ContentsPutah and Cache: Clear Lake or Lypoyomi

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Birds of Putah-Cache: Clear Lake and Lake Berryessa

John Kemper

The special birds to look for on the big lakes are osprey, bald eagle, and western and Clark's grebes. Ospreys nest regularly at both Lake Berryessa and Clear Lake. Their nests are instantly recognizable—huge bulky blobs in the very tops of tall trees, often dead trees. Bald eagles do not nest in our area, but are here every winter. They are often seen at both lakes, especially Clear Lake, and regularly form wintertime roosts in Cache Creek, below Clear Lake. Bald eagles often drift down Cache Creek while foraging, and show up occasionally in Capay Valley. They even turn up rarely in the Yolo Bypass wetlands, and will probably appear there more often as the winter duck populations become regular.

Western and Clark's grebes are popular with birders for several reasons: they are fairly large birds that tend to swim out in the open where they are easily seen; they have a loud "love song," often rendered as kreet! kreet!, which carries for a long distance and has a wild, untamed quality to it; they perform delightful mating rituals in spring, where the male and female rise high and "dance" together across the water. In most places, western grebes greatly outnumber Clark's grebes, but Clear Lake has a high percentage of Clark's grebes. Both species are present year round on the big lakes, and breed, sometimes in considerable numbers, at Clear Lake. How do you tell the two apart? Both birds have black caps, and usually the lower edge of the black cap surrounds the eye of the western grebe, while usually the eye of the Clark's grebe is entirely below the black cap. But sometimes the line that separates the black cap from the white on the cheek goes right across the eye. The color of the bill then becomes the pivotal identification factor: the bill of the western grebe is yellow-green and the bill of the Clark's grebe is yellow-orange.

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