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Post Info TOPIC: Species in Focus - Little Grebe.

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Species in Focus - Little Grebe.

With its far carrying whinnying or trilling call this small and enigmatic grebe announces its presence on some of our waters throughout Greater Manchester during the breeding season. Mind you actually getting to see it can sometimes be slightly more problematical! wink.gif Its famed ability to dive and apparently disappear forever from further view has frustrated frustrated.gif many birders and photographers over the years. They can be even more secretive invisible.gif during the breeding season and their preference for our better vegetated and smaller water bodies gives ample opportunities for a breeding pair and their nest and any young to remain discreetly well hidden from even the keenest of atlasers' eyes! biggrin.gif So a quick refresher on the adults' calls and the begging calls of their young can be heard here - hopefully this may provide some initial help for us in locating adult birds and be of subsequent assistance in listening out for any young that they may produce.

So is this still our commonest breeding grebe species? At the time of our last atlas project Breeding Birds in Greater Manchester (BBGM 1979 - 1983) it was estimated that the numbers of breeding pairs of Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe were 150 and 20 respectively. The number of pairs of Great Crested Grebe has increased since that time (breeding confirmed in 43 tetrads 2008 - 2010) but what has happened to our breeding population of Little Grebes in the intervening period? This as usual, is where help please.gifpray.gif is being requested in pinpointing the locations of our pairs of Little Grebes and in the subsequent assessment of their breeding status. Despite their secretive nature it should help considerably that this species has an extended breeding season. Clutches can be laid anytime from February to September, although most are laid between late April and the end of June. They are usually double-brooded and occasionally treble brooded. Nests and eggs might be a little easier to spot earlier in the breeding season when emergent vegetation growth is less advanced. One wonders if later breeding attempts, when vegetation cover is thicker are actually more successful though, than any of their earlier efforts? At any time it might take a combination of both skill and luck to find an adult bird sitting on a nest but adults with hatched young should be a little easier to see. Young are cared for and fed by both parents. Quite often young can be seen following after adult birds but they can also remain in and around the nest site in the early days. Also, do try to look at the parents closely, as the recently hatched young aww.gif can sometimes be carried on an adult back and small, partially-hidden and well camouflaged young, hitching a lift there may well be easily overlooked! The young become independent at around 30 to 40 days - so there should be a decent enough time span to pick up that all important confirmed breeding record.

At the time of the BBGM this species occupied 65 (20%) of the available tetrads and breeding was confirmed in 39 of these. For our current atlas project and at the end of the 2010 breeding season, confirmed breeding had been reported from just 15 tetrads (38% of BBGM). So, if Little Grebes are present on a water body near you this spring and summer, please do try and keep an eye on their progress. A number of breeding attempts will fail but some pairs will succeed in hatching young at various stages of the spring/summer. nod.gif The more records we can get for this and indeed for every other species, the more accurate an atlas of our local breeding birds we will eventually be able to produce. nod.gif

A summary of the data for the first three years of our current atlas project would show the earliest records for nest with eggs (code NE), nest with young (NY) or for an occupied nest (ON) all being logged in the second half of April. However, approximately 71% of all confirmed breeding records for this species were for sightings of adults with dependent young (code FL), with the earliest records for the three atlas years to date being 18/5/08, 20/5/09 and 7/5/10. Further FL records for all three years continued through until late August but the peak months were always undoubtedly June and July.

Finally, it's still not too late to get involved in bird watching and recording for the last breeding season of our local breeding birds atlas project. Every single record that is input will have some value. Much more information, with numerous other interesting and informative links, can be found here on this website at

I hope your time and your efforts are duly rewarded with some really memorable sightings and once again a very big thank you clap.gif to all those involved.

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