My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Grounded with no where to go!!

Red-necked Grebe found in the snow

This morning a fellow employee came into the office saying “Tom, we have an injured bird in the snow!!” He told me how “a bird watcher found this bird and asked if he would go get some help”. I agreed to help out and while looking for a box; I started asking questions like “how big was it?”, “what was it doing” etc.. I quickly realized that the bird being described was probably a grebe species. I went down the hall and asked “Randy” a fellow naturalist to give me a hand with the bird.

Quickly Caught the Grebe

We did a little searching around the crash site and found the bird hiding under a shrub. The tracks around the shrub made me guess that it had been taken down with the snow storm from the previous night. It easily could have been there over 12 hours waiting to be saved. I looked around for any others that could also be grounded but felt confident that this bird was the only one there. As we approached the bird took off running (ever try chasing a bird through almost three feet of snow?)!! I quickly grabbed it and took it back to the truck to be placed into a box.

Grebe Feet

This is a Red-necked Grebe where I did a quickly check for any injuries. As expected this Grebe was perfectly fine and just needed to be returned to open water. Grebes, Loons and many other ducks have their webbed feet located in the back of their body. These unique feet helps them with diving in deep water and then quickly capture the fish that they are chasing. Although it helps with swimming it doesn’t help the birds when trying to taking flight from a snow bank. They need to run on top of the water for about 100 + yards and with enough speed that they can take flight. Unsuccessful to find the needed water and they will risk the chance of being eating by a predator or even starving to death.

Banding the Grebe

Before releasing this Grebe, I first needed to placed a numbered metal band on its leg. If ever found again the band will help us track it back to Allegany State Park. Due to their unique leg shape, I needed to flatten the band to perfectly form around its leg. I took a few more measurements and off we went towards the River.

Ice Covered Allegheny River

This time there were three of us naturalist heading out for the big release. We discussed where to let it go and of course Ninehtotoo5 was right. I ended up taking us to an area where the Allegheny River was completely frozen over. Quickly we turned around and off towards Salamanca where we hoped to find a section of the Allegheny River that was open. We found a perfect spot where Common Mergansers, Canada Goose and Black Ducks were swimming and a path to walk down. We headed over to the waters edge and I will let the video continue the story:

I gave the honor of the big release to Randy who is always there when I need help with something (like taking some of these pictures and holding the bird when I banded it). As you can see in the video he was a little nervous letting it go and the Red-necked Grebe found its own way into the river. Just after the release the Grebe started drinking water (and probably very thirsty). As you can see in the edited photo below, it would stick its head under water, and then slowly allow the water to roll down its neck. We must have witnessed this bird a couple dozen times take some drinks (while also quickly swimming to the other side of the river). We then left the poor bird alone where it probably would soon start diving for fish and then gain some strength to continue its migration (to wherever its going).

The Grebe Drink

I hated the fact that these birds are so helpless when grounded like this but very thankful that some birders know well enough to ask for help when needed. We only find the Red-necked Grebe along the Allegheny River maybe once or twice a year (during the month of March). This was an unusual find and glad to report this bird is now safe doing what it does best.

Swimming Away

Ok, had to add another picture of it swimming. I love this shot below because you can see the band on its left leg.

Free At Last

30 responses

  1. Awesome save Mon@rch!! I love the grebe’s webbed feet – I’ve never seen feet like that before. In the photo where you’re banding it, it looks like it’s looking down at you saying “whatcha doing to my foot?” I love it’s soft feathers in that same photo. Excellent photos and video Mon@rch! Poor bird must have been *really* thirsty. You guys/ladies at ASP are awesome!

    23 February 2007 at 9:48 pm

    • I find these pics very agrebeable! lolz

      9 May 2009 at 4:24 pm

  2. Marg

    Oh Tom!! How excellent what a great day you’ve had, I’m glad they called you too. Lucky grebe, poor guy stuck in the snow like that. The video is great!

    23 February 2007 at 10:24 pm

  3. ninehtotoo5

    Thanks for inviting me along to see the release, and take some photos of my own. Great adventure.

    BTW-Where’s the nose?

    23 February 2007 at 11:54 pm

  4. Didi

    This is the type of day when you know is worth to be where you are… you and your friends made a difference .. that is a good enough reason to smile for a week!

    24 February 2007 at 12:12 am

  5. How wonderful that there are people who will do this for the birds.

    24 February 2007 at 12:50 am

  6. Anne

    Hi, Tom, I enjoyed reading your account of the Grebe rescue! As always, very well told and beautifully illustrated. Love the close-up of his webbed foot – just like a three-pronged paddle!

    24 February 2007 at 1:48 am

  7. Suzanne

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! Your pictures and video are really good and add even more interest and understanding.

    24 February 2007 at 3:26 am

  8. Tom, every time I think that there can’t possibly be another species of bird around here that I haven’t heard of you drop another name. I guess I better just stick to dragonflies 🙂 These stories are why I obsessively check your blog every time I get on the internet. Thanks for sharing!

    24 February 2007 at 6:49 am

  9. Bravo, Mon@rch! What a great story. You all did a good job and the video during the release was perfect. More wonderful photos from you. Thanks!

    24 February 2007 at 7:53 am

  10. Randy and Tom! You made my day (and the grebe’s to be sure!)! And thanks to the birders for reporting the poor little guy’s plight. Yay ASP birders!!!!!!!!!

    24 February 2007 at 9:02 am

  11. Outstanding story and video clip.
    I enjoyed this immensely! b

    24 February 2007 at 10:26 am

  12. What a great rescue story. I love a happy ending like that. You guys did a fantastic job. Beautiful, lucky grebe!

    24 February 2007 at 12:04 pm

  13. Awesome Mon@rch! You are one cool dude! It just shows how important every bird is! Thank you for your rescue efforts and I’m glad it was a happy ending!

    24 February 2007 at 12:11 pm

  14. @ Pam – thanks and yes they do have funny looking feet! I think the bird is saying, hmm can’t I bop you in the nose again?
    @ Marg – Thanks and glad we were able to save it also! Those people were wonderful finding this bird!
    @ Ninehtotoo5 – I am so glad you joined us and can’t wait to see them online! I will burn you a CD here soon! O, the nose! Will have to add that picture on flickr!! LOL!
    @ Didi – only wish that these birds didn’t get into trouble like this! But still feel sorry for those that were not found!
    @ Barb – well all do our parts! Those less experienced can do their part in reporting the injured birds to someone!
    @ Anne – thanks so very much for visiting and they do have funny looking feet! They even felt funny, not like any other birds feet!
    @ Suzanne – thanks and so glad that I captured the video! It lets me share the release with everyone! once it made it into the water, you can just tell by its actions that it felt safe once again!
    @ Jeremy – do some bird banding with me and I will show you the true wonders of these guys (and you will love them just as much as the dragonflies)!
    @ Mary – thanks so very much!
    @ jennimi – so glad we helped make your day! Birders are the best!
    @ Becca – thanks and took forever trying to figure out how to put this all together!
    @ Robin – thanks for such kind words!
    @ Birdfreak – thanks and was great seeing everything turn out alright!

    Thanks again everyone for visiting and commenting! Went down to the release area this morning (twice, was in town anyways) and it wasn’t anywhere to be seen! Probably out fishing somewhere! Thanks again!

    24 February 2007 at 1:00 pm

  15. Can I just give a “what what” to mon@rch for always responding to every one of his commenters!!!! I do a presentation to libraries on blogging best practices and some people (myself included) could really take lessons from you Tom! You’re a true blogger – snark free and always welcoming!

    *Have you gotten high speed yet??????? 🙂

    24 February 2007 at 2:48 pm

  16. Blushing, thanks Jennimi and it is hard to do sometimes! Nope, still on dial up! I hate to sign a contract and the cellphone broadband not be fast enough! You are the best for sure!!

    24 February 2007 at 3:12 pm

  17. What a story! Kudos to you and your friends’ efforts! And your blog presentation, videos, and pictures are awesome!

    24 February 2007 at 4:15 pm

  18. Wow, very cool, Tom! It must be awesome to get to handle birds as closely as you do! Me, I’d be content to just see a RN Grebe – they’re not real common here. Great photos, as usual 🙂

    24 February 2007 at 4:27 pm

  19. Hurray!!!! What an awesome adventure- thanks for letting us be there with you!!


    24 February 2007 at 5:52 pm

  20. More evidence as to why ASP is one of the best places on earth. Nice story.

    24 February 2007 at 6:26 pm

  21. @ Karen – Thanks and was a wonderful day! Thanks for visiting!
    @ Adam – It is wonderful and this Red-necked Grebe was soo soft! Much softer than my cats! I guess when your on a cold lake that you need something to keep you warm!
    @ Lynne – thanks and glad you were able to enjoy this also!
    @ Phil – without a doubt phil! I always have and always will love Allegany! Thanks!

    24 February 2007 at 7:38 pm

  22. Your coolest story yet, Tom. I’m sure it was good comic relief to watch you scramble around in the snow trying to catch that thing, shame on Randy for not photographing that! Or shame on you for not posting the pics.

    24 February 2007 at 9:22 pm

  23. It happened so quickly but he did get a shot or two (that didn’t get uploaded)! Although a video of that would have been funny! Thanks Shannon!

    24 February 2007 at 10:38 pm

  24. Jerry Lazarczyk


    Super save. You make all of us in the Buffalo Ornithological Society proud of you.

    Jerry Lazarczyk
    Grand Island NY

    25 February 2007 at 12:50 am

  25. ***waving my hands in the air like I just don’t care***

    Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!!!!

    Way to go!

    25 February 2007 at 4:22 pm

  26. @ Jerry, hey welcome back! Thanks, hope to see you at the Kenn Kaufman talk on Tuesday!
    @ Susan, 🙂 You make me laugh, Yeah!! Jumping with Susan! LOL

    25 February 2007 at 7:42 pm

  27. I agree … awesome save, and a great recording of how it all happened. This would be a great educational piece for the local kids, in my opinion. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to let a naturalist friend of mine know about this post – I’m sure he’d be interested.

    Again, great job and nice shots to go with it.

    26 February 2007 at 9:20 am

  28. What an awesome rescue, Tom. And, wow! I’m very, very grateful that you didn’t use the Grebe foot picture on your BirdQuiz! That’s a crazy looking foot!

    27 February 2007 at 8:03 pm

  29. Donna Atkinson

    thank you for the pic of this bird I found one in the snow just like that and had no idea what kind of bird it was but thanks to your post I was as you able to release the bird back to the water too. It took off like a rocket diving under the water never had seen that before it sure wass a real treat for me and my husband to see this.
    thank you again

    7 December 2010 at 9:20 am

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