20 June 2011

Red-necked Grebe in Utah

On Saturday I got a call from Bob Atwood that he had just found a Red-necked Grebe at Hyrum Reservoir, about 20 minutes from my house in Logan. I was out of town at the time, but as soon as I got back the next day, yesterday, I headed down to see if I could find it. I set up my spotting scope on the dam where he had found the bird, and saw a tiny speck on the water about a quarter mile out. There were probably lots of other specks on the water, but luck was on my side and the first one I noticed was the target bird, my first Red-necked Grebe in Utah and my first anywhere in breeding plumage.

I drove around to the closest point on the shore to the bird, and couldn't find it. I was afraid it might have flown while I was driving, but it was also swimming pretty fast and I thought it might have just swam out of my view from that point, where trees were on either side of me and I could only see straight out from the shore. I drove back around near the dam, and saw the bird closer to me than I expected, and getting closer to shore. I climbed down the shore and scanned again for the bird. Just when I thought I lost it again, it resurfaced right in front of me! I got a few good shots then, and several more by running down the shoreline each time the grebe dove, and lying still on the rocks ahead of it before it resurfaced.

Red-necked Grebes have been seen several times in Utah, but they are very rare here. There are about a dozen previous records for the state, and most are of immatures or non-breeding adults in the winter. This bird was unique not only because it is so rare, but especially because it was in full breeding plumage. What a great bird!

(Photos copyright Ryan O'Donnell 2011)

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