Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Horned Grebe

The horned grebe is a pretty drab fellow in non-breeding plumage, which I've seen, but is spectacular and other-worldly looking in its breeding plumage (which I have not seen). The non-breeding plumage is gray on the back, much of the neck and the cap, white on much of the neck, the lower head and the flanks, with a distinctive red eye. The breeding plumage is a dark black head and back, deep chestnut flanks and neck, and golden tufts of feathers that extend from the red eye to the back of the head that gives it an alien, almost evil, look. 

The main difference between a non-breeding horned grebe and eared grebe is that the eared grebe has fuzzier and less-defined lines on the head and the gray shading extends below the eye.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Silverwood Lake - California

Silverwood Lake is a reservoir, backed up behind the Cedar Springs Dam, on the north side of the San Bernardino Mountains along the West Fork Mojave River at an elevation of 3,355 feet. It has a capacity to hold 73,000 acre feet of water and has a surface area of 976 acres. It is three miles long, from corner to corner and has a maximum depth of 166 feet. It is owned by the California State Water Project and is filled with water from the California aqueduct which brings it from northern California.  

I've visited twice this year birding, in particular looking for common mergansers. I didn't find them on the first visit in January, but did on my second visit in March. My activity there has been located near the marina and the beaches located to the west of it. Following are photos of some animals, mostly birds, that I've photographed:
Brewer's blackbird

Brewer's blackbird

California gull

Canada goose - landing.

Dark-eyed junco

Double-crested cormorant

Eared grebe

Gadwall (duck)

Great blue heron

Mallards (ducks)

Ruddy ducks

Greater scaup (ducks)

Lesser scaup (duck)

Hooded mergansers (ducks) - females

Male and females

Bufflehead (duck) - male

Bufflehead - female

California ground squirrel

Common mergansers (ducks)

Woodhouse's scrub-jay

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Ruddy Duck

A year ago I saw my first ruddy duck, on March 4, 2021, at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in northern Utah. I've subsequently seen quite a few. I've been looking for a really good photo of a breeding male, resplendent in its baby-blue bill, white cheeks, black cap and chestnut body. The best I've gotten so far was a breeding ruddy at Lake Tamarisk out in the middle of the Sonoran Desert near Desert Center last month. It was quite distant so my photos don't have the clarity I would like, but it was a beautiful bird.

With a female ring-necked duck. 

With an American coot.
I've gotten photos of some ruddies converting to breeding plumage, but not quite there. 
At Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach.

At Lake Silverwood.

At IRWD San Joaquin Marsh in Irvine. 

And I've become quite fond of them. They are fun to watch because they move a lot, diving for under water plants and their bills are wonderfully shaped. 

Diving at San Joaquin Marsh.

A female at Bolsa Chica. 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Common Merganser

I've struggled to find common mergansers. There are not many siting's on eBird, in our area. I made a first visit to Lake Silverwood, in the Cajon Pass area, to see some that were reported there and I found hooded, but not common mergansers. I found a bunch of them on a private reservoir in Mentone, but they kept on the other side of the reservoir from me and I was not able to get very close (and the photos were poor). This past Saturday I drove up to Lake Silverwood again and this time did find common mergansers and was able to get relatively close.
A female at Lake Silverwood. 
They have a crest of long head feathers that can form an erect crest, or the feathers can lie smoothly behind the head. They have a bill and legs that are red to brownish red (brightest on adult males and more brownish on juveniles). Males in breeding plumage have a black head with a green sheen, a white body, a gray tail and rump. 
This photo was taken at the Mentone Reservoir. A male is back right. Two females are center/left and a ring-necked duck is right/center. 

This phot was also taken at the Mentone Reservoir. There are 10 females, 1 male back/right, a canvasback left/center and a ring-necked duck center/left. 
Females and "eclipse" mails (those not in breeding plumage) have a reddish-brown head, a white chin and otherwise are mostly gray. The look quite a bit like the red-breasted merganser females, but are distinguished by the white chin and a distinct line between the reddish head and gray neck and body. Juveniles, both male and female, look like adult females, but have a short white stripe with black edges between the eye and bill. 
These females were all seen at Lake Silverwood. 

They eat primarily fish, nest in holes in trees, and live primarily on lakes and rivers in forested areas. 
Immature birds (here with a ruddy duck) with a white stripe and black edges between the eye and bill.