This week has been a bit of a roller coaster for the Great Crested Grebes on one of the many lakes local to me. I had been watching the nest for the last 3 weeks with one of the adults diligently present rain or shine. This weekend talking to the fishermen, I learned they had spotted the adults with chicks hiding in the reeds. I was therefore very excited to head to the lake at dawn on Monday morning.
I managed to catch some lovely pictures of mum with all 3 chicks.Something was missing from this scene of spring tranquility however… where was dad? He was definitely around before,I even had pictures to prove it. It was very unlikely the eggs could have been successfully incubated with just one parent so he must have been on the scene when they hatched. Judging by the size of the chicks I think they must have hatched some point early in the previous week. With no dad around to help with the parenting mum was looking pretty stressed. Making visits to the larger half of the lake and leaving the chicks to fend for themselves while she went on small fishing trips. The image below shows the three chicks very isolated on the water waiting for mum to come back. It was immediately apparent that the chicks were getting way less food than I have seen in previous years. Adding to that was the fact that mum kept having to take enforced breaks back at the nest so the chicks didn’t get too worn out. So it was not a total surprise when I returned the following morning to see just two chicks had survived the night. The picture above shows mum resting on the nest with 2 chicks trying to stay warm. Then somewhat predictably by Wednesday we were down to just one surviving chick. This proved quite a magical morning at the lake with mist, sunshine and lovely golden light. Another one of those times when I wish I had a longer faster lens!
I left mum to do her job for the next week as I has too much going on at work to visit the lake. On my return just 8 days later only mum was left fishing the lake on her own. Very sad to see but as the title says nature can be harsh. I am sure mum will move on and find herself a new mate, I am not sure she will return to this lake however as it has not been a successful year and there are clearly a lot of hazards at this site that make bringing up a family very risky.
Saving the best till last, literally taken a minute or two after the shot above. A change of position for mum and chick and some different back-lighting to contend with. What a great image!