Western Grebes in 48 North this month

I’m always months late posting these stories. This one is as close to being current as it gets – it’s still in stores for another day.

Here’s the text:

If I were Mother Nature, designer of all things wild, I would have felt proud completing the western grebe – a job well-done. First, it’s just a beautiful creature, but parts are combined to make an amazing machine. That bright red eye helps see underwater and bulbous feet allow it to move faster than fish can swim. Those funny over-sized feet also make it possible to run OVER water and even walk upright on shore like a Dapper-Dan in a black and white tux. Then there is this double-jointed neck that curves backward and can act like a spear. It bends back and – wham, into a fleeing fish. This is quite the bird, and it’s here right now for you to see in the Salish Sea. Look for these gregarious birds in quiet bays. They’ll be in flocks, almost never alone.

During spring and summer breeding season, western grebes are found on freshwater wetlands far to the north and east of our coast. In the fall, they fly south and west to salt water, often during the night. Once they get to the Salish Sea or other warmer lakes and bays along the West Coast, they congregate in large flocks, sometimes in the thousands. I once saw western grebes on Clear Lake in California, a mass of birds from shore to shore covering many miles of water. During spring courtship, these birds are known for their elaborate rituals and displays. Pairs both react to some private signal (a wink?) and both rise out of the water in unison and run together, side by side, in a flutter of feet defying gravity. Having spent their energy, they ‘land’ in the water again and act as if nothing has happened. Well, it probably hasn’t, yet.

All the rest of these, five years worth, are here in a new section on my website:

Salish Sea Stories 48 North magazine

Thanks for reading this week – and the entire year for that matter.
Larry Eifert

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