After seeing his lovely photos on Facebook, I importund photographer Pete Moulton to send me some nice photos of shorebirds. He kindly complied:
Here are some bitterns and grebes. The Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) in Papago Park have more cattails to provide cover, and apparently kept their brood under wraps until they were fairly well grown. First report I heard was on Saturday, 14 May. I started photographing them the next day. Crayfish still constitute the majority of their diet. The youngsters are making short dives now, but still depend on the adults to bring them food:
This diet has advantages for would-be grebe photographers, because the adults do much of their foraging among the rocks that line the shore.
The youngsters emulate as many behaviors of their parents as they can. They preen a lot, despite the lack of effect this has on their downy coats. This one is executing a swimming shake, which helps settle the contour feathers when preening is done. Of course, it hasn’t grown many contour feathers yet, but the behavior will become a useful part of its repertoire once it does.
A week later, 22 May to be exact, the babies have grown some contour feathers on their bodies, but still have their characteristic head markings, and lack flight feathers in their wings. They’ve become less wary and more adventurous. This one swam all the way across the pond to observe us as we observed it, and then stayed to preen for a few minutes until one of its parents called it back to the group.
Pied-billeds aren’t the only grebes in the vicinity. All seven species of North American grebes have occurred in the Phoenix metro area. This one is an adult Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis, which has been in the southeast part of the Phoenix metro area for about three weeks now. This one, unlike most Western Grebes, often comes close enough for photography.
A pair of Least Bitterns, Ixobrychus exilis, seems to have taken up residence near the best viewpoint for the Western Grebe, and they’ve become local rockstars. My pictures of them haven’t been too good yet, so here’s a male Least Bittern from Papago Park last year.
Professor Ceiling Cat requested bitterns without specifying Least Bitterns, and when I asked for clarification, he naturally wanted both. American Bitterns, Botaurus lentiginosus, do occur in the Phoenix area as winter visitors. They seem to be very rare here, but that may partly be a function of the density of their habitat and their native secretiveness. This is one from a few years ago in the same general location as the Western Grebe and its attendant pair of Least Bitterns.