Western Grebes with Chicks

My favorite part of Monday’s time spent at Malheur was watching Western Grebes in various stages of raising their young. There was so much going on that I’ve never seen that I could have spent another five days shooting just them.

It was clear that parents were in various stages of raising their young. This little guy nearly jumped out of the water when the parent caught a large fish, ready for a quick snack:

Dinner Time!

However, the adult didn’t just feed the chick. At first I wondered if it was even its parent, but after swimming away from the chick, the adult finally slowed and let the chick eat.

Feeding Time

Apparently the parent was trying to encourage the chick to swim as fast, and as far, as it could.

Parents with younger chicks acted quite differently. It was obvious from all the calls in the air as I walked closer that parents were calling their chicks. I watched as one chick, obviously younger and smaller than the one I’d photographed earlier, climbed onto its parent’s back. First one,

Western Grebe with Chick on Back

then another


Western Grebe with Chicks on Back

with a third trying to find a place to ride.

I got a lot of shots I liked, but my favorite was this one of a parent apparently cradling its chick in her wings.

Western Grebe with Chick on Back


Western Grebes at Malheur

Monday I arrived at Malheur after eight long hours of driving to sunshine and more water than I’ve ever seen before. The water was full of birds — ducks, coots, egrets, pelicans, and most of all Western Grebes. More grebes than I’ve ever seen in one place.

I only had an hour to shoot before I had to set up camp for the night, but in that hour I got some of the best shots of Western Grebes I’ve ever gotten before because I’d never gotten this close before, so close that I didn’t even bother to set up my 500mm lens and tripod, thinking I’d save that for the next day.

I loved the reflections in this shot,

 Western Grebe

as they reminded me of Northwest Indian artwork.

At first I was puzzled by the strange gray and white birds that were everywhere, thinking they might be an unknown gull, but it once I’d actually seen them with an adult

Western Grebe with older chicks

I realized that they were older chicks, another first for me.

It didn’t take long to realize the surrounding waters were full of Western Grebes with chicks in various stages of growth, from nearly independent to recently hatched. Once I made this discovery, I spent the rest of my time observing various parenting skills, and got a number of shots I’ll post tomorrow.

It’s Soccer Time!

Last Saturday’s sunshine served as the perfect kickoff to the soccer season here in Tacoma, and I managed to get to two different games while still watching the Husky-Hawaii football game.

The year began with Lael’s first game of the year. Lael’s team, coached by her mother, plays four-player teams, with one player in the goal.

Lael's Team

It looks like it will be more fun to watch this team than last year’s team, and one of the reasons is this girl who’s played three years of soccer.

Lael’s going to have to run harder than that if she’s going to catch up to her teammate.

Lael's teammate about to score

Perhaps her teammate’s aggressiveness is rubbing off, though,

because Lael managed to hold her own in some aggressive play and even scored a goal.

Lael plays aggressively this year

Gavin’s team played in the afternoon, so I managed to catch his game, too. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective the team he played wasn’t nearly as good as his team, so Gavin, who plays fullback, didn’t get much action,

Gavin defends

and I only got one shot during an hour plus game.


If I’d been birding rather than finally getting my favorite Torta, checking on a National Forest Pass, and generally enjoying one of the hottest days of the year, then last Thursday’s trip to Nisqually Wildlife Refuge would have been a total flop because I saw very few birds despite walking to the end of the new walkway.

Luckily, the Torta was excellent and I learned that my Golden Passport should be good at National Forests in Washington and Oregon (I’ll let you know if I get a ticket).

And if all the birds found it too hot to waste energy flying around, the dragonflies more than made up for it as they seemed to find the weather perfect. And as I’ve noted before, I was fascinated with dragonflies long before I was fascinated with birds.

The intense light made it relatively easy to get sharp photos of the dragonflies using high shutter speeds. Even though I never quite managed to capture one in flight, I still like this shot,


this shot,


and even this shot.


Until I can find a praying mantis in the wild, dragonflies and butterflies will remain my favorite insects.