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A Winter Pied-Billed Grebe and Great Morning Light


Winter is a paradox for bird photographers. On the one hand photographing birds is quite a bit harder because many of the birds have left the now frigid temperature in search of warmer weather. This leaves the photographer with few choices if he wants to capture some winter bird photos. On the other hand the remaining birds do tend to be quite a bit easier to photograph because of the extreme weather conditions. This was the case today for me and a bird I don’t photograph much, the pied-billed grebe.

pied-billed grebe
A pied-billed grebe in early morning light.

I won’t lie and say the pied-billed grebe is a rare bird in my neck of the woods because it isn’t. In fact, it is quite common but also a very shy bird so photographing them “in range” tends to be a rather daunting task. These funny little birds prefer to stay in the back of the open water, far away from my truck and will dive constantly to make matters of photographing them even harder.

pied-billed grebe
A pied-billed grebe during winter on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Yesterday, however, while I was out enjoying the frigid weather in search of rough legged hawks on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge I came across a pied-billed grebe in a small pocket of open water. The grebe was splashing around for a bit, taking a icy bath and seemed to be enjoying the sub-freezing temperatures which have now set in.

pied-billed grebe
Even in winter the pied-billed grebe takes a bath in the frigid waters of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

I quickly grabbed my camera and fired off a few quick shots before the grebe noticed my presence and moved back out of range. It was early morning so the water had a nice golden reflection to it and despite the well below freezing temperatures there was still a few small open pockets of water which many birds were drawn to, making photographing them a bit easier as these pockets of water were fairly close to the gravel road I was on.

Winter is a great time to get out and go bird watching. Don’t expect great numbers of birds this time of year but usually what birds are present are more observable and willing to be photographed. Add to it the few other people out and about makes it for a great time to be outdoors.

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