to feel sorry for the poor crayfish…I hope they don’t suffer too much!!!

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