Grebes are a type of bird – oddly proportioned, graceless on land, they live most of their lives at sea, like sailors. They hunt by diving into the water, flying through the depths, soaring between the currents. Their legs are placed far back on their bodies, to propel these aquatic hunts, but making walking difficult. And in flight they should be embarrassed.
Boyfriend and I see them quite often. Unafraid of every wave’s swell, often diving into them, which is more than I’m willing to do. The types we see are typically sized – small to medium – arching their necks as if they were for all the world sea-bound swans. These necks are black and white. Their bills are yellow. Their eyes are red. We are always glad to see them.
A couple of weekends ago, I was standing on a rock, monitoring Boyfriend’s surfing exploits with our camera. It can get dull between rides, so my attention will stray. I had seen an adult pair of grebes earlier, red-eyed and companionable.
Now, I saw what I thought was a wayward scud of foam to my distant right. But as I watched, it seemed to disengage itself and start swimming against the tide. To my delight I realized that it was a ‘raft’ (a group of grebes) of young grebes, possibly thirteen in all. They were just about grown out of their down, but the adult coloration had not established itself yet. They swam in a ragged line, diving into the waves, bobbing over them, coming dangerously close to the rocks. I feared for their little lives. The world needs more sea birds.
These little ones were being weaned from their parents – possibly the two I had seen earlier, free at last. But these tiny youths might still have needed a parental figure, and were willing to accept any port in a storm.