Grebe Diary 3 - November 11, 2018

Greg the grebe on the back of a parent. Photo: John Darby

Nest 12 hatched chicks this last Friday and nest 11 is due Tuesday. Other anticipated hatch dates are nest 9 on November 17. Nest 8 has completed their clutch with a fourth egg and is due to hatch on November 24, nest 10 on November 29. Nest 7, the most popular this season, got trashed in high winds and is undergoing repairs.

Last week I was reminded that there may be value in reviewing the breeding behaviour of this species, especially as it appears that the ultimate photo of grebe is one of feeding its chick while on the back of the parent. Sadly, getting that photo is not going to be as easy as it once was. I think the best way to explain what has happened is to tell you the story of the only grebe hatched on the marina that we gave a name to.

His name was Greg and it began in the distant past (well, four years ago). This was a time when there were very few grebes breeding on the marina, just three pairs.

All the grebes got on well with each other and there was almost no fighting and arguing about places to nest, rest and feed and do what grebes do (sound familiar)? Greg was the second of two chicks hatched out on platform 2 and that’s him on the back of a parent in the photo above.

For almost three weeks Greg’s parents and sibling roamed the marina, never more than a few metres apart until one day I noticed that the parents only had one chick with them. That surprised me, even more so when I spotted a chick lying on its old nest site. That is most unusual, for though the adults will guard the area around their nest site, they rarely leave the water other than to breed. I scanned the chick on the platform with my binoculars, could see that it was breathing, but obviously not well.

I launched my kayak and paddled upwind so that I could quietly float the kayak back to the platform. The chick was a very sad sight, for its right leg was torn and broken and only just attached to its body by a fine thread of tissue.

Only when I put my hand under its body did it move at all and lifted its head with great effort. It was very weak and had clearly not been fed for days. I popped the chick in my kayak and puzzled what my next move would be.

To be continued…


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