Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

January 5, 2012

Western Grebe

Filed under: behavior, Birds, light — richditch @ 7:34 pm
Western Grebe

Western Grebe

I’ve posted many times about Pied-billed Grebes and how I find them such interesting subjects that get overlooked mostly because of their understated looks and secretive ways,

The Western Grebe seen here is a bigger relative of the diminutive Pied-billed Grebe and is restricted to the western United States. It isn’t seen nearly as often as its smaller cousi and when it is around it tends to get noticed more often becasue of the striking black and white plumage.

Western Grebe

Western Grebe

If you visit the larger lakes in central AZ in winter you can usually spot one or more Western Grebes (or their look-a-like relative the Clark’s Grebe) as far away from shore as possible – this species prefers the deeper waters and seems more wary of humans.

Western Grebe

Western Grebe

So, when a friend attending to family business at a park sent me an email from his iPhone about a Western Grebe in a smaller pond I quickly decided it was worth the 25 mile drive to check things out even though the day was overcast and rather gloomy.

When I got to the park I was glad I’d come: the Western Grebe was sharing the small park pond with assorted ducks and coots and unbothered by the human activity nearby. I set up on the edge and went to work. The grebe was so close that my first attempts with my usual 300mm lens and 2x teleconverter made it difficult to keep the bird wholly within the frame, so I replaced the 2x with my rarely used 1.4x instead.

Western Grebe

Western Grebe

These images were all taken on November 24 between 11:39 and 11:48 am with a Nikon D300, Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S telephoto lens and Nikon TC14E (1.4x) teleconverter, all mounted on a Gitzo 1325 carbon fiber tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head and Sidekick. ISO was set to 400 initially then bumped to 640. Exdposure was 1/250th-1/320th second at f/9.

The heavy overcast kept the water mostly green with occasional grayish white highlights. It also kept the contrast low so that it was easy to hold detail in both blacks and whites. but that low contrast light also made it difficult to bring out tezture in the white feathers.

In the last image in this set the gbrebe has extended one leg/foot for a stretch – something seen regularly in most grebe species.


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