Do you read Birding on the Net regional lists before you travel? I do. A few weeks before the trip I started to see reports on TexBirds of a Least Grebe at San Bernard NWR. Although I had seen this bird in Costa Rica, I did not have it on my North American list. Since I was still in the planning stages I factored in a trip down there as well as one to Brazos Bend State Park. Both places were getting a lot of write-ups on the ListServ.
When I got to San Bernard, never having been there and not knowing where to go, nor for that matter where the Grebe was being seen; I headed straight for the 3 mile auto loop around Moccasin Pond. The ‘pond’ was full of thousands of ducks, geese, shorebirds, in fact it looked like every kind of waterfowl.
I was marveling at the abundance when a Crested Caracara soared over; I stopped inching the car forward to watch it. When I turned back to the pond, a Sora stepped out of the reeds to poke among the short grasses. It scurried into the reeds when a Wilson’s Snipe spooked from the bank and landed where the Sora had just vacated. Every few feet there was some new and delicisus surprise. Up ahead a few White Ibis were standing next to the gravel road eyeing me warily. When I had almost reached them; they took off and something brown and white striped dashed into the cattails. Hoping it ws an American Bittern, I peered among the reeds. Sure enough, there it was, trying to be a one with the reeds. Luckily it was also curious and kept peeking around at the car.
As I made the turn at the back of the pond, I had almost given up on the Least Grebe. I didn’t think there was any way I was going to see a Grebe smaller than a Robin in all the mass of avifauna. Watching a small flock of Black-necked Stilts wing past; I saw the outline of something in a small clump of grasses. Looking only at the back end, I was trying to figure it out when I occured to me that it had a pillow butt. That reminded of the the Eared Grebe from a few weeks ago. When I opened the door to get out fo the car, it dove and reappeared further away in open water. It was tiny, charcoal gray, with a thin bill and a beady yellow eye. Wahoo. The Least Grebe. I could not belive my luck. Now that I knew where to look, I saw 2 of them. So a word to the wise, if you go, and I encourage you to do so, look close to the edge, they like short grasses.
Here is a complte list of what I saw (not everything that was there mind you, because I didn’t have a scope.)
Snow Goose, Gadwall, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Least Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, DC Cormorant, Anhinga, American Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, White-faced Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Sora, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellow-legs, Long-billed Curlew, Dunlin, Sanderlings, Dowitcher (sp), Wilson’s Snipe, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, American Crow, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren,Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Common Yellow-throat, Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Boat-tailed Grackle.