Western Grebe at Clear Lake (and some neat ripples)
I wasn't actually out birding or anything like that today, I was just taking a short break from a long drive. But we stopped for the break at Clear Lake, an interesting natural lake in the Coast Ranges north of the Bay Area. It is the largest natural lake entirely in California (Tahoe is larger, but partly in Nevada; Salton Sea is larger, but was an accident). According to Wikipedia, the lake covers 68 square miles and averages 27 feet in depth (greatest depth is 60 feet). It is in an area of active volcanism, with magma-related geothermal developments nearby, and some volcanoes that are only 10,000 years old (Mt. Konockti, see picture below). The volcanism is kind of a surprise, since there are no subduction zones or divergent boundaries nearby.
The Western Grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) and the closely related Clarke's Grebe are pretty much purely aquatic birds (their legs are set so far back that they are extremely clumsy on land). They live and breed in inland freshwater lakes in summer, and spend winters at sea along the Pacific coast. The two species were once thought to be one, but there are physical and genetic differences, and they very rarely interbreed.
I was photographing the birds for their own sake, of course, but later I noticed the incredibly symmetrical ripples around the bird in the first two pictures. I don't know how I missed them at the time I was snapping the pictures.
I did take a moment to photograph the volcano. It was a pretty sight today (previous trips had been in bad weather). Clear Lake has a few problems, but it is an underrated treasure in the natural landscape of California.