So just what is a pied-billed grebe doing in southern Pennsylvania in the middle of July?I wish I had a good answer for this one but I don’t. On Sunday morning I returned to the pond by adventure camp to see if this little bird was still around. It was, as you can see from today’s photo. It was still swimming and diving in seeming happiness, though it eyed me warily and didn’t allow me to approach as closely as noisy kids flailing canoe paddles were able to on Thursday.
As I’ve never before seen a pied-billed grebe here anytime other than surrounding the colder months, I decided to investigate the sighting. As it turns out, mid-July is just about the week with the least number of sightings in the state, though sightings are not unheard of. My two sightings on Thursday and Sunday are the only records (in Cornell’s E-Bird) in York County in the last 30 days. I found two other records from late June in PA and both of those were fairly nearby. One was in Hershey, about 25 miles away as grebes fly, the second perhaps 50-60 miles further east. Another sighting was reported along the Delaware River near Trenton. That’s it.
The bird itself isn’t rare, it’s only rare to see one in summer while I’m wearing flip-flops and shorts, instead of boots and fleece. The adventure pond at Roundtop is also not where I would have expected to see this bird. The pond is surrounded by forest, which is good, but there’s no aquatic vegetation along the shoreline, which is what these birds usually like. They need a lot of space to take off, running along the water to gain speed. There is that here. Still, if I had been asked to guess where I might find this bird in summer, this pond would not have been on my list. I would have guessed the big lake at Pinchot State Park, just a few miles away. But instead here it is.
Why this bird chose this location and why it is here now is a mystery that will remain unsolved.