A Good Bird and a Dumb Birding Idea

This weekend we drove from the Twin Cities up to the eastern end of the U.P. of Michigan. To go look for a life bird that is rather hit-or-miss in northern Minnesota, but per eBird, very consistent along a particular dirt road near Paradise, MI.

The bird in question was the Spruce Grouse, distributed through much of Canada and Alaska, with a few excursions into the lower 48. Neither of us had ever seen one.

We left Friday mid-day, with the plan of staying in Munising, MI that night, so we could look for grouse at sunrise on Saturday; Paradise is only about 90 minutes from there. Other than a band of rain that moved in lockstep with us during the entire trip out, it all proceeded according to plan. We found some ten grouse on North Preacher Road, including two males doing their displays.

Male Spruce Grouse, life bird number 4,509

Having secured good looks at the grouse by 8 AM Eastern time, we worked our way back home; staying in Merrill, WI Saturday night, and arriving home mid-day Sunday. Here is the entire route:

From Bloomington, MN (A) to Paradise, MI (B). Black was night driving.

Why the covoluted route? Because before we started the trip, I had another dumb idea for a birding challenge, and I am now trying to disabuse myself of the idea before it wrecks our lives. The idea was this: maybe we should try to go birding every county in the USA. All 3,142 of them. We’ve already done quite a few, although I had never thought to count them up. So why not, as we drive to the U.P. and back, try to go birding for at least five minutes in every county that is feasible? The route above was an attempt to do that.

I have been thinking of this ever since I came across the idea of county collecting. Quite a few folks have made it a goal to visit every county in the US. But what about also submitting an eBird list for every county? Has that been done yet? I cannot be the first person to have had this idea. I’m sure it has been done, or that some birders are attempting it. But I have yet to find a site devoted to such a project, or anyone claiming to have done it.

So after this trip, my eBird maps for Wisconsin and the UP look like this:

25 counties over the weekend. At this rate, only about 120 more weekend trips needed to get all US counties!

Of course, I didn’t so any of the driving, but got to be navigator. It was surprising that much of rural Wisconsin had no mobile data service, so making decisions on the fly was often not easy. My wife informed me after we got home that this county collecting project was “not fun.”

I have to agree. Maybe if we someday retire and buy a small RV this would make sense.

2 thoughts on “A Good Bird and a Dumb Birding Idea”

  1. I don’t think that it’s a dumb idea all. I don’t know anyone with the exact goal of birding every county in the US, but I know lots of birders who try to submit eBird lists from wherever their travels take them. I need that Spruce Grouse for a life bird and Michigan is one of only 5 states that I have not birded. I might just have to repeat your trip!

    Like

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