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hoi kl marsh musings
Grebe - photo by Dr. Dan Witt

The weather has been pretty awful for getting out very much.  Sandra and I went to Kansas City for the program “Birds of Paradise” at the Kaufman Center.  Practically every birder in the area was there.  A couple of guys (including one from KU) spent months in New Guinea photographing and documenting all 39 species of the Birds of Paradise.  It was a stunning and beautiful documentary narrated by those two fellows.  National Geographic and Cornell University which is huge in the birding world sponsored the study.  If you get a chance to see it anywhere-- don’t miss it!
I went to a wildlife wetland just south of Lawrence with my friend Mike Cooper who is a terrific birder.  The Bottoms have been dry, and it was my first opportunity to go to a area that has water to check out the shore bird migration.  We were pleasantly surprised to see several different species.
We saw three different grebes-- the pied-billed grebe, the Horned Grebe and the eared grebe.  There are several different grebes-- my favorite is the western grebe.  The elegant mating dance-ritual by these birds is a beautiful display.  They “walk on water” in unison and perform many intricate moves.  Google up “western grebe” and there will be a You-tube video of that mating dance.  These birds are very quiet and seldom fly.  When danger is perceived, they immediately dive under the water and can travel some distance before surfacing.  They have  short legs set very far back on their body, and fall frequently when walking on land in a upright position similar to penguins.  Most of them have red eyes, and striking plumage.  Their feet are “knobbed” instead of “webbed” like ducks.  We always see Grebes and don’t give them the attention they deserve. They seem to have so much difficulty flying that it is hard to believe they migrate-- but they do.  If you get to a lake or wetland with water-- don’t miss these cheerful little birds going diligently about their business of fishing and eating-- they are classy and very entertaining!
Doc Witt is a retired physician and nature lover.