Scouting for Great Crested Grebes…

The weather has been pretty poor for a while now.  What with a short but vicious cold snap - “the Beast from the East” - at the end of Feb and the usual drab late winter it hasn’t really felt we were anywhere near spring.  Today started grey and even had hints of drizzle and showers.  But I needed to get out for a bit.  So I decided to head over to a nearby lake on our canal.  It’s a spot where I’ve photographed from a canoe before and had some success with Great Crested Grebes.  I was wondering if there were any over there and perhaps whether there might be a pair starting to think about breeding.  I’ve never seen the mating display of these birds in the wild but they have a spectacular display.  With binoculars in hand I headed out and grabbed the camera at the last minute, just in case, and headed off for a bit of shore based scouting.  

Sometimes, things just work out.  I spotted first one grebe and then another.  And then, from about 200m through binoculars, their pair bonding display.  Over the course of an hour and a half I followed them as they fished and, a couple of times (at rather long distance) greeted each other.  After some time the female split off and headed over the lake while the male hunted at the bank near me allowing me to get some closer photos as the day brightened up a little. Here are some of those initial shots:   

About 20 mins into his fishing spree, he perked up at the sound of a call from the female and he started to head down the lake.  I could see her about 100m away near the bank in an area that has sunken bushes and a very marshy vegetated edge.  As I’d seen then greet a couple of times, I scuttled off down the towpath ahead of the male in the hope of getting closer to the point where she might greet him.  But she disappeared behind some sunken branches.  I settled down at a spot just beyond and she reappeared and made her way onto a small platform of sunken vegetation and lay prone.  She waited, I waited and then the male appeared from behind the same branches.  She lay flat, head prostrate.  Something of a come on.  The male approached and after some greeting behaviour and more lying prone he eventually jumped out of the water and mated with her.  Quite a spectacular display that you can see below (last three images ‘before’, ‘during’ and ‘after’) together with some of the earlier images.  

Quite a surprise for a day that I’d only set out with the aim of seeing a Great Crested Grebe - just as well I took the camera.

As usual, these were all shot on a Nikon D500 using the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 at 500mm and f/5.6 with shutter around 1/1600s and with ISO of 1600 or 800.  All shot from the using a monopod for stability and sitting on the edge of the muddy towpath.