More Grebe Chicks

When John sent me shots he had taken at Bear River two weeks after I had been there, I was immediately dissatisfied with the shots I had taken in May. John had gotten much closer than I had, and the light was better in his shots than in mine. If I had managed to get some shots of Avocet chicks on my first trip I might not have gone back, but knowing there were much better shots of Grebes and their chicks to be had made the trip a “no-brainer” for me.

Despite “focusing” on finding Avocet chicks on the trip, I ended up with more shots of Western and Clark’s Grebes’ chicks than I did of anything else. After this trip I might never need to take another shot of Grebe babies — though I doubt I will be able to resist the temptation.

Here are five of my favorite shots from this trip, beginning with this shot of proud parents paddling down the canal.

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There were adorable Grebe chicks everywhere we looked

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with parents attentive to their every need.

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There were also a lot of older chicks learning to be independent,

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though some chicks the same size seemed much more demanding.

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Juvenile American Avocets at Bear River

Right after we spotted the Avocet chicks at Bear River, I spotted this rather odd-looking American Avocet foraging along the bank, though I couldn’t quite decide why it looked so odd.

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Before long it was joined by another Avocet.

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I really couldn’t identify them, until I saw them standing next to an adult American Avocet and realized they had to be juveniles.

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I confirmed my identification through the internet, but the sighting raised several questions for me. Just how old are these chicks. Were they born this year? If not, how could they have migrated hundreds of miles, especially since it would have been several months ago if they arrived with the main flock? If they are this year’s chicks, just how old are they and how fast do they grow?

Snowy Egret In a Green Haze

Tired of trying to decide which of the 100 Western Grebe baby shots I should use on the blog, I turned to the last shots I took at Bear River, shots of a Snowy Egret hunting in a dense swamp. Technically, the shots aren’t particularly good. I don’t think there’s a sharp shot of the Snowy in any of the 10 shots I took. I had to shoot through the reeds between me and the Egret, resulting in a green haze in all the shots.

Turns out, though, that I really liked that green haze; the only problem I had was deciding whether or not to adjust the original shots. Since I shoot on the most basic of settings, I usually have to adjust the darks and lights and sharpen the image slightly; sometimes I even adjust the exposure to try to render what I actually saw with my eyes.

To make matters worse, I tended to like the photos no matter how I adjusted them. So, dear reader, I’ll let you decide which of them you like best.

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Avocet Chick Leaving the Nest

While processing the photos for yesterday’s post, I kept looking for shots of an Avocet chick swimming which I remembered quite clearly taking. When they were nowhere to be found, I assumed I must’ve accidentally deleted them. However, after I posted the entry, I found them in a completely different folder in Lightroom.

That is what happens when you shoot over 2000 shots in three days on two different cameras. When I got home, I transferred most of the shots from my portable computer, but I had the last days shot on a memory card. Somehow, the shots on the memory card ended up in a completely different folder with no mention of Utah in the name.

Like the Wizard in Oz, I try to keep up an image of perfection on my website. Obviously, I screwed up this time. I could’ve just moved on and posted adorable shots of Western Grebe chicks and left that impression of perfection in tact, but this sequence might be my favorite shots of Avocet chicks and if I didn’t post them now I never would.

Without further ado, here are shots of an Avocet chick leaving the nest,

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trying to crawl back into the nest just as the parent decides to leave the nest

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managing a long climb back into the nest,

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and wondering where the parent has gone.

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As the parent returns, the chick is just starting to get back in the water.

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As it swims away, the parent returns to sitting on the nest

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and the chick turns around and starts swimming back to the nest.

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It’s still not clear to me whether the parent wanted the chick to leave the nest or to return to the nest.

I also wondered if the chick would be safer in the surrounding reeds than in the nest. The nest certainly seemed very exposed. We were also bothered by the fact that we saw only one chick and not the three we had seen the evening before. Did something already get the other chicks, or were they hiding in the nearby reeds with the other parent, waiting for their sibling to join them? We preferred to think they were hiding in the reeds, though survival rates apparently aren't very high for Avocet chicks.

Avocet Chicks

After completing the auto tour the first day and not seeing a single Avocet chick, I was worried we were too early to see baby Avocets. Luckily, halfway through the evening tour of the refuge, Leslie spotted this Avocet moving strangely. Two parents were about to shift place on the nest. Though Leslie missed the exchange, she managed to get a shot of these chicks just as the adult settled in.

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It wasn’t clear if the chicks were trying to escape the nest or seek safety under the parent.

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Heck, it wasn’t even clear how many chicks there were.

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After Leslie spotted them, I managed to focus my 500mm lens, with a doubler, on them and get some slightly better shots. This shot

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probably shows the chick better than any of the many shots we took. I was particularly amazed at the long legs.

My favorite shot, though, is this one of the chick trying to crawl up on the adult, but the adult (it must have been the male) kept turning its head away from the chick.

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This had to be the highlight of our trip.

Mission Accomplished.

American Coot Chicks

It didn’t take Leslie and I long to realize that one of the best places to find baby birds was in the reeds that line the Bear River refuge. While scanning the edge of the reeds I saw this bird that I didn’t recognize.

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In fact, I saw quite a few of these birds. Several of them hunkered down on a huge pile of reeds on the back side of the auto tour. If I had actually seen this shot full size instead of the camera viewfinder, I would have immediately recognized it as a juvenile American Coot because of the feet on the youngster on the left.

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I’ll never forget my shock when I first saw an American Coot out of the water after photographing them in the water for years.

Since I didn’t see the feet, though, I had to figure out what it was through a much longer process. I recognized this chick immediately as an American Coot,

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since I’ve photographed them several times in the past. My first thought when I saw one was that they were so ugly that only a mother could love them. Now I’ve come to believe that they’re so ugly that they’re actually quite cute.

Nearby I saw an American Coot feeding this slightly older chick.

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Still later, I got a shot of a parent feeding an even larger, older, I assume, juvenile.

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By then it was quite clear that American Coots are born over a long period of time. A little internet research revealed that American Coots can even have more than one brood per year.

One Good Bird Is All We Need

On our first trip through Bear River we didn’t spot a single Avocet chick, though we did spot several other baby birds, probably more than I’ve ever seen in a single day. There were so many Western/Clark Grebe babies I still haven’t managed to sort through all of them.

At first glance I thought these were Mallard ducklings, but once I caught a good look at the mommy it was clear they were the first Northern Shoveler ducklings

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I had ever seen. This brood of ducks, unlike most Mallard broods I’ve seen, stayed tightly together, and momma was quite protective, even chasing away nearby ducks.

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I’ve seem Pied Grebe chicks before but have never gotten shots like this,

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or this, before.

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The highlight of the morning, though, came near the end of the auto tour when Leslie spotted this Black-Necked Stilt acting strangely.

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Then she spotted this chick through the binoculars.

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I couldn’t see it with my bare eyes and could barely find it through the 500mm lens with a doubler on it.

I wouldn’t have had any idea what kind of bird it was if a parent hadn’t been nearby.

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Though I was disappointed that we still hadn’t seen a single Avocet chick after driving 800 miles, this single chick

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made the morning feel very special.

As Ruth always said, “One Good Bird, that’s all we need.”