I was recently at Antonelli Pond one afternoon. There didn’t appear to be much activity — at least compared to the last few days when Katherine and I saw a variety of herons and egrets.
I noticed one juvenile Pied-billed Grebe swimming alone in the middle of the pond. That can’t be good, I thought. I wasn’t sure that it was big enough to fight off any predators.
Walking along the pond, I saw a pair of Grebes: an adult and a juvenile. The juvenile was sticking very close to the parent. I noticed it particularly in light of the previous juvenile swimming about with no adult supervision in sight.
The juvenile whispered to its mother. [Author’s note: for narrative purposes, I’m assuming the parent is a female and the juvenile is a male.]
“Mom, can we have fish for dinner?”
The mother dove under the water and quickly returned with dinner. The son clapped his non-existent hands in excitement.
“Do you remember how to eat this?”
“Yes, Mom!” The young Grebe was hungry and impatient. The mother offered the fish to him and he quickly swam away with it. He was a big Grebe now and didn’t need his mother’s help.
“Whoa!” The fish was slippery than the young Grebe remembered. His mother made it look so easy.
“Aagh!” said the little Grebe.
“Whew!” said the little fish.
The Grebe stuck his head under the water. He’d seen his mother do this. He could do it, too!
The fish had to be around there somewhere. It couldn’t have swum far…
Ah-ha! Gotcha! The Grebe wished one of his brothers or sisters was around to see this!
But the fish was determined to survive and the Grebe was young and inexperienced…he lost the fish…again.
“Mom! Look what happened!”
The mother watched closely as the young Grebe tried to recover the fish. Again. What was wrong with her youngest child? His brother and sister had caught on much more quickly!
Finally, the mother had to dive in. She couldn’t tolerate watching the young Grebe flailing about as he tried to recover the fish.
“Beat you, Mom!” the little Grebe said triumphantly.
I let you win. She didn’t say that out loud, though.
The little Grebe turned away from his mother. “I can DO it alone!”
The mother sighed as, once again, the fish escapes her son.
“Just let me do it,” she says.
“This is how it’s done,” she said.
“I know, I know. Let me. Let me!”
The mother gave the fish to her son.
The son was determined. No meal was going to get the better of him!
“Mom, I’m sorry. It just slipped out! I don’t know what happened!”
Now the fish was just taunting the pair of Grebes.
“Can’t catch me!”
In unison, both Grebes dove for the fish.
The little Grebe came up with the now mortified fish.
“You’ll not escape me this time,” the little Grebe said in his best TV villain voice.
The mother glanced at her watch. How long was this going to take? They’d been trying to eat this fish for nearly ten minutes.
The mother sighed. “Son, I know you want to do it all on your own. However, I have other Grebes to feed. Watch me, and this time, pay attention.”
“Are you sure? Are you sure you’ve got it?” Would this meal never end?
“Mom! I watched you. Just like you said. I can do it!”
And for once, the little Grebe was right. Finally.