This guy shows me a picture of an odd bird that he saw on the beach at South Haven, Michigan, near Chicago. Asks me to name it.

I go temporarily dumb.

“Bird watcher?” he says, “Man, you’re more like a bird quack.”

This is a good put-down because the guy’s a doctor, and the word “quack” carries weight in his business.

It’s doubly good because it comes as a result of my getting stumped by a waterfront bird. (It’s long-legged and wouldn’t quack like a duck. But there are ducks in its neighborhood.)

The bird is familiar. I know its name. But I’m stuck. Why? Could it be the Blue Moon beers that the doctor and I were drinking? Could it be the deep martini that came before the beers?

“Wait, wait, I know this bird” I say, “…a Stilt. Yeah, something like that.” My heart isn’t in it. The doc diagnoses my indecision. (“…bird quack.”)

Okay, to quote an odd movie, The Big Lebowski, “Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you.” Win some, lose some.

So it does me no good to suddenly have the name of the odd bird hit like a punch right after the doctor and I part company.

But there is solace in knowing that the bird doesn’t really belong around here. Not on a Michigan beach, or anywhere near Chicago. The field guide in my mind came up empty because I’m thinking Midwest.

And it’s a Western Bird. I’ve seen these birds on California beaches. But never near Chicago. The doc’s right to say he’d seen an odd bird.

Here’s the picture that he took. Do you know what it is? Of course you do. But we can’t go back and impress him with our knowledge. That bird has flown.


10 Responses to ““Quack?””

  1. Lawry Sager says:

    American Avocet indeed…but not necessarily “western” altho’ our playa lakes usually host a nesting pair apiece. Biggest flock was a bunch of wintering birds at Bombay Hook in Delaware several years back.

  2. Erik says:

    Geography is a funny thing. The avocet was an easy ID but that’s because we get them in large flocks at Galveston in winter. I wouldn’t know a snow bunting, however, if it bit me in the butt.

  3. Tim says:

    As someone who lives in Wisconsin near Lake Michigan, I must state that they’re not all that rare here. We see a few of them every spring and fall. Swampy and marshy areas nearby the lake, such as the Coast Guard Impoundment in Milwauke, are good spots to see them and also Horicon Marsh, the largest freshwater cattail marsh in NA, will have a few every year, so seeing them along the lake in Chicago doesn’t surprise me. A good find though!

  4. Erin says:

    Sweet sweet Avocet. She loves the Great Salt Lake.

  5. bob m. says:

    It’s an Avocet. I saw one in South Haven Michigan on the beach. I have no doubt about it, even though its habitat is usually west of there. Suprised a professional like you hesitated!

  6. American Avocet – We had a pair when we lived in Grand Forks ND.

  7. Shawn says:

    When people know you’re a birder, not knowing the answer to a bird question that you should know is a horrible feeling. Especially when it’s something a non-birder might know. I was asked about a raptor that flushed from a tree a by a group a couple of weeks ago and I suggested it was probably a Bald Eagle. The group of nonbirders didn’t know what it was, but they were sure it wasn’t an eagle and let me know that my birding skills SUCKED. Like you, I blamed the alcohol, though I had copius vodka as my scapegoat. In fairness, I didn’t get much of a look….though I should have left it at that rather than guessing “Bald Eagle”.

  8. Jeff says:

    Well, I would like to take credit, but as they say on the iphone commercials, “there’s an app for that” 🙂

  9. Two-Fisted Bird Watcher says:

    You’re good Jeff. That was fast. These are sometime seen on L. Michigan shores and even in Chicago, but look at their range map…they’re rare here.

  10. Jeff says:

    American Avocet?