Horned grebes are smaller than a duck and nest with a bias toward invisibility. It took the teamwork of Sharie ad David Krughoff to spot these.
Challenges in my life have often been blessings in disguise. Spinal disease asserted itself a few years ago. Hiking for weeks to locate my beloved bobcats, lynx, and wolves became impossible. I decided to begin photographing the birds of Saskatchewan, a goal that had been on the back burner too long.
My wife offered to lend a hand when I needed to work from our canoe. Each outing was pure alchemy. If a bird flicked its wings within a hundred metres, Sharie noticed it. A digital camera replaced her primordial Canon Ae-1. My solitary vocation was transformed into an unexpected gift. I can only hope to keep pace!
Last summer, we worked at Redberry Lake. It’s located within a Canadian Biosphere Reserve near Hafford, SK. This area supports over 180 species of birds.
While traveling along a secondary road in our jeep, Sharie screamed, stop! I’ve learned to do so—without suffering cardiac arrest. It’s never a false alarm. She pointed out a female horned grebe sitting on a nest. The bird was barely visible through the reeds and grasses.
The COSWIC status of Canada’s western grebe population is “special concern.” The Magdalen Islands population is listed as “endangered.” We carefully chose a vantage point that enabled us to work undetected. When stressed, horned grebes may abandon their nests. A shriek or chattering call would signal us to leave immediately and not return. Alarm calls of all birds, have an urgent quality.
There were just two eggs in the nest: horned grebes lay an average of three to five. The male and female build their nest using floating plant materials, anchored to standing vegetation in shallow water. Mates also share nest duties and both these eggs were incubated successfully, with the eggshells discarded far from the nest, to discourage predators.
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