A pictorial history of nesting birds at Claisebrook Lake
in East Perth, Western Australia

by Keith Lightbody

Latest Update: 31 Jan 2014
Remaining cygnet and parent swans healthy.
Surviving cygnet
RSPCA is calling for information on death of other cygnet - please phone 9209 9300.
Grebes nesting again. One remaining juvenile from previous batch has been banished
to far side of lake. Last batch of coot babies are now all all independent.
New for the lake in daylight hours has been a Nankeen Night Heron.
Mistletoebirds have also been around - they are feeding in nearby ficus trees.

27 Jan 2014
1 cygnet killed by cowards at 3:30 am on Australia Day long weekend!!

15 Dec 2013
First two cygnets growing well - feeding with parents on lake - rarely leave for Swan River

5 Nov 2013
Although 3 of the remaining eggs hatched the new cygnets were unhealthy and all died within days

28 Oct 2013
First eggs hatched - 2 healthy cygnets, 5 eggs remaining

6 Sep 2013
New (different) pair of swans arrived 10 days ago.
After months of trying 4 baby grebes have hatched
- unfortunately the eldest baby has already started pecking the other babies!!
(so it can monopolise the food - usually this means its siblings will die)
A number of coot babies also hatched recently but only 1 young one remains.

15 Aug 2013
The 5 young cygnets grew rapidly and after a month left for the Swan River
- last seen on South perth foreshore but only 4 cgnets remaining.

20 Jul 2013
Youngest cygnet hitches a ride! Watches from Mum's back while the other cygnets swim!
Although not common on Sunday both Mum and Dad each briefly had a cygnet on their back.
Cygnet on back of swan Cygnet on back of swan Cygnet on back of swan

17 July 2013
The grebe is still sitting in reeds near the swans nest.
All 5 cygnets went for a swim around the lake while the sun was shining around lunch time.
5 cygnets
Both parents were very protective and scared off any ducks that came too close to the cygnets.

15 Jul 2013
The last cygnet did not hatch until after lunch on Monday
- at 4pm it was still wet after emerging from the egg and smaller than the other fluffy cygnets.

14 Jul 2013
Four of the cygnets hatched on or before Sunday but did not leave the nest

10 Jun 2013
The grebes have started a floating nest hidden in reeds just 3 metres from the swans nest!
The swans now have laid 5 eggs. This is the first time they have nested in this lake.

1 Jun 2013
Two swans have been building a nest in the reeds. The first egg was laid 3 Jun.

1 Mar 2013
The grebes have been sitting for about 2 weeks without any major incidents.
Although the nest has shifted a little it is now contained by an outer ring of pond weed.

19 Feb 2013
New grebe nest has been well made and the lake has lots of algal growth.

The grebes have been sitting for about 2 weeks without any major incidents.
Although the nest has shifted a little it is now contained by an outer ring of pond weed.

7 Feb 2013
Both grebe babies lost - not sure how but lack of floating nest a factor.

30 Jan 2013
Coots have started building a new nest close to the path.
2 grebe babies hatched but the floating nest blew out of the centre of the lake
and lodged on the submerged tortoise sculptures near the main path. Next it blew
under the bridge but I retrieved it after work as it still had an egg in it.
cormorant grebe with baby on back feeding baby grebe
It ended up on the far side of the lake near the bank. Both babies are still doing fine despite one
parent having to fend off a cormorant claiming fishing rights in the same area as the nest.

19 Dec 2012
All 3 coot babies currently feeding safely around the lake.
The coots high nest mound of dead reeds hatched 3 babies on 13 Dec.
2 grebe babies now much bigger - parents kept very close while they were young,
including returning to the nest every day for first 2 weeks.

20 Nov 2012
Baby grebes
Grebes hatched 3 babies (but only 2 left a week later)

6 Sep 2012
The coots raised 2 babies while the grebe babies were all lost within 3 days.

16 Aug 2012
The coots have been sitting on their nest for a while.
The grebe female laid first egg on 6 Aug and continued laying
- now sitting on nest with hatching expected around 1 Sep
(26 days after the first of 4 eggs was laid - incubation of 22 days)

25 Jul 2012
Action: the coots and grebes are each building a nest - only 3 metres apart.
Unusually for this lake the grebes have built their nest on some bullrushes
(possibly as the weed in the lake is not yet able to sustain a floating nest)
There are still 10-20 white eyed ducks feeding on the lake
- they seem to have limited the grebes movements
and may have also affected the nesting location

3 Jul 2012
A dozen white eyed ducks (hardheads) have been feeding on the lake for a week or two.

Grebes were adding plant material but nest did not survive.
After months of the 2 grebes staying mostly separate on Friday 29th June the
grebes paired up and began collecting weed for a new nest near the centre of the lake.

10 Apr 2012
The coots no longer near the nest - no young.

5 Apr 2012
The coots have been sitting on eggs at a new nest - due to hatch soon.
2 of the 4 young grebes have left the lake
- only 2 juvenile grebes remain on lake - only 1 parent willing to feed them.

25 Feb 2012
The coots have lost all the babies - possibly by a cormorant.

23 Feb 2012
The coots have hatched at least 3 babies. A week ago a pair of black swans moved in to the lake
- there have not been any swans present for more than a year. Young grebes growing fast.

15 Feb 2012
The grebe babies have shown signs of independence much sooner due to plentiful food.
Within 2 weeks some of the babies were able to catch their own food, also this batch of babies
have grown very fast with minimal rivalry beween siblings.

1 Feb 2012
There are now a total of 4 baby grebes - they probably hatched on 25, 26, 27 and 28 of Jan.
The oldest 2 are occasionally catching their own food - they have already learned to swim along
with their head blow water watching for bugs! Mostly the parents are feeding them
but they are old enough to leave the floating nest and swim around the lake.
If you are looking to see them for the first time understand that they are very tiny!

29 Jan 2012
At least 3 grebe eggs have survived all the 40 degree days out in the full sun and hatched
3 baby grebes riding on mothers back
- the young babies are currently resting on the nest with occassion trips
on their parents back.

16 Jan 2012
The adult grebes have built a new floating nest and are now sitting on eggs.
The 4 young grebes are almost fully grown and still on the lake but keeping out of the way of the adults.
Early this morning they were resting on the final remains of the last nest which is still floating (just).
The juveniles can all feed independently.

14 Dec 2011
Grebes have 4 healthy babies (although the 'runt' of the litter is noticeably smaller
it is still able to compete for food when the other babies are mostly full).
The floating nest is in good condition near centre of lake and still being used overnight.

28 Nov 2011
Grebes have hatched! 2 young coots mid sized and feeding with parents.
(limited updates last few months as I have been away travelling)

Sep 2011
Birds slowly returning to lake following its draining, removal of most in-water vegetation,
resurfacing of the lake bottom and subsequent refilling.

18 Jul 2011
Tragedy!! Lake has been drained. No water - nest sitting on mud - abandoned,
nest cold, one remaining egg fallen out of nest also cold
- grebes refusing to fly despite only tiny puddle of gunky water left.

Empty lake

4 Jul 2011
Parent grebes have a new floating nest with eggs.
3 young adult grebes still remaining on other side of lake.

12 Jan 2011
3 healthy grebe babies now closer to adult size, one incessantly squawks for food around a parent,
second follows the other parent. Fortunately third is more independent and can feed itself
when the other 2 dominate the parents. Early in the new year all 3 babies went over the
eastern waterfall and could not get back to safety! Luckily diligent City of Perth workers
carry a butterfly net for rescuing wildlife!! They soon had the babies back in the lake.
Coot parents still sitting on new nest on western fountain

15 Dec 2010
Success! 4 healthy grebe babies growing rapidly
Coot parents sitting on new nest on western fountain, 2 juvenile coots are still feeding around the lake

14 May 2010
Despite the grebes starting a new nest there are still 3 grebe juveniles staying near the parents,
4 juvenile coots are still feeding around the lake

9 May 2010
Great collection of birds this morning - 1 pelican, 1 spoonbill, 2 swans, 3 cormorants, 2 white ibis, 1 egret
1 white faced heron plus usual grebes, coots, maned geese and black ducks

24 March 2010
Success: 4 baby grebes, 4 baby coots!

20 Feb to 20 Mar 2010
Unable to check on grebes due to a tumour on my pituitary bursting, after a few days I ended up in emergency
at St John of God Hospital, Murdoch. Had an operation 1 March to remove tumour and remains of pituitary.
Unable to travel much in cars, use computer screens or mobile phones, off work till end of March
Details: I Lost My Pituitary

8 Jan 2010
TRAGEDY: grebes eggs all gone, nest destroyed - maybe by a shag or tortoise (but both parents survived)

6 January 2010
Grebes have started a new nest with 4 eggs, parents continously adding material

30 December 2009
Coots hatched 1 baby, after a few days abandoned remaining 3 eggs

18 December 2009
Coots still sitting, grebes abandoned December nest and eggs after it was blown under the western foot bridge
[the lake design allows floating nests to get trapped in shade i.e. not enough warmth for eggs,
also the sitting bird is scared by foot traffic which also interrupts incubation]

2 December 2009
Current grebe baby has grown well (now mid sized) but parents are sitting on eggs in a new nest
while still taking turns at feeding the baby - next hatching due just before Christmas!

The coot parent is sitting on a new nest on the bank with eggs and an almost fully grown young one sitting happily along side
- the single surviving young has done very well and feeds independently - success despite all the nest problems!
I expect this batch of coot eggs to hatch around 20 Dec

6 November 2009
Adult long necked tortoise resting on tortoise sculpture next to coots nest

Currently coots have 1 baby and grebes have 1 baby
One false move could be unwise
with a lurking tortoise and a hungry cormorant frequently cruising nearby underwater

3 November 2009
Strong east winds repeatedly blew the floating grebe November nest under the western bridge
- parent birds tried to continue incubation but 3 remaining eggs may not be viable

1 November 2009
One grebe baby hatched

30 October 2009
Current grebes nest has floated to less than a metre from the edge - great for photos but a risk for the birds
(also traumatic when contractors used trucks and 6 wet suited workers to remove rubbish from lake on 29 Oct)

Coots have had many dramas with their latest nest built on top of the one of the turtle sculptures created by artist Nola Farman
- first the widely varying water levels resulted in nest with 7 eggs slipping into water
(reinstated by a local person and propped up underwater with a pole),
2 babies hatched (27th and 28th Oct) but one was possibly taken by long necked tortoise seen lurking alongside,
local person then supplied additional nesting material which coots incorporated into nest
at present 3 eggs and 1 baby remain with 1 egg floating nearby in water

28 June 2009
While I was away for a week the eggs hatched (currently 2 young remain) but the nest has blown down the other end of the lake
in strong winds and been abandoned. Normally when parents start the next brood the previous young are driven away. But of the 5
young juveniles from the last batch 3 have stayed on the lake. As you can see in the photos below one of the juveniles is helping feed
the new babies and also allows them to ride on its back.

30 May 2009
Grebes: 2 eggs laid, this nest now floating back and forward with weed patch

2 adults on latest floating nest with 2 eggs

previous young are chased away from nest
24 May 2009
Grebes: started a new nest near the end of a 15 metre stretch of floating weed

18 May 2009
Grebes: new nest gone! completely gone!

15 May 2009
Black ducks: first time I have ever seen them duck diving repeatedly with grebes for food
(they even stayed completely under water for quite a while)
Grebes: new nest now fixed in north west corner, recently saw mating, female now laying and sitting on nest,
all 5 grebe babies still happily feeding together - often along side ducks - plenty of food in lake
Black swan: one adult has now taken up residence
Coots: 2 babies getting larger

7 May 2009
Grebes: parents building new nest but it is floating around the lake! - still 5 healthy young adults
often in a close group without rivalry - but not allowed by parents any where near the new nest!
Coots: 2 babies growing steadiliy, feeding around the lake

23 April 2009
Coots: 4 tiny new babies have hatched in nest in reeds
Grebes: best survival rate ever! - all 5 babies are healthy young adults but still with parents

15 Mar 2009
Grebes: 5 babies still healthy - floating grebe nest pulled apart today by feeding ducks

3 March 2009
Grebes: Last egg hatched - 5 babies but often hiding under the wings of one of the parents

19 Feb 2009
Grebes: Adults have built a new nest and have been sitting for about 10 days
(last 2 babies grew to adults from late Nov hatching - still on other side of lake)
Coots: adults are attempting nest building again in a few locations on the lake
(last babies successfully grew to adults)

12 Jan 2009
3 baby coots have hatched in the last week - today the babies went over the falls below the lake!

Despite trying to return to the safety of their nest they were unable to get up the falls or climb the steep walls.
Fortunately a kind local gent caught them using a plastic colander and they are now back in the main lake.

Friday 19 Dec 2008
Grebes: 2 babies remain from late Nov hatching (the early Oct grebe babies 'disappeared' in first week after hatching)
Coots: 4 baby coots grew to young adults, nest on turtle sculpture has been rebuilt, parents now sitting on new eggs

Thursday saw the biggest crowds ever at the coots nest (9 Oct)
3 babies out so far and 2 eggs remaining - 1 with a little hole ready to hatch!

baby coots sharing food (9 Oct)

3 baby mudlarks and parent nearby (9 Oct)
Tuesday morning a family of ducklings that had hatched near the ABC building
moved downstream to the lake and then 'over the falls' on their way to the Swan River (7 Oct)

After many weeks of waiting (by the hundreds of people that pass by each day)
the first coot babies hatched on the 4th and 5th of October ...

still maintaining the nest
(6 Oct 2008)

2 of the babies ... 5 eggs yet to hatch
5 grebe babies have now hatched (3 Oct 2008)
Unfortunately only 3 remain (6 Oct 2008)

4 of the babies ...

+ goofy learning back stroke!
3 grebe babies hatched over the WA long weekend - seen here riding on a parent's back - 30 Sep 2008
(please scroll all the way down the page to see previous nesting efforts)

Coot sitting on 7 eggs in nest on turtle sculpture in lake
23 Sep 2008
Grebe sitting on floating nest past fountains in lake
23 Sep 2008

Photos by Keith Lightbody during 2008, 2007
(page best viewed at screen resolutions of 1024 x 768 or higher)

Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae)
New nest built during August ...
17 Sep - parents taking turn to sit on eggs
30 Sep - 3 babies hatched so far

New nest after record Perth rainfall ...
20 May - saw a second adult in an adjoining stream
(but not together with the 'surviving' adult)
12 May - still only one adult - no trace of nest
6 May - DISASTER! - nest gone - one adult gone
1 May - one parent sitting while other grebe continues to add
material to the floating nest
24 Apr - both parents busy building new nest

4 babies hatched in this batch - one each day on 16, 17, 18 and 19 Nov 07
31 Dec - 4 young now adult sized and mostly independent, only 1 parent grebe has remained,
although "pseudo duck" still spends a lot of time staying safe near a Black Duck
and has adopted a mixed feeding style: part grebe diet and part duck diet
22 Dec - 1 young grebe
(or "pseudo duck") regularly hangs out close to a Black Duck
17,18 Dec - saw 1 adult
go ashore for a rest - leaving bossy baby to feed itself!
14 Dec -
bossy baby with one parent, 2 babies with other parent, 1 baby feeding independently
12 Dec - nest completely gone
10 Dec - aggression has started again - biggest baby now biting others
5 Dec - parents still maintaining nest - used for roost every night and also at times during day
4 Dec - all 4 babies going well, mainly around lake near a parent during the day, both adults still taking turns feeding,
this batch of babies either very bright or well fed as diving from early age - now doing quite long dives
(better food supply has resulted in all babies in this batch maintaining a similar size)
21 Nov - mostly on or near nest but all 4 babies now also travelling further away on parents backs

Willy Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys)
3 babies hatched in this batch - late Nov 07 - overlook Moorish Cafe
18 Dec - babies 'overflowing' nest
10 December - 3 babies sticking heads over side of nest
4 December - small babies being fed in another
tree within 10 metres of grebes nest

ready for food

resting between feeds

more food
Mudlark (Grallina cyanoleuca)
2 babies hatched in this batch - early Nov 07 - overlook grebes
18 Dec - babies out of nest
10 December - both babies almost ready to leave nest
4 December - 2 large babies still in nest
21 November - feeding babies

16 October - carrying feathers to tree within 10 metres of grebes nest

wagtail attacking egret

mudlark feeding baby

biting baby
Parent is sitting on nest built on turtle sculpture
17 Sep - 2 adult Coots - 1 sitting on nest - 1 on the lake
Australasian Coot (Fulica atra)

5 babies hatched in this batch - one each day on 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 Dec 07
31 Dec - only 2 adult Coots remain on the lake
22 Dec -
all new babies have disappeared
18 Dec - tiny babies quite 'reckless', at times swim off well away from parents
17 Dec - babies leaving the nest for short periods

4 babies hatched in this batch - early Oct 07
17 December - both young adults healthy and independent on lake
21 November - 2 juveniles almost fully grown

25 October - second baby died, 2 surviving
16 October - one baby disappeared

one of the young coots
The nest submerged after heavy rain flooded the lake

4 babies hatched in this batch - one each day on 9, 10, 11 and 12 Mar 07
19 Apr - only 2 adults remaining on lake
17 Apr - baby almost adult size, although it stays near parent it no longer receives any food,
first heavy rainfall since summer ended has increased water levels
9 Apr - only one baby surviving - body of second baby floating in lake - starvation not predation!
(another lake near the Narrows Bridge also has only a single surviving baby)
6 Apr - still 2 babies alive, largest baby almost the same size as parents - it is a complete 'guts' - always cheep..cheep..cheep
and always chasing a parent for more food, the second baby is about half the size but forced to be more independent - only
fed by a parent about 50% of the day - finds quite a bit of food by itself and often stays alone around the lake,
water quality appears to be declining because of excess leaf litter and rubbish blown in by the wind
(but helped by the daily inflow of fresh water plus the aeration of the lake by 2 fountains)

photo of last baby
last surviving baby
photo of baby at 4 weeks
biggest baby after 4 weeks
photo of dead baby
body of second baby
photo of slimy parent
lake a bit slimy
photo of smaller baby
smaller more independent baby
(but not getting much food)
photo showing 3 heads in a line
all in a line
27 Mar - body of third baby floating in water - not predators (as worried about by many of the people watching
over the last 2 months) but forced starvation by parents and biggest sibling!
26 Mar - I checked this evening and could only see 2 babies - at one stage only 1 baby was near a parent but the second
baby was hiding near the centre of the lake. At dusk the smaller baby was snuggling up on on the back of one parent while
the other parent was feeding the large baby. The nest has disappeared completely.
25 Mar
- fourth baby was starved by parents and its bigger siblings - dead body on edge of lake
23 Mar -Survival of the fittest is cruel to watch - I took a photo of the big baby biting the smaller baby (see below) and
keeping it away from most of the food - even the parent was biting the smallest baby.

photo of baby at 2 weeks
biggest baby grew to this size in 2 weeks
23 Mar 07: still 4 babies but one is much bigger and growing fast !!!
20 Mar - there has been plenty of life in the lake with both parents busy catching food and bringing it back to the babies
swimming near the nest or sitting on top of it - I have seen the parents catch dragonflies, shrimp like creatures and small fish.
With this batch of babies the parents built a well anchored nest which they are still maintaining - one parent stays on the
nest overnight with the babies, they are also using it as a resting place at various times during the day.

photo of baby biting sibling
big baby biting
photo of 3 babies on nest
resting on nest
photo of parent and baby
following parent
photo of parent rising out of water near a baby
parent surfacing with food
photo of parent standing on nest
shaking the babies out ...
photo of parents and 2 babies
... before swapping roles

photo of parent partly submerged
parent playing submarines to sneak up on food

photo of parent with food for 4 babies
parent with 4 babies about a week old
photo of cormorant and grebe splashing
cormorant vs grebe

photo of dragonfly at lakes edge
large dragonfly meal

photo of minnows
minnows in the lake
19 Mar 07: all 4 babies currently safe and growing fast
12 Mar 07: 4 babies have hatched so far.
11 Mar 07: Sighting of a new baby grebe by Alison.
8 Mar 07: Last 2 days were both over 42 degrees Celsius in the shade and bloody hot in the sun.
1 Mar 07: New nest is large, floating and well anchored, parent birds are taking turns incubating new eggs.
10 Feb 07: The parents have now started building a new nest in the centre of the lake.
photo of floating nest and adult grebes
Parents along side their floating nest - the incubating eggs have been covered over.
The birds decided to breed close to a major walkway near shops and apartments on a landscaped lake in East Perth.
The nest mostly stayed in the one place but some days moved more than 20 metres - probably due to the wind.
The Australasian Grebe's scientific name Tachybaptus novaehollandiae means 'fast sinking' and 'new holland'.
Grebes are aquatic birds with webbed toes that regularly dive under water to feed
but they can also submerge very slowly (a bit like a submarine).
Many local residents, workers and visitors have watched the grebes with interest since December 2006.
photo of adult grebe
photo of 2 eggs
freshly laid eggs
photo of  2 eggs being covered by parent bird
covering up the eggs
photo of  first baby breaking out of shell
first baby to hatch
photo of baby on back of parent
waiting to be fed while hitching a ride
photo of hungry baby
soon in the water feeding
photo of baby looking at parent
baby bonding with parent
photo of grebe chasing a swan
parent chasing away a swan
photo of baby with mouth open riding on back of parent
"I am hungry"
photo of baby on back of parent on nest
waiting for more eggs to hatch
photo of third baby alongside remaining eggs
third baby to hatch was a bit weak
photo of baby sitting on back of parent
still waiting
photo of adult and 3 babies
Parent with the 3 babies that hatched - first on 31 Jan, second on 1 Feb and the third on 2 Feb 2007
(5 eggs were laid in total, nest and the last 2 eggs were abandoned after possible egg death in 40 degree Celsius heat wave)
photo of swan  beak near old eggs
black swan feeding on the nest
photo of swan beak over egg
black swan picking up an egg
photo of swan eating egg
the baby inside appeared lifeless
photo of baby grebe
baby little grebe
photo of 3 baies following parent
"follow me"
photo of 2 babies
close up of 2 babies
photo of parent  feeding 3 babies
parent feeding the 3 babies

Photos taken with a Canon 400D. I started with my 70-300 IS USM (f/4-5.6) lens and then
hired a 100-400 L IS USM (f/4.5-5.6) lens from Plaza Digital in Perth as the grebe babies were so tiny.
To save bandwidth higher resolution photos have not been included on this web site.
Bev Blackwell and Alison De Mattia provided information and feedback.
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Please feel free to email me any corrections or for further information.

My main photography page
My email:
cumuluskeith at gmail.com