March 31, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Horned Grebe -- at last!

I noticed on the shenvalbirds e-mail listserv that someone had spotted a Horned Grebe on Lake Shenandoah recently, so I went over there after my class this afternoon. Sure enough, within a few minutes, there it was, and I was able to get close enough for a so-so photo before it dove underwater and disappeared. I waited, and looked all around the lake, but that bird was nowhere to be seen. Finally, about ten minutes later, I spotted it again, within a few feet of the shore. I got much better photos that time, including a couple in which the Grebe is devouring a crayfish it had just caught. Just like a miniature lobster -- yum!

It was overcast this afternoon, so the photo conditions were mediocre. I may give it another try if we get a sunny day in the next week or so. I have only seen Horned Grebes once or twice in my life (perhaps not since 2002), and it would be great if this bird stays in Lake Shenandoah long enough for it to change into its full breeding plumage, which is spectacular. This one was in a transition stage between winter plumage and breeding plumage.

It was my first visit to that lake in several months. I noticed that they recently built a new trail made out of crushed stone for the first hundred yards along the lake, replacing the dangerous, narrow dirt trail. The lake is managed by the Virginia Department of Games and Inland Fisheries, and a fishing permit or visitor's permit is required to enter.

Candlestick Park

Horned Grebe. (Click on the image to see it eating a crayfish.)

I also saw my first Tree Swallows of the year flying over the lake, as well as a Pied-Bill Grebe and a Ring-billed Gull. Yesterday I saw a Chipping Sparrow out back for the first time this year.