When I reported from Heslington lake a couple of weeks back, there were a couple of pairs of Great-crested Grebe now on the nest. Now, the first chicks have hatched, they are out of the nest, and rafting with their parents.
What’s interesting here is that the item in the top corner of this picture is the spot this pair usually nest, or at least have for the past two or three years. But this year they nested several hundred metres down the lake at another spot. Yet within a couple of days, she is drawn back to the familiar and comfortable smaller lake.
None of the photos seem to quite show it, but at is most usual she has four chicks back there. They have been off the nest about a week now and seem quite content, apart from when Mum shakes her feathers out and sends tiny grebes flying across the water!
Of course, another reason for moving could be she didn’t like the neighbours, as a pair of Coot nested just two feet away:
Coot are incredibly aggressive, I’ve seen them take on a full-grown Canada Goose and see it off, as well as plenty of mallards, to say nothing of bullying scores of smaller moorhen. If they moved in next door to you, you might consider moving at the first opportunity too.
In fact, I grabbed this photo on my camera of two Pochard (there was a third actually) being seen off by a feisty coot:
The second grebe pair has been doing well too, but at the moment there are no chicks to be seen.
Getting the photo above here was a real bonus. The grebe popped up directly below me with a fish, which he proceeded to carefully manoeuvre into position to swallow whole.
It’s wrong to anthropomorphise these things, but doesn’t the fish look really shocked at this turn of events?
He moved it around so he’d be able to get it down headfirst, occasionally bashing it into submission against the water. Being a Perch, the fish has a nasty barbed fin along its back that it erects when confronted by a predator, but this didn’t stop our grebe.
Sure enough the fish was soo0n lubricated and in position to go down the gullet of the predator.
You can, incidentally, see from these photos how well water-proofed the grebe is. The water is just forming droplets that will roll off his back, keeping him perfectly dry.
There is a fifth Grebe on the lake, the gooseberry, the spare wheel. A poor single male. It’s quite sad really, as he is still swimming up and down the lake, calling, a piece of water weed dangling from the corner of his mouth; an offering for a lover that will never appear.
Other birds are more successful, and I’ve spotted at least one mallard hybrid with its work cut out.
While one bird was looking after this entire mob (how many can you count?), they are almost certainly being crèched here, with more than one nest of ducklings now sticking together.
The biggest threat as I took this photo was a nearby Greylag Goose that had taken a violent interest and picked up at least one duckling and gave it a good shake. Fortunately the adult was on-hand to save it, before taking the entire group to the other side of the lake.
It’s not just the water birds that can be seen producing the next generation though, and I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of the Mistle Thrush peering out of her nest.