Before I get started with this blog entry I thought I’d provide some information that some of you might already know. However there might be birders out there who are new to this great hobby that will find this info helpful.
I’m coping and pasting what the American Birding Association defines as their birding codes for each of the 1,002 birds they list. So when you hear another birder referring to a particular bird as a “Code 2”, you’ll have a better understanding.
“The ABA Codes are described on the ABA website and the definitions are reproduced here with permission. Please consider purchasing the 7th edition of the ABA Checklist for a more complete discussion of the ABA Birding Codes, as well as much information on rarities in the ABA area. Contact ABA Sales for more information.
Code 1 and Code 2: Regularly occurring North American avifauna.
Includes regular breeding species and visitors. There is no firm designation between Code 1 and Code 2 species, except that logically Code 1 species are more widespread and are usually more numerous. Code 2 species have a restricted North American range, are more widespread, but occur in lower densities, or are quite secretive making their detection often difficult. We readily acknowledge that some Code 2 species are harder to find than some species that have higher codes.
Code 3: Rare.
Species that occur in very low numbers, but annually, in the ABA Checklist Area. This includes visitors and rare breeding residents.
Code 4: Casual.
Species not recorded annually in the ABA Checklist Area, but with six or more total records—including three or more in the past 30 years—reflecting some pattern of occurrence.
Code 5: Accidental.
Species that are recorded five or fewer times in the ABA Checklist Area, or fewer than three records in the past 30 years.
Code 6: Cannot be found.
The species is probably or actually extinct or extirpated from the ABA Checklist Area, or all survivors are held in captivity (or releases are not yet naturally re-established).”
It was this last Saturday, November the 3rd, my wife and I were out for the evening when I started checking some of my birding Facebook pages. This has become such a habit now that sometimes I’ll check it even though I just looked at it a minute ago. However this time a posting on “Ohio Chase Birds” Facebook page really got me excited. Someone found out of a sighting of a Spotted Redshank, (Tringa erythropus) near Ann Arbor Michigan.
Why does it seem my chases are getting further and further away from home? It was on the 18th of last month I able to chase down the Gray Kingbird in Fairborn Ohio, only to be followed up on the 23rd of the Northern Wheatear near Mansfield Ohio. That drive took a little over 3 hours to reach, and as I read the post I had to really consider at least a 4 hour drive for this once in a life time bird.
I thought about it all night and into the next day. Kathy knew I was chomping at the bit, so she told me to just go and have fun. The one condition she put on it was that I spend the night at my daughters house, which is north of Detroit. So while she called our daughter, I hurriedly threw a few things into a suitcase and flew out the door to fill the car. It was 10:30 am and time was of the essence.
In all my years of birding I’ve only seen 1 other Code 4 bird, and that was the Garganey at Fernald Preserve in 2011. Since the Redshank was spotted in a very rural part of Michigan I needed some address close by so I could plug it into my GPS. I found a fruit farm just down the road which served my purpose perfectly.
After filling up my car and punching in the address, off I went. I made a couple of phone calls to both Phil and Jon to help out with Facebook updates. I knew there would be hundreds of birders converging on this one point, and birders will be updating throughout the day if the bird does of doesn’t stick around. With a drive like this my biggest fear was getting close and it fly off. I settled into the long drive as my mind raced about this bird and what to expect. I’ve seen the crowd lining up along the road with their scopes and cameras all in neat little rows from pictures posted. The police already made their presence known and informed everyone to just make sure you pull completely off the road when you park. Other than that they were very cool about this whole thing. Even the locals would stop and ask what’s going on. And birders really love to explain to folks about anything that has to do with birds.
Being Sunday the drive up was uneventful, and my GPS took me directly to the spot. As I approached the area I started to see the line of cars and so I quickly pulled in behind another car. It was during my one pit stop that I pulled on my harness and binoculars and sat my camera next to me. The last thing I wanted to do when I got there was fumble around with this.
I grabbed my spotting scope and made my way to the ever expanding crowd of birders. The bird was feeding actively at the intersection of 2 country roads where any amount of rain would fill in the area close to the road. With the light fading and the help of another birder, he was able to put me on the bird.
Take a deep breath, wheeeeew!
The one defining field marking for this bird are the distinct red legs, and when scanning through all the Greater Yellowlegs, locating a particular bird belly deep in water and then positively identifying it becomes difficult.
I’m sorry for the quality of the images, the bird was 80 to 90 yards away and getting clear, crisp shots with my camera proved difficult.
These last 2 shots shows the comparison between the Spotted Redshank, with the obvious red legs, and the Greater Yellowleg, with yellow legs.
It truly was a remarkable day, and after an hour of hoping the bird would move closer for some better photographs, it was getting time to move along to Detroit. Dinner was at 7, and my daughter is a good cook.
On my drive to Detroit I called Jon to give him the news. He told me that I should run over to Ottawa N.W.R. to Krause Road because someone spotted a Hudsonian Godwit earlier. I quickly gave up that idea since it gets dark so early. I’m sure by the time a drive there I wouldn’t be able to see it. However…….
Leaving the next morning from my daughter’s house I worked my way through the Detroit rush hour towards Toledo. It was early and not that far out of my way. It’s not that I need this bird for my life list, but being able to get some decent shots is always welcome
Anyone who’s birded this area has heard of Krause Road. It’s a short east/ west road that ends at Ottawa N.W.R. Along the road on both sides is nothing but a few farms and agricultural fields which are noted for flooding after a good rain. It’s a very productive area to bird. I came across the area in question due in fact to the massive flock of Bonaparte’s and Ring-billed gulls. Mixed in with the gulls were a dozen or so Dunlin and a few Greater Yellowlegs, plus the lone Hudsonian Godwit.
What a great few days of birding. I can’t wait to do it all over again. I wonder what It’ll be next time?