MONTEREY COUNTY LIST
checklist and data resource
text © Don Roberson
photos copyrighted by photographer(s) credited
all photos taken in Monterey County, California
|Western Grebe is the common large grebe in Monterey County (MTY). It
is found widely on both freshwater lakes inland and on saltwater inshore,
especially in sheltered bays and estuaries. In years when water levels
are right, hundreds nest at Lake San Antonio. Even more arrive in winter
along the coast, starting in October and remaining into March.
|Western Grebes are large gray and white grebes with long dagger-like
bills. They have bright red eyes. Bill color ranges from very dull gray-green
in winter (below left) to a much brighter yellow-green as spring approaches
(below right). Note also differences in head pattern between the two grebes;
the righthand bird is showing whitish spots in the lores and might be a
candidate for Clark's Grebe but in the field was thought to have a greenish-yellow
tone to the bill in comparison to adjacent orange-billed Clark's Grebes.
Western and Clark's Grebes is not always easy. They usually occur together
in the same flocks, and Clark's is generally identified by its orange-yellow
bill, but the fact that the eye is in the white part of the face, by paler
flanks, and by a narrower black stripe connecting the crown with the back.
But Clark's Grebes in fall and winter (in basic or juvenal plumages) can
be problematic since dark often appears around the eye and bill colors
less in intensity. There is still much to be worked out between the two
sibling species when in that ambiguous plumage. It is possible that the
grebe above right, and labeled "Western" here, is actually a Clark's Grebe.
For more information see Ratti (1979), Nuechterlein (1981), Storer &
Nuechterlein (1992), and Eckert (1995).
All photos © D. Roberson. Top 6 Mar 2004 Elkhorn
Slough; above left Mar 1986 Moss Landing; above right 6 Mar 2004 Elkhorn
Slough; left (both species) 5 Apr 1991 Moss Landing harbor; below 14 Nov
2004 Monterey Harbor.
||One problem in studying Aechmophorus grebes is that they seem
to spend an inordinate amount of time asleep (left), making it difficult
to study bill color or facial patterns. The red eye is often obvious, however.
* = "recent averages" for Christmas Bird Counts are found
by compiling the totals reported for last dozen counts, throwing out the
high and low counts that may be biased by observer error or bad weather,
and averaging the remaining ten counts.
|Where to find a Western Grebe in MTY: This large grebe is common
and widespread in migration and winter, and some will remain through the
summer. When nesting, hundreds of pairs can be seen around the north end
of Lake San Antonio. Favored winter locales are:
Large numbers are found on the local Christmas Bird Counts (CBC). The recent
average* for the Monterey Peninsula CBC is 700 Western Grebes, and on the
Moss Landing CBC it is 973 grebes (but some of those are in adjacent Santa
Cruz County). There have been years when runs of small fish concentrate
huge numbers just offshore; an astonishing 12,356 were reported on the
Moss Landing CBC on 1 Jan 2001.
Elkhorn Slough and Elkhorn Slough Estuarine Research Reserve, and Moss
Monterey harbor, sometimes in the harbor but more often just offshore the
Coast Guard pier or off the tip of the Commercial Wharf (Wharf #2, the
one you can drive on and park in the metered slots).
Just offshore the sandy beaches from Ft. Ord south to Del Monte Beach,
Seaside; scope from the "Cross" just south of Monterey Beach Hotel or from
the roads that dead-end at the ocean north of the hotel
Sheltered covers like that between Lovers Pt. and Otter Pt. in Pacific
Grove, or Stillwater Cover in Pebble Beach
Just off the beach at the Big Sur R. mouth or the Pajaro R. mouth
Use the following links to other portions of the MTY checklist:
Eckert, K. R. 1995. Photo note: Western and Clark's Grebes. Birding 27:
Nuechterlein, G. L. 1981. Courtship behavior and reproductive isolation
between Western Grebe color morphs. Auk 98: 335-349.
Ratti, J. T. 1979. Reproductive separation and isolating mechanisms between
sympatric dark- and light-phase Western Grebes. Auk 96: 573-586.
Storer, R. W. and G. L. Nuechterlein. 1992. Western and Clark's Grebe in
The Birds of North America, No. 26 (A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, and F. Gill,
eds.). Academy Natural Sci., Philadelphia, and Amer. Ornith. Union, Washington,
Part 1: Waterfowl
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Part 2: Albatrosses
Part 3: Herons
Part 4: Plovers
Part 5: Jaegers
Part 6: Doves
Part 7: Flycatchers
Part 8: Swallows
Part 9: Waxwings
Part 10: Tanagers
Part 11: Grosbeaks
or just the plain Checklist
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Page created 23 Nov 2004