(WWJ) Birdwatchers from all around have gathered in Washtenaw County's Saline in recent days to catch a glimpse of a special visitor.
The Saline Police Department on Friday shared photos of what's been identified as a roseate spoonbill — not often seen in the state — spotted in the pond across from the Michigan DNR Saline Fisheries Research Station at 8910 Saline-Milan Rd.
Police said word has been spreading among enthusiasts about this beautiful bird, that Michigan DNR biologists believe is either a zoo escapee "or very confused as it belongs in Florida!"
Others argue that it's in fact a wild bird, not an escapee, and that the spoonbill has been dispersing northward in recent years. While this may be a first in Michigan, there have been sightings of the species in Ohio and Indiana.
Either way, Saline's new feathered friend has been a boon for local business, with tourists stopping in local shops and grabbing a bite to eat while they're in town.
Kirby Adams wrote on Facebook: "Thank you so much, SPD for helping to let this unexpected and unplanned little festival happen in your town! If you're not plugged into the hardcore birding community, you may not realize how much joy and excitement this kind of thing spreads through the state. (You're even getting visitors from Ohio, but they're still good people.) I'd never been to Saline before yesterday, but I won't forget this hospitality — and I did spend some local money."
Officer Michael Snook joked that the bird appears to be a good ambassador for Saline. He urged, however:
"If you guys are out there looking at the bird, please save yourselves and stay out of the road and over to the edge. We love to have everybody out, but be careful. That's our primary concern."
The police department has been taking calls from concerned motorists about cars parked on the road, and people standing in the northbound lane of traffic. Police stressed that the road is not designed for parallel parking.
On Wednesday it was unclear if the bird was still in town, or where it might be spotted next. Keep your binoculars handy.