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About eight years ago I was birding along Lake Michigan north of Green Bay.
We had started out very early to get rails at a marsh.  I remember it well
because I was wearing an Eddie Bauer Premium Goose Down winter parka, it was
Memorial Day weekend and I was freezing my keister off.  Memorial Day
weather is very different there than here in St. Louis.

After the marsh, we headed out to a peninsula into Lake Michigan.  After
difficult 30 minute walk through very thick sandbar willow, we arrived at
the point of the peninsula to watch the shorebirds.  Shortly we settled on
one that we could not identify.  Besides me, was mom, whose existence is for
the purpose of birding, and Ty Baumann, who has managed the Green Bay
Wildlife Refuge for 30 years.  They are both much better and far more
experienced birders than me, but all three of us stood there looking at this
bird in bewilderment.

As I often need the crutch of a bird guide, and they don't, I was the only
one that had carried one out there.  I kept going through the shorebird
pictures, but nothing matched that should have been there.  Ty finally asked
me if anything matched, and said, "Well, it matches the picture of the
Rufous-Necked Stint, but those are only in Alaska."  Dead silence, then he
asked for the book.  We watched the bird at close range for about 30
minutes, comparing it to the picture in National G. and concluded it was a
stint.

On the way out, we passed other birders, including one wearing a button pin
that read, "WSO Senior Birder of the Year".  We sent them after the stint.

We all (the other birders also) documented the siting and submitted it, but
it was turned down.  Not that the committee provided an alternate
possibility, they just said that a few things weren't mentioned in the
documentation that would have convinced them otherwise.

We know it was a R-Necked Stint, so I know they have been using the Central
Flyway for sometime.  But this place is in a not over-populated area and not
easy to get to, so I agree that we probably are missing a lot of great
birds.

Mike Grant
Chesterfield, MO

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Fisher [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, August 01, 2002 11:11 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: The Barksdale hypothesis


If I remember it correctly (I may not), Tim Barksdale believed that, when a
rare bird is discovered there are probably many more individuals of the same
species around that nobody finds. By that supposition, the Red-necked Stint
that appeared at Lake Contrary is probably only one of a larger group that
went astray, and there may be 10, 20  or 100 more scattered around the
mid-west. By such reasoning, Seb's idea to look for Red-necked Stint at
Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira is more than quixotic.

There is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence to support what I will call "the
Barksdale hypothesis," although there is no good way to prove it. For
example, when a Black-throated Sparrow turned up near Skidmore, MO a few
years back, another showed up at a feeder in Johnson County, KS the same
winter, and there were other Black-throated Sparrow records east of their
usual southwestern desert habitats. Obviously, whatever caused
Black-throated Sparrows to stray in our direction affected more than one
bird.

If two Black-throated Sparrows were discovered, how many more went
undiscovered?

Of course, there is nothing to prevent a single rare bird from wandering far
outside its usual range, and Providence undoubtedly sometimes leads such
singles to birders, or vice versa. But the statistical probabilities would
appear to favor the Barksdale hypothesis. Of the hundreds of thousands of
peeps that pass through the Central Flyway, what percent are ever examined
carefully by birders? I'll bet it is far less than 1%. Of the same hundreds
of thousands of small peeps, only a handful were at Lake Contrary when Larry
Lade discovered the Red-necked Stint there. Did Larry win a birding lottery
against Powerball-like odds, or are there more stints coming through? I
suspect there are more coming through. We birders miss them only because we
take too small a sample of the total?

If we were to enlarge our sample, we would find more of them.

As for me, it's too hot! I prefer to muse about the possibilities on line
until it cools down. By that time, all those Red-necked Stints will be
gone. Who knows what else I'll be missing in the interim? If the rest of you
stay inside, too, none of us will ever know!

Bob Fisher
Independence, MO
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