I returned to the Dungeness Naional Wildlife Refuge Sunday to see if I could see birds I’ve been unable to find locally and to enjoy our sunshine.
It was a beautiful, peaceful day and a meditative walk accompanied by the roar of the ocean. I was a little disappointed in the lack of unusual birds, or at least in what I thought was the lack of unusual birds.
There were lots of Bufflehead, Goldeneye, Scoters, and, particularly, Grebes like this little Horned Grebe:
In fact, there were so many grebes that I thought that these birds, that looked and swam like grebes, were merely a larger variety of grebes:
Turns out they were actually loons, in their non-breeding colors, the very birds I had come to see. This is apparently a Common Loon, though they’re still quite rare around here.
This, a Red-Throated Loon:
I felt more than a little stupid when I got home, looked at the identification book, and realized they weren’t grebes at all. After identifying them and reading online about them, hopefully I’ll be able to identify them correctly next time I see them.
Turns out, though, I’m not the only one who’s been confused by their similarity, at least if Wikepedia is to be believed:
The grebes are a radically distinct group of birds as regards their anatomy. Accordingly, they were at first believed to be related to the loons, which are also foot-propelled diving birds. However, as recently as the 1930s (Stolpe 1935), this was determined to be a crass example of convergent evolution by the strong selective forces encountered by unrelated birds sharing the same lifestyle at different times and in different habitat.