Four Grebe Day! at Colonel Sam Smith Park in Toronto

This is has been one of the coldest Aprils in a decade but when it’s sunny I go out, even if it’s partial sun mixed with flurries. My Nikon D5100 is a great camera, but I can only afford the standard 55-300 lens, so unless I can get good light on a subject that’s at 300-range I can’t get any detail in my photos. And if you’ve ever gone birding at Colonel Sam Smith, especially for grebes, you’ll know you need clarity at a distance.

My pretend goal was to get a photo or two of the red-necked grebes. Recent birders had posted lovely shots of them in their full summer colours. One shot was even of a pair displaying for each other.

My not-being-honest-with-myself-goal was really that mysterious Western Grebe. Remember the one I wrote about in Don’t be Grebe-y? Yes, I secretly wanted to see it just like every other life-lister and big-year birder. And I wanted to get a photo or two with my Nikon, if I could.

Now the trick with nature photography that you never hear mentioned on National Geographic episodes is that the birds and animals are real. That means that just because YOU are willing to brave -12C windchill and actual real snow squalls to stand on a barren breakwater and take photos, they don’t have to put up with it and pose.

I found the Western Grebe! and the Red-necked Grebes! and a Horned Grebe!

And they were all asleep.

Here’s the kind of photos REAL nature nuts have to accept:

Photo of Red Necked Grebes Sleeping Toronto ON on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Red Necked Grebes snoozing in the sun.

Photo of Horned Grebe Sleeping On NaturalCrooksDotCom

Horned Grebe snoozing in the snow squall.

Photo of Western Grebe Resting in Lake Ontario on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Western Grebe giving me the evil eye during its nap.

On the other hand, to my pleasure, the little tiny diving bird amidst the flock of redheads, scaup, buffleheads and coots, was an awake grebe.

I wasn’t sure till I got home, because I was half a km away across blustery water, shooting blindly with the Nikon on autofocus. Then when I got home, I could massively zoom the photo on the computer to find out what I had.

And again, this is a REAL photo, so it’s too small and blurry and you have to know what the bird book says to look for to figure out what it is. This is a pied-billed grebe. (The “large” bird in the back is a Coot. Although if you know Coots, you’ll know they aren’t very big.)

Photo of Pied Billed Grebe and Coot Lake Ontario on NaturalCrooksDotCom

I’ll have to find out if they nest around here. They have the most adorable zebra-striped chicks.

Now, because I was patient, even on a day when only one dog-walker (there’s usually dozens) was brave enough to venture out, I did eventually get a few fuzzily-focused photos of the Western grebe with my Nikon. I also got some photos of the red-necked grebes, including one sequence, that’s too far away and too poorly lit to be good, of a pair courting. I’ll share those in later posts. But don’t blame the D5100. A camera is only as good as the Crooks using it.

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Have you seen grebes? Do they remind you of loons with the way they can rise and sink without apparently moving their bodies? Please share your experiences with a comment.

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