Beef, I mean Grebes. It’s what’s for dinner. On November 4, every grebe species that has ever been documented in Pennsylvania was present at Memorial Lake State Park. A four hour drive for super good birds, hmmm.
I didn’t feel like making the four hour drive from my house to see the grebes knowing I would be driving right through the area a week later. Last Sunday, November 11, I left my house in Rochester Mills hungry for grebes. I was wasting away to nothing. When I left I had no idea if the grebes were still around, but when I received an email in transit that all FIVE were still present my stomach started rumbling at the thought of getting the ticks. Pied-billed, Horned, Eared, Red-necked, and Western Grebes were all being reported at the same location. This was going to be an awesome feast! Well, it turned out to be an awesome grebe twitching session rather than a feast. I was ok with that.
I arrived on site around 11:15 and started scanning near the west end of the dam after a tip from Shannon Thompson, who sent out the early email stating the grebes were present. I easily picked up the Red-necked Grebe within a few minutes of searching among the large raft of American Coots and various other waterfowl species present.
After documenting the Red-necked Grebe, I moved on to search for the Eared and Western. These two species would be state birds for me. The Western Grebe, pending acceptance, is a second state record for the species. There are about 30 records of Eared Grebe for the state as well. A few other birders started to show up and assisted with the grebe search. Looking in the middle of the lake, one birder said, “look at the bright white spot out there.” I scoped it and sure enough it was the Western Grebe. Tick number two for the morning!
The Eared Grebe proved to be the hardest to track down. We searched high and low, near and far, for this bird. Shannon even gave me the last place she had the bird and we still couldn’t find it. What was going on with this bird? Did it just decide to leave mid-morning right before we got there? There were boats on the lake and plenty of people walking close to the shore so that definitely was a plausible explanation. But, we didn’t give up. After searching for almost two hours through the raft of ducks containing Lesser Scaup, Gadwall, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, and Ruddy Duck we decided to check the coves on the other end of the lake.
Three of us drove to the other end of the lake and waterfowl was almost nonexistent. There were a handful of Pied-billed Grebes, one Horned Grebe, and a few American Coots in the area. Dirk Robinson and I were busy scanning when he said, “I think I have our grebe near the telephone pole on the other side of the lake.” Score one for Dirk! He found our last grebe species for the day. He really wanted this bird as it was either a state bird or lifer for him.
In the end, it proved to be a great morning for birding at Memorial Lake State Park and well worth the wait. I’m glad all five grebe species stuck around for the week! I also met some a few new birders on the scene, which is always a plus. I spent a little of two hours and tallied 27 species (full checklist here). More photos from the morning, taken by Gordon Dimmig, can be seen on his Flickr Photostream.
The videos of the Red-necked and Western Grebes were taken with a Samsung Stratosphere on a Vortex Skyline 80 Spotting Scope using the Phone Skope Universal Adapter set up. The Eared Grebe video was done handheld with a Samsung Stratosphere and Vortex Skyline 80 Spotting Scope.
Phone Skope makes custom adapters for any smartphone and spotting scope combination. Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.