A Gathering of Grebes

Mysterious are the ways of birds.  In visiting the park for many months I have never seen more than one or two grebes in the surrounding waters.  This afternoon, for some reason, more than thirty Western Grebes clustered on the rippling waters of the North Basin in a loose formation.  Most of them slept.  A few woke up occasionally, did a bit of preening, and went back to zzz-land. How do they decide to have a gathering? Why do they choose this particular body of water, among the many options available to an airborne creature?  I’ve read books on bird intelligence — higher than we think — but I’ve seen nothing that explains their collective decision-making process. Birds are individuals, there’s no doubt about it.  Sometimes they swarm in dense flocks, seeming to be mere cells in a larger organism.  At other times, they scatter in separate pursuits.  Some settle on the waves for the night.  A solo bird streaks west across the sky.  What is its dream? Do birds pursue their dreams, like you and I?  

Here are some snapshots of the gathering of Grebes this afternoon, showing only a small sample.

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