Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Bufflehead at Clear Lake (on a not so clear day)

Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) are small ducks that nest in the far north, and migrate to wetlands all over the United States for the winter.  They were overhunted in the last century, but stricter controls have allowed their population to rebound. They are considered a fairly secure species for the time being.
They forage by diving and searching for arthropods and snails of all kinds. They will dive for a few seconds at a time, which makes photography a slight challenge. I got several pictures of rippling water, although I was pleased to get one shot of a Bufflehead in the process of diving (above).
We saw the Buffleheads on the first day of our Christmas travels when we stopped at Clear Lake in the California Coast Ranges on our way to points north. A storm was brewing, one that led to some very high river levels across northern California and Oregon, but it hadn't yet started pouring. It was sure gray and gloomy though.

Clear Lake is the largest natural lake in California (Lake Tahoe is partly in Nevada, and Salton Sea is not natural). It formed in a basin produced by fault motions, and has had an interesting history in that it once overflowed eastward into the Sacramento Valley, then west into the Russian River drainage, and then back east again. The causes of these changes in outflow have been volcanic eruptions and large-scale landslides that blocked one outlet or another.
The level of the lake has dropped a lot during the drought. The level can vary as much as 12 feet or so, and it is definitely at the low end right now, as all the boat docks we could see were high and dry. The economy of the region has actually benefited a little from the intense drought because the lake is still mostly there; most reservoirs in the state are practically empty and not much fun for fishing and boating.

Did I mention the day was foggy and gloomy? The picture below actually would have contained the horizon if it had been visible. The Buffleheads provided a splash of color, even if it was just black and white!

No comments:

Post a Comment