April 7 - 2015 Saturday April 4 Jacob and Jeremy gave up part of their Easter weekend with their families to chase a Mega in Indiana....

RBS - Black-Tail > Cottontail - by Jacob Roalef

April 7 - 2015

Saturday April 4 Jacob and Jeremy gave up part of their Easter weekend with their families to chase a Mega in Indiana. Success? Failure? Either way, it is always an adventure when the Rogue Birders are on the chase! Two days later I attempted the same journey - Wet, muddy, and harrowing - but fun!!

Black-Tail > Cottontail 
 - Jacob Roalef

There goes Peter Cottontail… Oh wait that’s not right. I mean it is Easter but bunnies take a back seat to birds. Let’s try this again.

There goes Peter the Black-Tail, runnin’ round the mud flat trail. That’s right, I’m talking about Black-Tailed Godwit here. Not your average, run of the mill bird. On April 3rd, an Indiana birder (Jeremy Ross) found and photographed what he believed to be to a Hudsonian Godwit. Well…. it was a godwit but actually the much rarer species. Black-Tailed Godwits are one of those cross-Atlantic species that makes a rare appearance here in the ABA area every so often. This bird however is much more unusual due to it being in Indiana, well over 700 miles to the nearest coast line. In fact this is farthest inland this species has ever been recorded and only the 7th bird in the lower 48 in the past 10 years! Ok, so, basically, it’s a real rare bird (ABA code 3).

Well, it’s Easter weekend, so that means I am headed home to Dayton from school in Kent, which is a nice 3-hour drive. How perfect, I’ll already be 3 hours closer to this MEGA in the middle-o-nowhere Indiana. Hmmm, highly tempting. It’s now a mere 260 miles and 4.5 hours away, one-way. A birder’s first thought to that is, not bad. My mom’s? “That’s far!” Well it’s too late by the time I make it home on Friday to chase it so the question becomes, “do I go Saturday?” This actually took me a long time to decide. I (regretfully) did not get up and leave at 4am due to a number of things.

Ok let’s get to the birds and the chasing and all that good stuff!

Road conditions were great!! (Photo by L. Keene)
8:00 AM Saturday morning. Ping! Chris: “The godwit has been relocated this morning in the same area”. Oh crap! That fast? Do I go or not go??? It’s far for a lone chase, it’s Easter Weekend, and I have other stuff to do. No brainer right? Duh. Find a carpool and GO! So I spent the morning working out a plan with some folks and it ended up being James Muller, Donna Kuhn, and fellow Rogue Birder Jeremy. It was already 10:30! Time to hit the road. I knew it was gonna be a loooonnnggg day but hopefully worth every second.

We were in Jeremy’s car; he was driving. Yeah the Swerve was driving. Not sure if that was a good idea or not but oh well! I pulled out my laptop in the car and started getting some of my schoolwork done. Multitasking, a valuable skill to have, chase and work at the same time. (Warning! Do not attempt if you are also driving.) We were off to the races and into the strange land of Indiana. What a strange place. Was that an Osprey? Does Indiana have Ospreys? Nobody knows. It’s like another planet. Hours went by, laughs are shared, stories told, lunch eaten, gas pumped, wrong turns made, exits missed, you know all the normal road trip kinds of things. FINALLY after we arrived to some alien area where there were actually cars and hopefully a large and rare shorebird who I have now named Peter. “Has anyone seen Peter lately?!”

Black-Tailed Godwit?
The sun was brutal, making things a little difficult when trying to scope shorebirds. Everyone was standing so far away. Why? There was no need. We set up shop, and finally got on the bird. “Yes”, right!? Not really, I couldn’t even see the field marks from that 400 yard distance with that light. So let’s do the Rogue Birder thing. We started walking the trail to get closer at a slow pace with 2 other guys who had the same idea. Slower and slower we got closer and left the hordes of people behind. The birds didn’t even notice. Finally some ID marks! We actually got some fantastic views of the gorgeous bird through Donna’s scope. (Thanks Donna for saving the day there!)

Rogue Birders on the Godwit Trail
“Show me pictures!” Well, they are garbage. Sorry. Heat distortion, not on my side for that. Oh well, the pics don’t give the views justice and it really is a pretty bird. We watchied for over an hour as it ran around. Field marks were seen but I feel empty still. Show me that underwing! Finally something happened to get the birds up and the godwit did a nice circle showing off its all white underwing. Amazing! Black-Tailed Godwit. Check.

Now only 4.5 more hours home, oh joy. The return home didn’t seem to take nearly as long as the drive down. Possibly it was because we took a different route. We ended up traveling through 3 different states (OH, IN, KY) and came very close to a fourth (IL). It was over 500 miles for this trip but worth every single one. Thanks a lot to James and Donna for tolerating Jeremy and I for an entire day. Probably not the easiest thing to do but I hope you had fun. If not, well, at least you saw a bird. A great way to spend Easter weekend. Who needs cottontails when you can have a black-tail? Peter, I thank you for sticking around and for whatever reason landing in Indiana. (Although I would’ve preferred Ohio, dude). Hang around a few more days for some other Rogue members to enjoy.
Black-Tailed Godwit!
"Dude, I think I got an in-flight shot!"
BTGD in Flight (Nice shot J! Ha Ha - Chris)

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