Sunday, December 28, 2014

Horned Grebe

Yesterday was a cool and blustery day. The arroyo was rather quiet except for a bunch of California Gulls and a rather boisterous assemblage of American Crows. Absent were the Teals, Egrets, Herons, and Ibises that normally dominate the arroyo between Madera and First Street. Despite this apparent absence of anything interesting to see, I continued my trek eastward because I was already there and moving anyway.

But things aren't always as they first appear. As I slowed my pace and tuned into my surroundings, I found that not all activity had ceased with the less than optimal conditions. A flash here, a squawk belied the dormancy of the arroyo.

So I began to look more closely. And that looking allowed me to see a couple of interesting specimens that I might ordinarily overlook. In the trees behind Discovery Church I observed a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitting furiously about. In those same trees, there was also a couple of brightly-colored Townsend's Warblers. Nothing terribly unique or unusual mind you, but nice to see nonetheless because of their irritating propensity to masque themselves in the dense foliage.

In the arroyo itself, there were a few Mallards, a stray American Coot or three, and this guy: a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus).

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi
I realize that it's not spectacularly unusual, but to date I've personally not seen a Horned Grebe in the arroyo. Eared Grebes and their ubiquitous brethren, the Pied-bill Grebe "yes," but this was the first Horned Grebe that I've logged.

At first, I thought this was an Eared Grebe. The Eared Grebe and the Horned Grebe are easy to confuse for an amateur like me because their look and size, particularly in winter plumage, is similar.
But as my Kaufman Guide teaches, the Horned Grebe has a more gently sloping forehead and a thicker, white-tipped bill. It also lacks the puffy rear-end and post-auricular patches of the Eared Grebe. On closer examination, this guy had all the characteristics of a Horned Grebe.

Here's a few more images.

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi

Horned Grebe in the Arroyo Simi

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