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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