Rickubis Bird Page #4:  Grebes
This page was born 03/24/2010.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update:
Images and contents on this page copyright 2002-2013 Richard M. Dashnau

Here are my other Brazos Bend and/or critter pages:
 ----------------------------------------------------------------                  OR,  FOR OTHER ANIMALS:
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Introduction             Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Snakes-nonvenomous 1------------------------------------------- Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Snakes-nonvenomous 2-------------------------------------------------Insects, non-toxic
Snakes-nonvenomous 3------------------------------------------------Spiders
Snakes-venomous------------------------------------------------------Mammals
Birds-Waders Hawks & Eagles-Anhingas & Comorants ---------Lizards!--Turtles!
 Pelicans  Misc Birds-Herons  Bitterns 
Vultures    Owls & Falcons

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That's me on a trail at Brazos Bend State Park (BBSP), sometime in 2004.

More Least Grebes--12/20/2009  Today was the first bright, sunny Sunday we've had in almost a month. I didn't spend as much time out around the bigger lakes as I'd like, but that's just how it is sometimes. I decided to go to Creekfield Lake and see if any otters would show up. No, they didn't, or at least I didn't see any. But staying by the lake, and watching is just a lot of fun. When I got onto the long pier, I came upon one of our park visitors photographing the Least Grebes. They were very close to the pier, and obviously didn't mind people near them. The water was crystal clear.
I moved closer to the Grebes, and started taking pictures of them, and they submerged as usual. But today, they were easily visible while under the clear water! A small group of us watched as the Least Grebes paddled around, and when they submerged--we could all easily see them poking around on the bottom! It was *really* quite exciting. I shot for slow-motion, hoping to slow my jerky camera movement as I tried to track them underwater. I shot a few clips--some nice dives, and a few surfacing Grebes. These events were very, very nice when you can see the Grebe under the water. But, I got one nice continuous clip of a Grebe diving, foraging, and surfacing all in one go. At the adjusted slow-motion frame rate, the clip is about 2 minutes long (but actually happened 7 times faster than that). I've edited it a bit (I did some enhancement of the underwater sequence to try to minimize surface glare). Here's the first clip (wmv 18.8 mb).
Below is a sequence of frame-grabs from one of the clips showing a Least Grebe diving.

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The 2nd clip is compiled of a number of short segments of the three Least Grebes (someone told me one parent and two young) diving and surfacing. I put these together, and am passing them on because it's so much fun watching them. Click to see the 2nd clip (wmv 18.7 mb).  I noticed that the Grebes seemed to keep their butts turned towards us most of the time. Not only that, but they appear to open the air-gaps between the feathers so that it appears (to me, anyway) that bare skin is visible. Today's RICKUBISCAM shows a Least Grebe in that position. The sun is generally behind me when I'm watching the Grebes. Is it possible that they are trying to catch some solar heating on the bare skin back there? The under-feathers are brightly-colored, and not dark (which would help absorb solar heat). Right before a dive, I can see them fold the feathers back down, forming a more streamlined profile, and also catching air against the skin (more guessing about function). It doesn't make sense to be ballast, but large air bubbles appear when the Grebes dive. This is quite obvious in some of the video clips.
Below is a sequence of frame-grabs form one of the clips showing a Least Grebe sufacing.

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I'm also amazed at the contortions that the legs are capable of while swimming. They're doing a lot more than just "rowing" straight back or paddling while the Grebes are surfaced. They push up, out, twist, and even seem to brake the Grebe when it surfaces. And those piercing yellow eyes are brilliant. The very last segment in the second clip shows them off.  I was able to find one of my answers about behavior online. It seems that my guess was correct, and that Least Grebes are sunning themselves when they bare their backsides.  At least (heh..."least") it seems that they aren't mooning us. Here are the two links for the clips again:  first clip (wmv 18.8 mb)   2nd clip (wmv 18.7 mb).

Here's some links about the sunning:   All about birds.    The following is in a book that Google has listed. If the links don't work, look on page 62 of this title:
Nesting birds of a tropical frontier: the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas click link

And here is the RICKUBISCAM picture of the Grebe showing its butt: 

Least Grebes--Summer-Fall 2009  Grebes are small swimming birds. Their legs are set far towards the rear of their body, which makes them good swimmer. However, they are rather clumsy on land. At Brazos Bend State park, we usually see Pied-Billed Grebes. A few years ago, at least one family of Least Grebes has appeared at the park. Least Grebes have a very limited range (according to Sibley's Field Guide to Birds, page 29). The appearance of the Least Grebes at the park was big news. Even more exciting was the fact that the Grebes have apparently remained at the park, and produced chicks for at least 2 years. The Least Grebes are small with narrow, short pointed beaks, and the adults are dark grey with bright yellow eyes. The young are generally grey, but with pronounced black and grey stripes. Through this summer, I was able to get some pictures and video clips of these uncommon residents of the park. Today's RICKUBISCAM is one of those pictures from July 2009. During that session, the single Least Grebe was hunting near the Spillway Trail. Passing juvenile Moorhens would occasionally harass it, and try to take the food that it caught. The last picture is a frame from the video clip. There are two sections in the clip. First, the Grebe has an insect (probably a Water Scorpion), and one of the Moorhens attempts to steal it. The other section shows the Grebe snatching a dragonfly out of the air.
 7/26/2009

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                     POKING IN THE DUCKWEED                        THE BRIGHT YELLOW EYE                 YOUNG MOORHEN BEING A NUISANCE           HUNTING, 2 CLIPS, SLOW MOTION
                                                                                                                                                            - video clip (wmv,  11.9mb)

Later, the Least Grebes appeared in Creekfield Lake. The remaining material was all shot there. The three images from 9/20/09 show one of the adult Least Grebes feeding the young ones. Most of what they caught might be Water Tigers--the larva of the Predacious Diving Beetle. The third image is a frame from the video clip. This clip was shot at normal speed, and shows the Least Grebes and their young. The high peeping sounds are from the chicks. The fourth image is from another video clip from 10/11/09. This one was shot at 210 fps, so  it shows a parent feeding babies in slow motion.
 9/20/2009                                                                                                                                         10/11/2009

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           WITH A WATER TIGER                          ADULT WITH CHICKS                            FEEDING THE YOUNG VIDEO CLIP                    THE HEAD FROM THE SIDE
                                                                               video clip (wmv,  14mb)                video clip (wmv,  8.4mb)

The last four images are from 11/01/09. The Least Grebes were finally in some sun. The second and fourth images are just cropped closeups of the first and third images. Look at how brilliant the eyes are!
 11/01/2009

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    GREBE IN DUCKWEED AND AZOLA                           THE HEAD CLOSEUP                             GIVING ME THE STARE                               BOTH EYES CLOSER

If you'd like to know more about the park follow these links:

Brazos Bend State Park   The main page.

Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer's Page  The volunteer's main page.
 

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