Grebe Gathering

Grebes; Four Clark’s Grebes and one probable Western Grebe, center left; detail from a flock of about 50 or more.

Far out on the North Basin, just blinking white dots to the unaided human eye, a flock of big grebes occupied the choppy waters. Most of them were napping, with their beaks tucked into their breast feathers. A few kept vigil, and outside the flock, several smaller groups and some individuals busied themselves on the high tide with quick dives. Nearly all of the birds I could identify with my telephoto lens on max were Clark’s Grebes, with the bright yellow bills and the black crown cap ending above the eye. But at least one bird, as in the photo above, looked like Western Grebe, with a muddy beak and the black cap below the eye. See Grebe ID 101. I’ve seen mixed flocks here before, often but not always with the Clark’s in the large majority.

I wonder why this flock of about 50 hung out together, while separate handfuls and solo birds of the same species went about their business in what looked like a totally different action space. The flock mostly snoozed. The outlying birds were wide awake and active. Maybe the flock was a migrating group, while the separate birds have made their homes here. Just guessing. MATWOB (Mysterious Are The Ways Of Birds.)

Clark’s Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii), part of a group of four operating separately from the big flock
Clark’s Grebe (Aechmophorus clarkii), a bird operating solo on the north side, far away from the flock

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