Sunday, March 31, 2013

Friday, March 29, Spotted Redshank, YES!

During this time period at home, I need to complete reservations for Attu in May-June including trip insurance including medevac, replace the replacement tire on the back of my new Dodge Dart, and prepare for income taxes.  Yesterday, as a break from tasks, I stopped at Rowe Arboretum near my home to look for early spring migrants as well as Bass Island along the Little Miami River nearby.  At Rowe Arboretum, I found about three singing Pine Siskins, which have indicated evidence of breeding at this location in the past, as recently as during the Ohio Atlas period, during which I found evidence of collecting nesting material.  At Rowe, I was looking for an early Chipping Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet or Brown Thrasher.  I have found these birds here in past years, but not this year.  While at Rowe Arboretum, I found two different Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and got a better view of this species than when previously seen in my neighbor's yard in February 18.  At Bass Island, I was looking for Rough-winged Swallows, but did not find them.  At about 12:30 pm, I got an alert from NARBA, North American Rare for Spotted Redshank in Indiana, a Life Bird for me, a new great bird for the year and within driving distance, so I headed home.   I also got a note from Bob Ake, who has been following my progress, because he did a Big Year in 2010.  I also got a note from Steve Bobonick, birding friend from Cincinnati, asking about going for the Spotted Redshank tomorrow, Friday.  I quickly started looking for details, but found the first directions "E of Route 59 at Goose Pond" a little too vague, because I have been to Goose Pond only once before.  I thought E meant east of , but it really meant Field E.  Fortunately, Steve was on top of this and forwarded a map showing the location.  However, it was too late to get there, today, Thursday, so Steve and I made plans to meet at 4:25 am Friday morning at the Dry Fork Road exit off of I-74 in southwester  Ohio.  The rest of Thursday, I completed the registration and insurance for Attu in May-June and mailed it.

I met Steve Bobonick, Dave Helm and Harris Abramson at the Shell Station near the Dry Fork exit.  We caravanned to Goose Island arriving not long after sunrise.  There were about six birders already there, and they had the Spotted Redshank in their scopes.  A quick peak in one of the scopes and then got set up with my scope and got my camera ready.  The bird was in Field E and about 300 yards distant.  I could see the bird well in my scope at 20X and 30X, but the light was still too low for reasonable photography.  Within about an hour, the bird flew toward Field B.  I drove to the Field B location, but by the time I walked out to the dike, the bird had flown back to Field E.  At the parking area for Field B, I met Jim Edihuber, Prairie Frontier LLC, and Chris West, Swallowtail Birding Tours, birders from Wisconsin.  Jim agree to share his photos, because at that point I was not successful. 

I also met Lee Sterrenburg a local Indiana birder from Bloomington, whose posts I see on the Indiana Birds list serve.  Lee and I met for the first time on Attu in 1989.  I did not remember that until reminded, but we reminisced about seeing the then Chinese Little Bittern, now Yellow Bittern, a first North American record, and as of the Sixth Edition of the ABA Checklist (2002), the only record for North America, shortly after our arrival on Attu.  My records indicate the day was May 17, 1989.  This bird was collected by ornithologists for scientific evidence, and created the ill-will of birders arriving later.

I returned to Field E to enjoy the Spotted Redshank more and see it very well at 30X and try for photographs in the better light.  By that time, a large number of birders had arrived.  It is interesting to finally see a bird that you wondered about for many years.  I recall a trip to Brigantine (now Forsythe) NWR in New Jersey in the late 60's or early 70's looking for a reputed Spotted Redshank that was really an oiled yellowlegs.  The arguments then presented by Harold Axtell, expert birder and then recently retired ornithologist at the Buffalo Museum, were partly that the bird did not behave like a Spotted Redshank.  Well, now I know what Harold, long departed, meant.  In addition, to being a much lighter colored bird, very white underneath and lighter gray on the back in non-breeding plumage, the Spotted Redshank has a more stream-lined slender shape than a Greater Yellowlegs and feeds more actively with a "high stepping" motion that shows off the bright orange legs in non-breeding plumage.  The bill is much longer and thinner overall than either Greater or Lesser Yellowlegs with a slight droop at the end.  I believe that the bill can be flexed, because at times it looked up-turned.  It was also difficult to see the full bill length, because of the thinness at the tip and blending into the dark background of the dark earth at this location.  I could also see the red at the base of the bill and the white eye-line and the dark line in the lores between the bill and the eye.  Occasionally, the Spotted Redshank feeds like a dowitcher with a sewing machine motion with its head under water unlike either yellowlegs.  I am including two of my photos showing the bill length and shape, the white eye-line/supercillium and dark line in the lores and high stepping behavior,
one of Jim Edihuber's, which shows the comparison to Greater Yellowlegs and the red at the base of the bill and one of Steve Bobonick's (last photo) also showing the high stepping behavior.  It was difficult with the equipment that I have to get a good photo, but the bird is identifiable.  Special thanks to Bill and Steve for sharing their photos.  I think that it was challenging for them too.

The Spotted Redshank is life bird number 794 for the ABA Region.  I also added Pectoral Sandpiper and American White Pelican to bring the total for the year to 195 after Goose Pond

Jim Edihuber's photo, next to last, further cropped and adjusted, shows the red at the base of the bill

and the difference in shape and the lighter color of the Spotted redshank relative to the Greater yellowlegs.

On my way back to Cincinnati, I stopped at Winton Woods Park and added male Purple Martin at the Spotted Redshank relative to a Great Yellow legs.  Settling Basin and a singing Pine Warbler near the campground.

The total at the end of a fantastic day is 197!


  1. Awesome! I thought of you right away when I saw the post about the Redshank the other day. Glad you got it.

    – Ryan

  2. Jay,

    We saw Black-necked Stilts there yesterday along with the Spotted Redshank. Do you have stilts yet? You'll probably get them in Texas if not. Glad you got to see the redshank. At this rate, I think you'll hit your milestone 800th species for the ABA area. Seems like so many mega-rarities throughout the country this year. Good luck on the rest of you're journey. Glad you're having fun.

    - David

    1. David,
      Thanks for the comments. There are still three "place-holder" life birds for me to add--Rosy-faced Lovebird, Nanday Parakeet and Purple Swamphen. I have seen the first two before but must see these introduced species again to count them as life birds. That means I will need three totally new life birds beyond these place-holders to reach 800. I heard about the Black-necked Stilts at Goose Pond after I left the area. When I arrived at Field B in the morning after seeing the Spotted Redshank at Field E, I was told that the Redshank had left and returned to Field E. I did not stay at Field B to look, but returned to Field E immediately. I saw the posting about the Black-necked Stilts, American Golden Plovers and Long-billed Dowitcher after I got back home. That post was made after I had already left the Goose Pond area. I can get Black-necked Stilts in Florida also or other places on the east coast if I still need them.