Red-necked Grebes are common to uncommon breeders in Minnesota, their presence determined by lakes of their preference. They like large shallow bodies of water, similar to the one Jude and I found north of the metro area in mid-April.
The pair of birds was obvious in open water, maybe 70 feet off shore. The lake was beside a road with modest traffic. The birds did not seem concerned. Their mind was on nesting.
We saw two pieces of green reed near the birds. I was willing to believe that was the beginning of a nest, although I would expect it to be in a more secluded location, in standing reeds.
Just in case, I went back the next day, a late-morning arrival, timing bad, almost too late. An improved nest had been formed, flimsy I thought, but strong enough to hold the female as she sliped into the prone position many females of waterfowl species use to indicate readiness to mate.
The male grebe mounted her. Three seconds later all was over, and the birds swam off. I had driven 93 miles in 90 minutes, arriving two minutes before curtain.
The next day I was there 30 minutes before scheduled sunrise, although the clouds and heavy rain allowed only a gradual increase of light. There was a larger nest, though, the pair of grebes swimming in my direction. On all visits we stayed in the car. Using the vehicle as a photo blind works well.
The birds mated again, although this time their backs were facing me. The day before I had side-on views. The photos show the birds side-on, and the pair moments after mating was concluded the second day. The male bird is upright in the third photo.
I have read that this grebe species sometimes builds one nest for mating, another for eggs and incubation. I'm hope that is not the case here. I plan to return to the lake, an open view of nesting and chicks probably too much to ask. We’ll see.