Sunday 8 June 2014

The Grebes of Shuswap Lake B.C. Canada

June 2. 2014 Two day road trip to Salmon Arm. Sunny with occasional lightening and thunder.
I cannot believe I had never stopped to visit the Salmon Arm waterfront, despite having driven through the town on numerous occasions on my trips to the Rockies. That just goes to show how birding can take you to different places and different times of the year and for different reasons. The ends results can be surprising as I was to find out during this two day road trip.
After leaving Cloverdale I began birding at Hope airport but with little success. I then drove to Merrit to bird at the Laurie Guichon Memorial Grasslands Interpretive Site. There is a pond with waterfowl, an active Osprey nest and a small forested area full of flycatchers, Warbling Vireo, Marsh Wren, various swallows. There were far too many species to list but I always stop off here on my travels as it only a few kilometres up the hill from the tourist information centre. There are extensive back roads into the grasslands which I have yet to explore and interpretive signage to help birders on their way.
Ruddy Duck

Moving on up to Kamloops and on to my primary target, the Western Grebes of Shuswap Lake. I had never been birding in the area so it was a chance to witness for the first time the courtship rituals of the grebes.
Lighting and thunder greeted me as I parked on the foreshore by the public wharf. A few spots of rain turned into a ten minute deluge but soon enough the black foreboding cloud moved over to another part of the valley. Wouldn't it be nice if there were to be some "sweet light" later on!

A pair of Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentals) prepare for courtship ritual.
Soon enough the Ring-billed Gulls returned (B.C.'s largest nesting colony is nearby) then an Osprey caught me napping, hence no photo but where were the famous grebes. Was it too late in the season, had I driven all this way for nothing? Just then I saw a pair of grebes far out in the lake. Still I would need a spotting scope to get a picture. Just then a group of binocular wielding folk turned up and advised me to visit to nearby Peter Jannick Nature Park where there may be a chance to view some of the grebes at close hand.

Shuswap Lake from Peter Jannink Nature Park Nikon P7100.

The chase begins with one of the birds plucking feathers from the rump of the other. I presume it is the male acting in this manner. Correct me if I am wrong.
The light was horrible for photography, the grey sky left the water and birds looking drab but yet there were a dozen or so grebe several hundred metres out displaying. Things were looking up. I left to find a campsite by which time a slither of blue sky in the West meant with a little luck there might be a sunset after all. I decided to return to the park and here are some of the images, still far away but good enough for my purposes. Will I return for some better shots, you bet!

Photographed from a distance, Grebes "dance"across the Shuswap Lake.

5.30 a.m Sunrise on Shuswap Lake: Mallard and clutch and Canada Geese.

 Later in the morning
Salmon Arm public wharf but with morning light.

It's never too late to start birding!
John Gordon

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