You Never Know What Might Drop In
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The fall water fowl migration has begun. Although Tucson is located in the middle of a desert, a surprisingly large number of species pass through our area or even winter here on our relatively few bodies of water. Last Sunday I visited a small man-made lake on Tucson’s west side. Actually, it’s more of a big pond than a lake, a shallow body of water that is only a few acres in size. It is surrounded by a large public park that is a favorite locale for dog walkers and picnickers. But, it also attracts a fairly diverse group of water fowl, partly because the lake is periodically stocked with fish.
I took a walk around the lake’s perimeter and, after a short stroll I came across this bird.
This is a Western Grebe, still in its breeding plumage. Grebes are duck-like birds that specialize in diving for their dinners. They feed on aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and amphibians. There are several species with the Western Grebe being among the largest. This bird is about the size of a medium-size duck.
Western Grebes are not rare by any means but I believe that they are not a common sight in the Tucson area. At least based on personal experience they are not. I’ve been taking walks with my camera for four years and this is the first one that I’ve seen.
The field guides show them as migrating through our area, although they also suggest that there may be some resident populations in southeastern Arizona. My surmise is that any resident populations that occur live in larger and more rural bodies of water than this suburban pond. This individual is almost certainly just passing through on its way to some winter residence and it was my good luck to have seen it.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, aperture preferred setting, ISO 500, f8, shutter speeds varied.