Dancing Grebes

Sometimes you get lucky. In the unseasonably warm February afternoon on Tatton Park’s lake, we suddenly spotted two great crested grebes courting. What an amazing dance they performed. The light was still good, so some sort of reasonable pictures were possible with my Panasonic Lumix TZ200 on maximum zoom, although the show only lasted a minute or two. Here’s a selection:

Click on individual images for more detail.

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Great Crested Grebe

Light is all in photography. We recently chose the time of day when the sun was getting low to walk with camera by the Moor Pool in Knutsford. Our unexpected reward was this pair of great crested grebes, one on the nest and one a little way away on the water – both well within range of my travel zoom.

What a magnificent head and neck (see featured image)! Which is why this bird was almost driven to extinction in the UK in the 19th century, for its head plumes. Fortunately, thanks to the formation of the RSPB (see history), the survival of these birds is no longer under threat.

Getting so close to grebes was unusual in my experience – they usually seem to ensure that they are some distance from humans, probably because of that history of persecution.

Shy Grebes

Great crested grebes are reasonably common in the UK, but not usually as numerously evident as the ubiquitous mallards, coots and moorhens. So it was refreshing to come across a large group of around 30 of these birds at the nature reserve on the Dranse estuary near Thonon-les-Bains on the southern shores of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva).

It was noticeable that, as soon as they became aware of our presence, the grebes moved further away, out of decent range of our 300mm-lens-equivalent travel zooms. The featured image was the best shot I could manage.

So the crested grebes seem to be fairly shy birds, which is the reputation of the little grebe, of which there were also some specimens present at the Dranse. The history of being hunted for their feathers probably explains why these birds are so wary of human beings.