Fluffy-tailed Wonders

Hi Jane and Fellow Bird Lovers,

I’m checking in a bit late this week, returning just yesterday from a holiday trip to Sacramento to visit family and check out some astonishingly huge flocks of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes.  It was sundown when we arrived at the well-known spot where the cranes gather every evening during these winter months.   I never saw anything like it  – long swirling threads, high in the sky, created by thousands of birds outlined against the setting sun.  As the cranes descended, they burbled and gabbled in an excited cacophony, obviously  happy to be home for the night. I don’t know whether the Snow Geese were passing through or also heading home to rest.

EARED GREBE –NON-BREEDING AND BREEDING

I keep thinking about the lonely little EARED GREBE

Eared Grebe.winter
Eared Grebe, Winter plumage, San Lorenzo River, November 25, 2018. Photo by B. Riverwoman

that I wrote  about a month ago.   As you all probably know, I am curiously drawn to the grebe family, and have been a little worried that only one Eared Grebe has been reported on the river all this season. It seems I needn’t worry too much. It turns out that Eared Grebes congregate by the thousands in Mono Lake, which is the quiet brackish lake habitat that these  shrimp-loving waterfowl prefer.  I was happy to read that they are a ‘species of least concern’ in terms of their populations.  I do wonder what brings a few Eared Grebes here every winter?  I am glad a few brave or careless ones make the trip here, intentionally or unintentionally. And just look at how they are transformed once they return to their breeding grounds!

 

 

Eared rebe breeding
Eared Grebe, Breeding Plumage, Google Image

There are four species of grebes that are seen on the urban stretch of the San Lorenzo River, i.e PIED-BILLED GREBE, Eared Grebe, Horned Grebe and Western/Clark’s Grebe.    I have seen all four of these species  on the river over the last four years, although the last two are even more rarely observed on the river than the Eared Grebe. (They are all really lake birds, not river birds, although the Western Grebe likes to winter on coastal waters, occasionally   venturing into the lower reaches of the river.)

Since I haven’t been out on the river these last weeks, I send some old photos on to you all as an end-of-the-year retrospective.

PIED-BILLED GREBE – NON-BREEDING AND BREEDING

PBG in flood
Pied-billed Grebe, San Lorenzo River high water, February 5, 2017, winter plumage, Photo by B. Riverwoman

 

PBG breeding
Pied-billed Grebe, San Lorenzo River, July 15, 2016, breeding colors (bright white bill, bright white eye-ring,  black stripe on bill and black chin), photo by B. Riverwoman
PBG w baby
Pied-billed Grebe carrying new baby, Google image

 

HORNED GREBE – NON-BREEDING AND BREEDING

Horned grebe winter
Horned Grebe, non-breeding plumage, Google image
Horned grebe breedingg
Horned Grebe, breeding plumage, Google image

 

WESTERN GREBE – NON-BREEDING AND BREEDING

Western Grebe
Western Grebe, winter plumage, Google image
Western Grebe dance
Western grebe, mating dance, Google image
Western Grebe breeding
Western Grebe, breeding plumage, with babies on back, Google image

Perhaps two of the reasons that I am especially fond of grebes is that they all carry their babies on their backs and the Western and Clark’s Grebes do amazing mating dances. I also carried my baby on my back and I love to dance.  I feel much more grebish on some days than human.

Another  way I  resemble the Pied-billed and Western Grebes is that the difference between my everyday clothes and dress-up clothes is very subtle.  Compare that to the astonishing transformations of the Eared and Horned Grebes.  .

Long live the fascinating Podicipedidae family!!  (I think this is pronounced something like Po-DEE-chi PEH-dih-day.)  ‘Podici’ means ‘rump’ in Latin.  The fluffy tails serve exactly the same purpose as bustles did in the old days, i.e. to accentuate the rump.

Happy New Year to us all!

Barbara

 

 

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