Ian’s Bird of the Week – Great Crested Grebe ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 6/20/15
I’m going to weave a tangled web of French connections around this bird of the week, but the first and most important is that in honour of Loïc, my great nephew and first child of my niece Jeannine and her husband Carlos who live in Strasbourg in Alsace. He was due today, but arrived safe and well four days early.
Clearly, a bird photographed in France was required but the choice was very limited: Carrion Crow, Common Coot or Great Crested Grebe. The latter was bird of the week in July 2007, so I toyed with the idea of Coot but, given that in the British Isles people say ‘you silly coot’ in the same tone that Australian say ‘you silly galah’ I decided that coot was better saved for a non-dedicated bird of the week.
So here is an elegant grebe in non-breeding plumage in a park near where my niece lives in Strasbourg last October. She took my sister Gillian and I there to look for some White Storks that had been nesting there, but they had already left for the winter so the grebes and coots attracted my attention instead. If my sums are correct in working back from today’s date, little Loïc would have been with us too, though probably not much older than the egg in the nest in the second photo. This egg was probably freshly laid, as Great Crested Grebes usually lay 3 or 4 eggs. Maybe it arrived early too, as the parent is busy adding nesting material to the structure.
This nest was on Lake Alexandrina on the South Island of New Zealand, so it’s apparent that this species has a huge range extending from Ireland in the West and all the way through Eurasia to Australasia and in northern and southern Africa. It is however absent from the tropical regions of Africa and various tropical areas of Asia such as Indonesia.
The third photo shows one of the New Zealand birds in full breeding plumage with the elongated crest and head plumes that give it scientific (cristatus), English and French name Grèbe Huppé. I’ll come back to huppé later. The 2007 bird of the week photos were of some breeding birds in Portugal and here is another one from that series: proud parent with two gorgeous striped youngsters. As this posting is celebrating a new family, I’d like to think that the photo is prophetic and that Loïc can look forward to a lovely sibling in due course.
Great Crested Grebes mostly feed on fish, quite large ones at that, but this one Portugese one, fifth photo, has seized this hapless frog, whose expression seems a rather sad combination of pleading for help and accepting its fate.
Another French connection is that I’m on a flight to New Caledonia and had thought that I would be on French territory when Loïc arrived, but he decided not to wait but I will try and skype the happy trio from Noumea.
I mentioned a few weeks ago, that our primary target is the very special Kagu, a rare, crested pigeon-sized terrestrial species endemic to New Caledonia. It’s taxonomically special too, being the only member of its family (Rhynchochetidae) and belong to an order that has only one distant relative, the Sunbittern of South America (according to Birdlife International).
The Kagu is crested too, so it’s French name is – you’ve guessed it, go to the top of the class – Kagou huppé. Huppé is slang in French for upper crust, smart, posh which seems highly appropriate. So, as usual I’m relying on your spiritual and moral support to produce au autre oiseau huppé for the next bird of the week. Joy and I have booked a guide at Rivière Bleue National Park next Tuesday, its main breeding locality and pride and joy of the park.
Forty one minutes to go before we reach Noumea.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26 NKJV)
That frog is in total shock. Yiiikess! He is thinking! What a great capture of all them, Ian. Thanks again for sharing these weekly birds of the week.