Canyon Lake, Apache Trail near Tortilla Flat, Maricopa County, AZ

Saturday, April 16th
When Faulene Main posted a rare Red-necked Grebe while kayaking on Canyon Lake, I knew that was the real deal; she's a good birder.  To follow up, she and my birding companion, Jeanne Burns went out kayaking together on Thursday to see if it was still around.  Wow! Was it ever! Since I saw no other birding reports for it, I figured the two women reporting the rare grebe were generally unknown to the rest of the birding community. But I knew both of them and was confident if the bird hadn't left, I'd get to see it today.

Usually, I find this bird in winter (and duller winter plumage) way far west at Lake Pleasant. Today was my first available day to search it out for myself - minus the kayak - for only a 40-minute drive from home.

Having not visited Canyon Lake in over a year, I was quickly reminded how much I like the stark beauty of the drive up Apache Trail.

When I arrived at Canyon Lake a bit after 6:30 a.m., I checked the cove where Faulene and Jeanne had kayaked - no birds visible from the bridge.  Ah! From the other side of the bridge I spotted the Western Grebes with one dark one among them. Driving across the one-lane bridge, I took the first available pull-off beside the lake from where I continued to bird for a good 45 minutes. (Fishermen in trucks were earlier and taken the other pull offs.)
The birds were quite distant but I felt like I had good advantage in being high above them.
Not necessarily so as it turned out.  Below are some of my photos as well as Jeanne's close-ups from her kayak a couple days earlier.

In its mating plumage, this Red-necked Grebe was a rare gem in the East Valley of Phoenix.

Obviously, the bird with the long reddish neck is the rare one that I had never seen in its spring plumage.

Red-necked Gebe with Western Grebe

Since I no longer kayak, I missed photo time like Jeanne experienced a couple days ago:

Red-necked Grebe (above and below - photos by Jeanne Burns)

Although the Eared Grebes were closer to me, they generally had their backs to me so photos were simply good enough to validate my sighting.

Eared Grebe from up on the road, looking down
Below is Jeanne's eye-popping view of the Eared Grebe from her kayak:
Eared Grebe-photo by Jeanne Burns
After watching the grebes for a long time, I continued a short distance farther to the Acacia picnic area (permit required).

View across Canyon Lake from Acacia Picnic Area

View up-lake into the canyon from the beach at Acacia 
Due to boaters out on the water, these 3 Lesser Scaup came close enough to shore for a decent photo.

So many people were arriving at the lake on this beautiful Saturday, that I didn't continue up to the entrance and campground area where birding may have proved good.

Instead, I headed back on the Apache Trail.

Among the 31 species I saw, the gorgeous Red-necked Grebe was my fave. What a great way to start my day!

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