Plumas Audubon champions grebes through community outreach

Grebes stay on their nests approximately 24 days - the time it takes for the eggs to hatch.  During this time grebes are most vulnerable to water sport wave activity.  Photo by Gregg Thompson
M. Kate West
Staff Writer

“Our outreach and education efforts are going strong and we are connecting with diverse groups of people ranging in age from 4 – 80,” said Nils Lunder, education and outreach coordinator, California Grebe Project, Plumas Audubon Society.

The organization has launched a summer outing program for youth and have provided no cost day trips to local lakes in the communities of Loyalton, Westwood and Susanville.

Plumas Audubon has also made recent outreach presentations to the Rotary Club of Susanville, Lake Almanor West board of directors, the Lassen Land and Trails Trust Nature Camp and at the Eagle Lake Amphitheater.


“We have many more activities planned and we will keep you posted as they are scheduled. Please take a look at our new website to learn more about what is going on with the Plumas Audubon Society,” Lunder said.

In addition to Lunder’s position, David Arsenault works as director to Plumas Audubon.

The project is broader than community outreach and includes the physical counting of grebe nests on each of the local lakes.

“This summer we had two interns, Feather River College students Ricky Haworth and Liz Hauner, who assisted with the implementation of our summer tasks,” Lunder said.

Plumas Audubon Society has also hired biologist David Hamilton to oversee surveys on Almanor and Eagle Lake, a task Lunder performed last year.

The California Grebe Project is a four-year project that involves not only Plumas Audubon, but also two other Audubon chapters in California.

The three chapters, plus representatives from Audubon California and the funding organization, the Oil Trustee Council, met in Chester Aug. 23 and 24 to discuss their successes and future project goals.

Lunder provided the following update on brood survey results.


Lake Almanor is having a great nesting year so far; there are approximately 800 active nests in three colonies along the Chester Meadows.

The lake is falling fast and the grebes are reacting by moving their nest colonies into deeper water.

The most recent census of the lake was conducted Aug. 1 and revealed there are nearly 3,300 adult grebes on the lake. Observers counted five adults with young on their backs and more are hatching each day.

Observers saw instances of direct disturbance of the nest colony by kayakers, carp shooters, low-flying airplanes and boaters. River otters, ravens, bald eagles and gulls, potential predators, were also observed during nest colony monitoring.

Eagle Lake is lower than it has been in 50 years; as a result all of the tules are out of the water. Observers have not yet seen an active grebe nest and believe there will not be nesting on the lake this year.

An Aug. 6 census showed approximately 3,200 adult grebes on the lake.

Last year, Eagle Lake had nearly 1,500 nests and more than 4,000 adult grebes.

It was a very dry winter in the Eagle Lake Basin, with virtually no inflow on Pine Creek, the primary stream contributing to the lake.

Unless the region receives more precipitation, there will likely be no grebe nesting on Eagle Lake due to the lack of available nesting habitat.

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