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First time in a hundred years

On Sunday, I once again ventured to the Rainwater Basin to follow-up on some nesting birds I’ve been tracking.  One visit was to a site to check on a small aggregation (11 nests) of breeding Eared Grebes I found on 7 July. Eared Grebes are fairly common spring and fall migrants throughout Nebraska.  This species is also a fairly common breeder in the Sandhills, but south of the Platte River breeding records are few.  The discovery of nesting Eared Grebes in the Rainwater Basin this year is only about the fifth record to be documented for this region.  For all but one previous nesting record, it is not known whether the nesting attempts were successful – whether any eggs hatched or young fledged.  Thus, my goal on Sunday was to determine the fate of these nests.

Eared Grebe nest
One of eleven Eared Grebe nests discovered in Fillmore County on 7 July. Eared Grebes typically cover their eggs before leaving their nest. Thus, eggs are barely visible in the photo (but they are there, trust me).

Initial returns during the foray were disappointing.  I found several nests with eggs but no signs of any adults.  Since my previous visit was over a month ago, the eggs should have hatched.  It was safe to conclude several nests had been abandoned.  However as I was slowly paddling through the marsh, I eventually observed one adult Eared Grebe, so I dropped anchor (note, my kayak does not have an anchor, I just stopped).  Eventually, I heard some soft noises and then eventually found what I was looking for…..an Eared Grebe pair with young which I captured in the video, below.

I only found the one pair which had four chicks; 1 out of 11 is not that great, but it is better than nothing. Interestingly, the last time Eared Grebes were known to have nested successfully in the Rainwater Basin was 100 years ago in 1915 and noted in the following account:

However at the lagoon near Inland, Clay County, A.M. Brooking reports that in recent years it has still been a fairly common summer resident and breeder, and at that place he collected a specimen on July 28, 1914, several sets of eggs on July 4, 1915, and four young birds on July 28, 1915, in which latter year it bred abundantly at the lagoon. Concerning the habits of this grebe, at the Inland Lagoon, A.M. Brooking says that it “nests in about three feet of water and always covers its eggs.

The lagoon near Inland refers to the site now called Harvard Waterfowl Production Area and the quote is from notes assembled in 1925 by Myron Swenk, an important Nebraska Ornithologist that was active during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Eared Grebes, we’ll see you in 2115 and hopefully many times between now and then!

Good birding!

Nongame Bird Blog

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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