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I consider myself fortunate to have seen the courtship of Great crested grebes many times during my years residing in Britain but last Thursday was the first time I’d seen the part of their display that includes them dancing with weeds in their beaks.

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I recognised the noises the birds make as they work up to their display and was lucky enough to be very close by, so quickly got my camera out of my backpack. As I did, both birds reached down under the water’s surface before emerging with long strings of slimy weed in their beaks. Pushing rapidly against the water with their feet helped them raise their bodies almost fully out of the water and their bellies bumped together as they moved their heads from side to side, almost slapping each other with the weed.

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After a couple of minutes of this strenuous activity, they subsided back into the water, first one grebe then the other dropping the weed, but they continued with their usual display routine of head shaking and dipping from one side to the other. Several more minutes passed before, presumably satisfied that their pair bond had been sealed, they sailed off to carry on with their day. For me, the experience was magical, birdwatching at its absolute best!

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