Before commencing this trip I had found the breeding lakes for the Hooded Grebe on Google Earth thanks to the info given out on eBird. In reality this wasn't possible one bit. The plateau is huge and a large area is restricted. I hadn't a clue where I was all day and if it wasn't for a fenceline that I had parked my car next to, I could quite easily still be up there searching for it.
The journey up onto the plateau was good with a nice mixture of species seen. The track however was hard going and I was restricted to no more then 20kph. This meant it took an age to where I parked the car, this being next to gate that said no further access. This was very downbeat as I knew I hadn't reached the area of the plateau I had wanted to get to, and a couple of pools along the way were dried out, again adding to the misery of the potential feeling of not seeing my most wanted bird of the trip.
Anyway I set off on the long hike not knowing where I was going, nor where any pools were. I headed west for an hour, NW for two hours and NE for another hour during which time I had only found four pools worthy of holding any birds. Magellanic & Two-banded Plovers and hundreds of Chilean Flamingos being the highlights so far. During the NE walk, I found a fenceline and decided to cross over it as some good looking lakes were just ahead. The first big lake held plenty of Ducks, the second pool the same (and I stopped to have lunch here having already hiked around for nearly four hours over ragged terrain) and the third pool was much more welcome. This pool held the red weeds which is prime breeding habitat for the Grebe, but a thorough search produced zero Grebe activity. Thinking this was it I casually started scanning the fourth lake in the line of lakes, and amazingly, in the glare of the sun was a Grebe with gleaming white flanks and an orange tuft, it was a stunning Hooded Grebe. I just couldn't believe it one bit. The effort to find, the planning and build up was now all worth it and I leapt around with sheer joy and amazement. After composing myself, a further scan produced more birds, totalling twelve individuals that seemingly had paired up. I re-positioned myself and savoured the moment, yet taking many photos at the same time. I had imagined for some time watching these birds with clear blue skies above, a fresh breeze and clear blue water, and that's exactly what was happening. A male Hooded Grebe was calling to the females that echoed around the area, and a pair were also seen in courtship. I couldn't have asked for more!! Well, I would've liked to have known where my car was. I re-found the fence and walked in a SE direction praying my car was at the end of it. It took a nervous 90 minutes before I started to recognise the area I had first started, and then there was my car in the distance. Phew!! The walk back was also good as I flushed two Patagonian Tinamous, and saw two Cows which was a trip tick and not a place I thought they would be in.
Back at the car I was battered but still had a 2.5 hour drive back to the Estancia. It was beer o'clock again!! Memorable day with four of the five Patagonian targets seen, the Woodpecker now being the last one.
Highlights for the day are a follows:
Patagonian Tinamou - 2
HOODED GREBE - 12
Flying Steamer Duck
Aplomado Falcon - 1
Magellanic Plover - 4
sums up how bleak the Strobel Plateau is.