© 2014 by Barbara Copperthwaite.

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A ruff lesson


The Great Crested Grebe stood out clearly amongst the ducks, swans and geese. Its slight, elegant silhouette reflected back up to itself in shattered pieces on the wind-disturbed surface of Trittiford Mill Pond as it glided along, with its magnificent ruff on display.

It is this ruff which gives the Great Crested Grebe its name – and which also once almost drove this beautiful bird to extinction as the 19th century turned into the 20th. Back then, the chestnut head plumes were very much in demand by ladies of fashion, and the bird was slaughtered until there were just fifty breeding pairs left in the country. Happily, it is now fairly common – and a lovely bird to watch.

Sadly for this bird, it does not appear to have found a mate, but I watched it happily for some time. I had never noticed before how it is possible to tell it is about to dive a second before it does. How? Immediately before plunging underwater the bird flattens its crest down by pulling it back, clearly to make itself more streamlined under water so that it can dive more efficiently. I’m sure this is nothing new to an expert, but it was new to me: one of the many things I love about watching nature is that I am constantly learning.

#greatcrestedgrebe #trittifordmillpond

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