Friday, September 08, 2006

Little Grebes? Little b*****rs more like

When I was growing up they were dabchicks. I've been away from birding for a while, and having started again I found that everyone calls them little grebes now. I even began to doubt myself, but then I had a brainwave. Sure enough on checking my AA Book of British Birds (that's right the one with the owl on the front - copyright 1969) they were (are) dabchicks.

Actually Birds Britannica (a great read around the subject of birds in the UK, rather than a manual of drawings pointing out that this wader has a pale supercilium, that one a marginally more pot-bellied profile) says that an old Orkney name was 'little footy-arse' which sounds a much better bet overall. It's because the feet are right at the back end you see. In fact as the book points out the grebe family are collectively podicipedidae from the latin podex (rump) and pes (foot), so they are all footy arses one way or another. Great crested footy arse, Slavonian footy arse, etc. Red necked footy arse sounds more like a disease than a bird, but it's so much more descriptive.

There are quite a few at Newport Wetlands, one of my local patches, and over the last year I've got quite fond of them in a love-hate kind of way. They're always active and so they are good to watch especially when feeding their young............

but I find them so twitchy to photograph - especially now the reeds have got so tall it's nigh on impossible keep below the skyline and still see the water. For a start they never stop moving, and when they do see you they either dive and disappear, or just as frustratingly point that tatty rear end towards you, so that all you see is a bum sticking up in the air - not even a tail to speak of.

BB says they hide below vegetation with just their bills above the surface, but I have yet to confirm this!

As time has gone by I've got a few snaps, but not as many as the time commitment should justify for such a common bird, and none of them to the standard I would like - if you want to see a really good shot go to Chris Grady's site, wildlfe imaging (see links), and look at the food-pass shot. Talk about a picture telling a story .......

So if you are ever at the Wetlands and you see a sad soul clutching a camera and cursing as a little bird sticks out it's bum before disappearing into the reeds you've probably found me and can claim your £50 prize by saying the words "You look like a footy arse fan, and I claim my prize". Then again if you've guessed wrong be prepared to duck.

No comments: