Sunday 17 March 2013

Western Grebe photoshoot

Part two of this set of photos can be viewed here.

This evening I had plans to pick up my parents from the airport in Toronto, after they had been on a 10 day trip to tropical Costa Rica (I'm not jealous at all...). I decided to leave in the mid afternoon, stopping along the Toronto waterfront to do some birding. I was hoping to see the Harlequin Duck that had been reported at Colonel Samuel Smith Park.

Unfortunately I couldn't locate the Harli, but I noticed that the long-staying Western Grebe was swimming in the harbour with some Red-necked Grebes. Seeing a potential photographic opportunity as the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds, I climbed down the bank and set up my tripod and camera among the rocks.

There were about 8 Red-necked Grebes in the harbour as well as the Western. They seemed to tolerate my presence and as a result I was able to get some images that I was happy with.

Western and Red-necked Grebes - Toronto

At times the Western Grebe would do what I would assume is a "display", though I haven't looked into it. It would assume this position before doing a bellyflop.

Western Grebe - Toronto, Ontario

Another common "display" that the Western Grebe would do involved crouching really low to the water, with its neck down as low as it could go. It would then start flapping its wings just under the surface of the water, raising its body out of the water. Though it never did "dance" like I've heard Clark's Grebes do on their breeding grounds. This was just an exaggerated flap. 

Western Grebe - Toronto, Ontario

Check out that beautiful wing stripe! Not that grebes fly much during the day, but that is how obvious the wing stripe is on a vagrant Western.

Western Grebe - Toronto, Ontario

This photo helps illustrate the structural differences between a Western and Red-necked. Western has a thinner neck, longer thinner bill, and overall more slender appearance. The clear demarcation between the white "fore" neck and black "hind" neck is pretty distinctive as well. 

Western and Red-necked Grebes - Toronto, ON

At one point, I noticed the Western Grebe getting dangerously close to being directly in line between the CN Tower and I. I hastily removed my teleconverter, re-attached my lens, and was just able to squeeze both the bird and the tower in the same frame. I doubt anyone else in the entire world has a photo of these two things together! :)

Western Grebe - Toronto, ON

More photos coming tomorrow!


Adam Timpf said...

Nice photos. I'm still waiting for my excuse to go to T.O. to see this Western Grebe - one of my nemesis birds.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Adam!