Despite having only revealed 6 pictures on my Kylie Minogue calender so far, I may already have a candidate for Best Bird of the Year.

The Great Grebe, Podiceps major, is a bird of South America where it frequents large waters and coastline on both sides of the continent. From southern Brazil on the east coast, it extends down through Uruguay and Argentina as far as the cape. The nominate is found to the west in Chile with a separate population in NW Peru. It prefers large waters and coasts during the non-breeding season, but seeks out wooded, well vegetated lakes and marshes for breeding. And did I mention that it was big? True to its name it is the world’s largest grebe.

EZE 01June14 Great Grebe 20

It is a common bird and easily seen if you are in the right place at the right time and they can be quite social. Non-breeding birds form together into flocks, while breeding birds sometimes seek protection by nesting in loose colonies. Until now our narrow cross-over had not coincided, but on a recent trip to Buenos Aires, I was delighted to get close views from the rubble beach at Costanera Sur as a single bird fished close to the shore.

EZE 01June14 Great Grebe 05

The local Buenos have a custom to gather on the shoreline on weekend evenings. Hundreds of people were already enjoying the late afternoon sunshine while many more were making their way through the reserve to congregate at the picnic area overlooking Rio Plata and the South Atlantic Ocean. The grebe was feeding close to the shore and was not at all disturbed by the throng of people, so I was able to pull up a boulder on the water’s edge and enjoy the show.

EZE 01June14 Great Grebe 08

The light was perfect, coming from behind me and showing off the subtleties of colour that would have been missed in dull conditions. The rufous marking on the side of its neck and its breast stood out from the charcoal nape and the slate-grey head was very noticeable as it turned towards me.

EZE 01June14 Great Grebe 09

In the way of diving birds everywhere, it flattened its feathers and pushed out all the air before gracefully sinking beneath the surface.

EZE 01June14 Great Grebe 24

Unlike many other diving birds that make an extravagant leap before submerging, the Great Grebe demurely lowered its head to the water and slipped beneath the surface.

EZE 01June14 Great Grebe 18

It caught a couple of fish as I watched and swallowed them without ceremony before diving down for more. They will take crabs and shellfish during their winter sojourn along the coast and may take chicks from water-nesting birds during the breeding season, but fish is the year-round staple as one might expect of a grebe.

EZE 01June14 Great Grebe 15

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Written by Redgannet
Redgannet has been working for over 33 years as a crew member/flight attendant and enjoys the well-ventilated air of the outdoors. The nom de blog, Redgannet, was adopted to add an air of mystery and to make himself more attractive to women. His father first whetted Redguga's appetite for all things natural by buying him his first pair of 7x35s and a copy of Thorburn's Birds. Having no mentor beyond an indulgent parent, he spent the first season hoping for an Egyptian Vulture at the bird table in his English garden. His most memorable birding moment is seeing an Egyptian Vulture with those same binoculars 26 years later. Redgannet is married to Canon, but his heart and half of his house belongs to Helen and their son Joseph. He is looking forward to communicating with people who don't ask if he is searching for the "feathered variety" of bird.