Horned Grebes in Breeding Plumage

I’ll have to admit that the Common Merganser I showed in my last post is not the only bird that I have been stalking for awhile. My favorite bird to stalk this time of year is actually the Horned Grebe, and, particularly, the Horned Grebes at the Port Orchard Marina. I’ve been following their plumage transition for several years now. Even after several years I’m amazed how these birds transform from subtle shades of white and gray to brilliant oranges and blacks.

Horned Grebes are usually numerous at Port Orchard and they’re used to people so it’s usually easy to capture the transition, but that’s not been true this year. There seem to be fewer grebes this year and more people whenever I’ve managed to get there.

Still, I was quite happy when I managed to get this shot of one almost transformed into its breeding plumage.

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Of course, Port Orchard isn’t the only place to find Horned Grebes. While looking for Pigeon Guillemots at Port Townsend, I spotted several Horned Grebes. This one looked rather scruffy as it transitioned from winter plumage to breeding plumage.

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The photographer in me tends to focus on the Grebe’s brilliant colors, but Leslie was fascinated with the way they swam under water and demanded that I try to get a shot. It’s really hard to focus on anything under the water, but these shots as they just dove suggests their underwater agility.

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After sighting a male Red-Breasted Merganser in full breeding colors, I had forgotten about the grebes but in the middle of trying to capture a good shot of the merganser this Horned Grebe in full breeding colors suddenly appeared. I couldn’t resist this shot, even though it was further out than I would have liked and I had to crop the shot to produce this photo.

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Although there are only a few weeks between the time the grebes start to change colors and the time they depart for their breeding grounds, I’m still hoping to get a couple more close-ups at Port Orchard.

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