This area of Pyramid Lake had been dry for years due to drought that drastically reduced lake inflows. But the record-wet winter of 2016-17 resulted in high levels of snow melt and this shallow area became covered with several feet of water. A local birder reported several hundred western grebe and Clark’s grebe nests. I made multiple trips to the lake, rising at 4 a.m. to get there by dawn. Unfortunately for the grebes, the tremendous snowpack runoff continued well beyond the normal peak, and the lake continued to rise through mid-July, gradually flooding most of the nests before the eggs could hatch. This nest was one of the few successful ones and at least two chicks hatched. As soon as an egg hatches, the chick climbs on the back of a parent. This father is arriving back at its nest and jumping back on it with the chick nestled in its feathers while the mother incubates unhatched eggs. Chicks sometime fell off during this maneuver, but quickly climbed back on. If the chick fell off in the water, the swimming parent would extend its leg to the side and the chick would use it to climb back on.
July 23, 2017