Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

Returning a rescued Eared Grebe to Mono Lake

On Monday, in the midst of a fiercely cold and windy snow storm, a traveling couple found an Eared Grebe in a snowbank on the side of Highway 395 near Deadman Summit. These compassionate souls scooped the small bird up into a towel and emptied their lunch out of their cooler and placed the bird inside. They drove on and brought the little guy into the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore to ask for our advice.

This male Eared Grebe in breeding plumage had flown into a snowbank, but was uninjured. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Luckily, this is not our first rodeo. We know that Eared Grebes often try to land on wet asphalt because it reflects light and resembles a body of water. Perhaps it was too windy for this poor flyer to stay in the sky on his way north to his breeding grounds.

When I arrived at the bookstore a few minutes after I received a “request for grebe rescue” text, I was pleased to find a fat, healthy, un-injured* adult male Eared Grebe in breeding plumage, nestled warmly in a towel inside a cooler. Oh, to see that brilliant crimson eye up close! What a beautiful bird. We are so lucky to see over a million Eared Grebes here at Mono Lake each year.

I transferred him (still in the towel) to a box and took him down to Old Marina to release him into Mono Lake. It was still cold and windy out there, but he was eager to go, so when I set him down gently in the water, he ran on the surface as fast as he could, as far as he could, and immediately joined a little flock of grebes nearby. I watched him dive and preen and settle into the group. Satisfied, happy I could help, and freezing my fingertips off, I hustled back to my car, smiling about good people going out of their way to help beautiful animals like this little Eared Grebe.

May he have many babies in his lifetime who stop at Mono Lake every year to eat brine shrimp!

The grebe was safely released into Mono Lake. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

*When people bring us injured wildlife, we immediately contact the pros at Wildcare Eastern Sierra; if you find injured wildlife in the area, you can contact them too.