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Old Dec 1, 2008, 4:01 PM   #1
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I posted these comments in Hung's Black Friday at Bolsa Chica thread:

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I also have a lot of grebe pictures (both eared and pied-billed, but I decided not to post them, because you can tell from the way their feathers are wet and sticking together that they are all oiled. Water flows into that portion of the refuge from two sources - a drainage canal and Huntington Harbour Marina; when it rains, oil from the streets runs into the canal, and oil from boat motors in the Marina floats in, too, so there is (or was a couple of weeks ago) a light film of oil on the water (you can't always see it, but you can tell by how long bubbles persist on the surface). Grebes are particularly vulnerable because they repeatedly dive and surface through the film - they do not fly readily and tend to stay in the same areas for a long time, and when they try to clean their feathers, they swallow the oil along with the feathers they must ingest. Grebes are unique in that they lack a sphincter muscle at the end of their stomachs, and swallow feathers to filter out fish bones, which they then cough up wrapped in the feathers as pellets. So they suffer both from hypothermia and oil toxicity, and are the most severely affected by oil spills which take a heavy toll on them. In the infamous Santa Barbara oil spill, the Western Grebes were decimated because they were massing for migration in huge numbers at the time, and their carcasses washed up on beaches all along the coast; their numbers have never been the same locally, and the American Trader spill off Huntington Beach also accounted for many more of them.
Since the topic came up, I decided I would post some pictures of the wet and oiled grebes after all. Another factor I did not mention was that soap from car washes and street side home car washing contributes to the runoff from the streets, adds to the film on the water, and affects the ability of the birds feathers to shed water. There is a floataing boom at the mouth of the drainage canal, and another recently installed at the inlet from the marina, but they are not completely effective, especially after storms. You can see the sheen on the water in the photographs.

1 Pied-billed Grebe
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 4:02 PM   #2
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 4:03 PM   #3
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 4:05 PM   #4
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4 Eared Grebe
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 4:09 PM   #5
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 4:09 PM   #6
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 4:10 PM   #7
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7 thsi one was posted elsewhere previously, but the halo-like reflection above its head adds a note of poignancy to the picture. You can see the persistance of bubblkes in the surface film.
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Old Dec 1, 2008, 4:12 PM   #8
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8 This one is fairly clean, but it illustrates that grebes are the only birds that have no tails. This one is spreading its rear feathers to expose the dark skin to the sun for thermoregulation.
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