December 2020:Monitoring & Fundraising Results The good news first... Thanks to you, our members and community, we surpassed our 2020 fundraising goal of $5,000. Your generousdonations allowed PAS's staff to monitor the nesting grebe colony at Almanor from June-September 2020. In addition, your donations funded completion of the 2020 grebe report, marking our 11th year studying Aechmophorus grebes at Almanor. This work is critical to maintaining datasets that allow us to best advocate for the needs of nesting Western and Clark’s grebes. Now for the bad news... Once again, our nesting colony of grebes at Lake Almanor has been abandoned due to a sudden, dramatic change in reservoir elevation, leaving nests along the shore. A total of 470 active nests were counted at Goose Bay on August 28, 2020 and by September 11, 2020 the whole colony was beached. To recount, that's:
788 abandoned nests in 2016
1,205 abandoned nests in 2018
657 abandoned nests in 2019
470 abandoned nests in 2020
Totaling in 3,120 abandoned nests in the past five years, for a total of 9,320 lost bird years.
Western and Clark’s Grebes had a tremendous struggle setting up their colony during the 2020 breeding season. Plumas Audubon Society members observed, the birds initially set up around 40 nests at Catfish Beach on July 20, 2020. Later in the month on July 30, when Plumas Audubon Society staff returned to the colony site, 75 abandoned nests were observed at Catfish Beach and Pelican Island, while 97 active nests were observed in the Causeway colony site. A follow up survey on August 8, 2020 found 244 abandoned nests in the Causeway colony site, 142 active nests near Chester Meadows, and 15 active nests near Pelican Island. Aechmophorus grebes made a final colony attempt at Goose Bay in August, with a peak of 470 active nests and 1 chick observed at Goose Bay on August 28, 2020. Ultimately the birds experienced nearly complete reproductive failure again at Lake Almanor during the 2020 breeding season. The estimated date of colony abandonment in 2020 is September 9, 2020.
In 2019 and 2020, rapid water level drop rates contributed to complete abandonment of large breeding colonies and the resulting low productivity in those years, creating long-term impacts for the grebe populations. Cumulatively speaking, four of the past five grebe generations of populations of Aechmophorus grebes have been impacted by decreasing breeding habitat availability, resulting a total loss of 3,120 abandoned nests in the past five years, or over 81% of all documented nest attempts. PG&E has worked with Audubon since 2018 to improve conditions for grebes and avoid unnecessary take of Aechmophorus grebe eggs during their breeding season at Lake Almanor but these objectives have not been attained.
Please sign our Change.org petition urging Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to manage water levels at Lake Almanor with drop rates of no more than 0.72 inches per day during critical grebe breeding season (June 25th through September 15th): Click here to sign, it only take a few minutes to make a big difference: http://chng.it/qJwmBksmGg
Help us protect Western and Clark's Grebes at Lake Almanor
June 2020: In 2010 Audubon California was awarded a grant to help protect breeding Aechmophorus grebes, (Clark's and Western grebes) at their important breeding lakes in Northern California. Plumas Audubon, along with the Altacal (Chico area) and Redbud (Clear Lake) Audubon chapters have partnered with Audubon California to implement monitoring of colonial nesting grebes. Funding for our Grebe monitoring Project ended in 2019. To continue monitoring nesting grebes at Lake Almanor, Plumas Audubon Society has set a fundraising goal of $5000. We believe we can reach this goal with the help of our community members like you.
In past years, Plumas Audubon Society has conducted intensive monitoring at Lake Almanor, Eagle Lake, Antelope Lake, and Lake Davis. Surveys are conducted at each lake from the time that they begin their nest building through late September. The information that we collect on the grebes provides insights into their nesting habitat and reproductive success. In addition to monitoring on the lakes, Plumas Audubon has conducted numerous outreach and education activities near the lakes. We have installed protective signs at strategic locations around lakes in areas where Aechmophorus grebes are known to breed. These signs alert lake users about the grebes and their nesting areas.
Plumas Audubon Society's study analyzes how lake users, reservoir managers, downstream water users, and local wildlife impact nesting Western and Clark's Grebes. The results of our monitoring efforts are currently being compiled into our 10 year report. Those who support our Aechmophorus Grebe monitoring efforts will receive a summary of our 10-year report.
The mission of Plumas Audubon is to promote understanding, appreciation, and protection of the biodiversity of the Feather River Region, especially birds, through education, research, and the restoration and conservation of natural ecosystems.