Tuesday, April 12, 2011
White Wagtail in Michigan!
So Adam Byrne discovered a White Wagtail at Point Mouillee State Game Area in Monroe County. Remarkably this is I think the third record for this species in Michigan! I am guessing this has to be near the top for any inland state. I am not normally a big "chaser", that is a birder who hears about some rarity and immediately takes off to try and see it. Normally I like to visit "hotspots" or my local area and try to see species in their normal habitat and range, rather than chasing after vagrants. That being said it had been a long time since I last got a life bird and I had just been thinking "I wish somebody would find a cool vagrant for me to chase"! So anyway on Saturday I heard that Adam had found the bird and several others had seen it. I was still tired because I didn't get back from Petoskey and the Michigan Bird Conservation Initiative meeting until like 1:00 am Saturday morning. However, I decided that if the Wagtail was seen again Sunday morning I would make the two hour drive over to Point Mouillee (south of Detroit, just north of Toledo, Ohio) and try and see it.
Sure enough it was seen again, so after a two hour drive and a 6 mile hike (3 in,3 back) I had excellent scope looks at the bird and even some crappy photographs (never got closer than 100 yards or so).
Speculation by others who got better photos is that this is from one of the eastern Siberia subpopulations. White Wagtails have up to 12 subspecies across their broad range that covers much of Eurasia, some of which that have been recognized as different species from time to time. Currently this individual is easily identified as a White Wagtail but in the past differentiating it between what was called "Black-backed Wagtail" would have been very difficult. Either way thinking that this individual crossed the Bering Sea and much of North America to reach Michigan is a pretty crazy thought!
Also I have been trying to see as many birds as possible from this book I bought when I was like 14 called "America's 100 most wanted birds" I am up to like 25 now and White Wagtail is in there, so another one gets checked off the list!