Sunday, 24 January 2010


I went to Bushy Ruff this morning, partly to see if there was anything exceptional there, but mostly to see old friends like Grey Wagtails and Little Grebes.

In the nearest part of the lake, next to the sluice, a Dabchick was actively feeding, and was about the tamest one I've ever encountered.

It hardly interrupted it's diving to have a look at the interloper pointing a large lens at it.

I have always wondered at the speed a Dabchick goes from swimming to diving. There is hardly any indication it the way it's swimming, just a sudden jump in the air an then it's under the water.
I've tried waiting until the bird starts to jump, but that way all I ever got was a picture of the tail as it disappeared in the water. I decided the best way way to give it a few seconds after it surfaced (providing it didn't have a catch) and then start shooting continuously in the hope that it would dive during that burst.

At high speed continuous shooting the 40D takes 6.5 frames a second, but even doing that there were normally only two frames that had the bird actually diving and many times the pictures were not sharp enough to use. The light wasn't bad, but if I'd waited until this afternoon it would have been better and I'd have missed the pain of watching the FA cup match that was on!

As it disappears into the water you can see just how far the feet and legs protrude behind the bird, I mean you can see it in the photo, not in real time.

The last thing is the disappearing back end. Today the water was so clear that it was possible to follow the bird under water and I got quite a surprise. Because of all the large trees around the bottom of the lake, at least in the area that it was feeding, is covered in fallen leaves. One the grebe got to the bottom it actually disappeared into the leaves, leaving a tail of muddy water bubbles behind it.

During the time I was watching, about 20-30 dives I only saw it surface once with a small fish. I wasn't able to identify it.
Once it had fed it stopped for a few minutes to preen. First of all it fluffed up and shuffled in the water.

Then having got itself properly wet, with water in amongst the fluffed up feathers, it lifted out of the water and had a good shake.

Finally it settled down to have a good preen and sort out. For a bird, often portrayed as drab, I think they they are thoroughly entertaining. Already I could hear another declaring it's territory with it loud braying call. I'm looking forward to photographing the stripy young ones later in the year.

I didn't see many other birds, although two Tufted Ducks were the first I've seen here. Talking to the park keeper, he told me that he'd found a dead Woodcock when it was snowy and that a Little Egret had been visiting the lake. He also told me that a Kingfisher was a regular visitor. I was somewhat disappointed that although there are lots of birches and larches I didn't find any feeding finches, I was hoping for Siskins and Redpolls, but no luck. There was one Grey Wagtail feeding along one edge.


Gavin Haig said...

Terrific set of Little Grebe photos, Tony. Brilliant! Fish-wise, my money's on a tiny Perch.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Gavin regards the set of Grebe photos. Excellent.

Tony Morris said...

Thanks chaps, it was a cooperative subject.

Warren Baker said...

What a good set of of Grebey photo's Tony, well done. Good to see you got out today. :-)

Adam said...

Brilliant shot of the grebe diving Tony.