Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Spotted Redshank in Michigan! - 04 Nov 2018

Robin and I were at mom's eating dinner when the phone called. Adam Byrne was on the line and all I could think was "rare bird at Pt. Mouillee!". He and Scott Terry had refound a Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) that was found on November 2nd by Alan Ryff and Maggie Jewett. The bird was at the Scio Church Rd / Parker Rd pond in Washtenaw County (sw of Ann Arbor). With Robin giving me the stink-eye I knew that there was no chance chasing after the bird, after all I was 30 minutes from home and another 45 minutes from the location, and it was almost 5 pm. Luckily, we were going to Ann Arbor on Sunday (04 Nov) so I'd have a couple hours to try for the bird.

With the new Sony a7III in hand I dropped Robin off at the Yourist Pottery Studio and drove over to Scio Church and Parker Rds. It was not hard to find the Spotted Redshank. After all, there were probably 100 people with scopes and cameras locked on the bird with traffic slowed to a crawl. Within minutes I had the scope on an ashy-gray Tringa sp. sporting bright orange-red legs foraging among slightly larger and brighter Greater Yellowlegs. This represents only the 2nd State Record for Michigan with the last time one was seen was 1976!

For the next 2 hours the birding throngs would share scopes, directions, and answer questions of all the drivers rolling down windows wondering what was going on... It was cloudy and windy with showers threatening, but every once in a while the sun would pop out and illuminate the bird very nicely.

Compared to the Greater Yellowlegs the Spotted Redshank appeared darker and smaller. The red lower mandible, white eye stripes (supercillium) above a dark line that runs through the eyes, and gray cap is contrast to the brighter gray head and white eye-ring of the Greater Yellowlegs. The chest of the Spotted Redshank was also smudgier gray than the white belly of of the yellowlegs.

The Spotted Redshank was not completely cooperative, however. It was as far back in the pond as possible and giving only brief glimpses of its red legs and red lower mandible. The bird was swimming and foraging much like a phalarope while the Greater Yellowlegs stayed in shallower waters or shoreline.

So, while waiting for the redshank to come closer we had the opportunity to photograph some nice Greater Yellowlegs sunning themselves just 30-50' away. The Sony a7III did a wonderful job capturing a stunning beauty of a bird. Too bad the Spotted Redshank wasn't in its place.

At one point the flock of yellowlegs took off and flew right past us and landed in the pond behind us. With the dark skies there was no way to pick the redshank from the other yellowlegs in flight. I was stunned to find that my flight shots included the Spotted Redshank. I managed to put together a composite image showing the redshank in flight; Note the barred flanks vs. the white flanks of the nearby Greater Yellowlegs, the straight bill with slight droop at the tip, and of course, the white back stripe that is absent on the yellowlegs. The yellowlegs have dark underwings while the Spotted Redshank has bright white underwings.

As they foraged in the pond behind us I managed to capture a flock of Sandhill Cranes that flew directly overhead.

The Spotted Redshank then lifted off again and flew back to the pond in front of us, and this time was a bit closer. Close enough to get some decent long-distance digiscoped images.

The Spotted Redshank is a Code-4 bird in the ABA Area. It is considered a "casual" visitor to North America with only 6-10 birds seen over a 30-year period. To see this bird in its breeding colors it is unmistakeable; black shorebird with red lower mandible and red legs, and white eye-ring. This is a striking contrast to the more common European Common Greenshank, which looks like a whiter version of our Greater Yellowlegs. The Common Redshank (T. totanus) is very similar in appearance but differentiated by having a straighter bill with both upper and lower mandibles red at their base. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has a nice video comparing the different "shanks"

The Spotted Redshank breeds across northern Scandinavia and northern Asia and migrates south to the Mediterranean, the southern British Isles, France, tropical Africa, and tropical Asia for the winter. It is an occasional vagrant to Australia and North America. - Wikipedia

Avibirds.com has a map showing the breeding/wintering range of the Spotted Redshank. This bird in Michigan is WAY out of its range. 

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