Baby Grebes: Prepare to go “Awwwww!”

Today I had one mission while birding at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge in Utah and that was to see mama Grebes carrying their baby Grebes on their backs.  I’d never seen this before, as I’m new to birding. (Well, new as of six years now.)

I’m not going to make you wait for the cutest photo E-VUH on the planet.  Here it is. Mama Clark’s Grebe with three babies on her back and papa bringing a tiny fish.  (I just wished I had taken a sharper photo. For best jaw-dropping effect I recommend clicking on photo to enlarge.)

Family of Clark’s Grebes with babies on back and male bringing a little fish.

It was beautiful today at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge.  After two days of wet and cold weather (we had our fireplace going over the weekend, if you can believe that), we were treated to 70-degree F temperatures and a lot of activity at the Refuge. We met up with a couple from Ohio who were birding across several states–Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and then heading over to Idaho. You can always count on meeting interesting people while birding. Two weeks ago at Antelope Island we met a couple from Vancouver B.C., who were enjoying the owlets at Garr Ranch. It’s fun to share adventures and find out where people bird around the world.  (Yes, I used the word, “bird,” as a verb. It happens.)

Let’s take a break from my yammering and enjoy this nice shot of the Western Kingbird. Now why can’t all birds pose obediently like this?

Western Kingbird

Full confession here: I shoot with a Nikon D5000, but I don’t know what the heck I’m doing and today I was forced to admit it and now I’m determined to do something about it.  My camera–or rather my 300mm lens–was giving me trouble.  I won’t say exactly what it was for fear that all you really awesome photographers will roll your eyes at me and consider me very pedestrian (I am).  Nevertheless, I’ve got to get educated about how to shoot and to start learning about my equipment. It’s time. (Any Nikon professionals out there want to do a field trip with me and teach me how to use my camera? I will pay.)

I’ve got my blood pressure up just talking about the camera, which I did mysteriously get working again, by the way, so let’s look at another lovely bird so I can have a zen moment here. Check out this Swainson’s Hawk.  (Perhaps he was one of the thousands who flew over us in Panama last March?)

Swainson’s Hawk

Now I must tell you about the tragedy we witnessed and I wouldn’t let Steve snap a picture of it.  (Second confession here: I can’t stand the violence of nature, ala the whole food chain thing.) As we were driving the loop we saw a gull and a black bird in a very aggressive fight and then Steve said, “The gull has a baby blackbird!” The poor Red-winged Blackbird’s baby was captured by the California Gull, and no lie, I’m writing this as I’m listening to the Schindler’s List theme song play on my computer right now, which is ironic since I joke that every time a nature show starts playing the violin music that strangely sounds like Schindler’s List, it  means the animal being chased is going to die.

In total we saw 75 species today, including what we saw at Bear River and back home in our neighborhood and at our feeders.  Enjoy the gallery below, which captures the highlights from today. In spite of psycho camera (or psycho camera operator), and the gangsta Gull, it was a fantastic day of birding, and it was only an hour away from home. Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge and it will take you through a slide show.  Much better viewing that way. (And apologies in advance for the rated PG-13 Black-necked stilt mating photos. But it was worth documenting.)

Now I’m eating pie for dinner. Don’t judge me. I’m upset about that Gull taking the baby blackbird.