Photographing the Grebes Courtship Display

Great Crested Grebe Courtship

On Thursday past, good friend and DGPix workshop regular Rosie and I headed out on the Oxford Island NNR reserve to photograph the grebe courtship displays.  Many breeeding pairs are visible from the hides, and you can get some great views of the birds as they pair up and go through the elaborate and complex courtship routine.

The grebes have a complex display, consisting of varied stages, and we were able to capture some of these, really close in and in good light - it all came together nicely.

Rosie opted for the fantastic Canon 5Dmk3 body and Sigma 50-500mm lens on the day whereas I was using the Sigma 150-600mm lens with 1.4xTC as light was good and it would be another good test of this lens on the Canon 7Dmk2 body.  
The following image was taken on the at 840mm - f/9 - 1/320 and iso 200.  Central focus point only on the upper bird's chest, and spot metering.  Supported on the hide window using a bean bag:

A rarely seen part of the display - one bird presents itself with wings spread and head low, the other dances and rises from the water, both have crests raised

Seeing the birds at close quarters was a real treat and Rosie captured a fine image of a lone bird preening in the light:

Copyright (c) Rosie McConville

Another part of the display which is wonderful to watch is the "bob preening" stage.  Both birds face each other and shake their heads, then bob their heads to the wings in a fake preening action.

Leading up to the "bob preening" stage

One of the birds on the day was displaying well in the cocked wings pose.  We made some images of this particular bird, this one was made on the same settings as listed above and same kit:

Cruising Grebe - the wings pose is a great sight to see

We ended the day with some ducks - Rosie captured a fine mallard with her 85mm f/1.4 setup and I grabbed some nice shots of male and female Teal.


  1. Danny, I’m honoured to have my shot on your blog. Thank you so much, and thanks as always for giving your time and sharing your inestimable talent. Rosie

    1. You’re always welcome Rosie - here’s to many more photo days in the future sharing some tips!


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