Monday, February 17, 2014

Photos of the Week: Red-necked Grebe

Red-necked Grebe is the most difficult to find of the three grebes that regularly visit the eastern coast of North America. Pied-billed Grebes are fairly common on inland waterways, especially during their migration, and Horned Grebes are easy to find along the coast. Red-necked Grebes are another matter since most of them winter around the Great Lakes or Canada's Maritime provinces. To see one in the Mid-Atlantic, you either need to get lucky or know a location where one is reliable.

On Saturday, I got lucky and found one along the Raritan River at Edison Boat Basin. What started as a search for unusual gulls instead turned up an unusual grebe. It started snowing furiously around the same time I spotted the grebe, so the white specks in these photos are snowflakes. Red-necked Grebe is noticeably larger than the other common eastern grebes. It is easily recognizable among grebes because of its long, loon-like bill.

While this species is uncommon here, seeing one on Saturday was not entirely surprising. The persistent cold of this winter has frozen many waterways further north and is pushing many waterbirds south of their normal wintering grounds. This is especially true of Red-necked Grebes and White-winged Scoters, and there have been several reports of Red-necked Grebes around New Jersey in recent weeks. Perhaps I will find a White-winged Scoter soon too.