Filming great crested grebes

Filming great crested grebes

Last week our team went out filming great crested grebes. The great crested grebe is a beautiful bird, some would even say exotic.  From a wildlife cameraman viewpoint it is a fascinating bird. RSPB information about great crested grebes.

great crested grebe on canal

Urban location

Filming great crested grebes doesn’t have to take you far from the city.  We have been working on a series about the wildlife of cities, and when you look closely it is surprising what you can find in the most urban of environments.  This great crested grebe nest is a traditional site.  Every year for the last few years these grebes have nested on a disused canal just a short walk from the beating heart of Cardiff.  Other birds nest nearby too: coot nests are scattered up and down the canal, one famously displaying a parking ticket which the bird must have gathered up after an angry car owner threw it away.

Danger everywhere

Great crested grebe with single egg

This nest had become quite well known over the years.  In fact when we went to the site to film I bumped into a couple of photographers I recently met at Magor Marsh, so the location is hardly one of those wildlife cameraman exclusive places. Grebes aren’t particularly shy when it comes to nesting.  Grebe eggs are big and white and very attractive to a number of predators.  Over the course of a few days two of the eggs vanished.  To me they didn’t seem particularly good at keeping the remaining egg covered.  Crows, magpies, gulls, rats, herons and other species pose a threat.  The adult grebes themselves have to beware, because large pike inhabit the canal and they are quite capable of killing them.

Great crested grebe responds to approach of mate

We waited around long enough for the male to return to the nest whereupon a little bit of interplay took place between the paired birds. This series doesn’t offer the days of filming per sequence beloved of a wildlife cameraman.  About an hour and that was our lot, but detailed behaviour was not the point of the sequence, it was just to demonstrate how this beautiful creature can breed right in the middle of a city.