A pictorial history of nesting birds at a lake in East Perth, Western Australia
Photos by Keith Lightbody during 2007, 2008
(page best viewed at screen resolutions of 1024 x 768 or higher)

Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae)

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
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
5 Feb 07: The 3 babies have not been sighted recently - did a predator eat them?
Did abandoning the drifting nest make it too difficult to care for the babies?
Due to the hot summer and low rainfall many of the lakes around Perth (e.g. Booragoon Lake, Shenton Lake, North Lake) have currently dried up. Fortunately some still have water (e.g. Lake Monger, Bibra Lake, Yangebup Lake) so there are good opportunities to spot a variety of water birds in the remaining lakes.
photo of great crested grebe
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) on Lake Monger

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.
Please feel free to email me any corrections or for further information.

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