Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Western Grebes at Clear Lake in Northern California

I'm only now getting through all of the pictures I got during my Christmas journeys. It started with the Tundra Swans that we saw near Williams. We were preparing to cross through the Coast Ranges to get to Highway 101, and Clear Lake offered the most interesting way, bird-wise and geology-wise. Clear Lake is partially dammed by lava flows, and the Mt. Konocti volcano looms over the waters. It's only a few thousand years old and magma chambers in the region are still simmering deep underground.
There is a pier and boat landing at Lucerne that is a favorite stop. We've almost always seen something interesting from there and we weren't disappointed. There were Bonaparte's Gulls by the hundreds, and lots of Pied-billed Grebes and the ever-present Mallards. And lurking close to the pier were several Western Grebes (Aechmophorus occeidentalis). I was able to get a few nice shots.

I always have to remind myself which grebe I'm looking at. The Western Grebe and the Clarke's Grebe were once thought to be the same species, but there were enough differences that they were officially separated. The main tell in the field is that a Clarke's Grebe has white around the striking red eye, while the Western Grebe has black.

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