Tuesday, 27 November 2012

From rare to rarer

In the first nine months of the year, we saw lots of birds but very few of them would be considered rare.  That all changed in October when we saw a Rustic Bunting in Haida Gwai (about 10 records for Canada) followed in November by a Hepatic Tanager in Saskatchewan (2nd record for Canada).  What could we do for an encore?  How about a Citrine Wagtail?

A couple of weeks ago, David and Adele Routledge found a wagtail in Courtenay, BC.  This bird was subsequently identified as a Citrine Wagtail – a first record for Canada and only the second for North America.  “Wouldn’t that be a nice one for our list?” we thought but all of us had commitments.  However, we were working on a trip to Vancouver Island for the end of November and optimistically thought this bird might hang around.
Finally, Phil and I found a time slot where we could slip over to the island – Nov. 27 to Nov. 30.  Now, we started watching the wagtail reports in earnest.  It was being seen daily at the same location but there were also reports of numerous predators in the same area.  One person reported seeing a Northern Shrike go after the wagtail.  Hopefully, Asian food wasn’t one of its favourites!

Today, we finally made it to Courtenay and we arrived at the site at sunrise. Nothing! Oh well, we shrugged, the best time is supposedly 9:00 am so we can wait. The only activity is a few Trumpeter Swans flying overhead and some Dark-eyed Juncos in the bushes.

Trumpeter Swans
Nine o’clock comes and goes and still no wagtail.  In the meantime, a Northern Shrike, Northern Harrier and a Cooper’s Hawk cruised through the area.  Were they looking for the same bird as us or perhaps they knew something we didn’t?
Immature Northern Shrike
There were a few other birders there and we were all looking in the area where the bird had been seen the day before.  Shortly before 11:00 am Phil decides to make a Tim Horton’s run.  While he was away, I went for a walk down the track.  After a couple hundred metres, I turned around and saw a bird dive down into the field to the east.  It had a distinctive flight and the call sounded like the wagtail recording I had listened to earlier – now to find the bird. 

It was in a wet area behind some tall grass but was showing well.  I called Phil on the phone and then went to try for a photo.  There were some gaps in the grass and I managed a couple of okay shots (but nothing like the gorgeous shots some people had taken a couple of days earlier).  Phil eventually showed up and saw the bird.  After about 45 minutes, we left the bird and went to eat our now cold sandwiches.
Citrine Wagtail
Special thanks go out to the landowner who gave permission for birders to walk the track on his land and to the birder who initiated and made these arrangements.
Wagtail field - it had usually been seen in the field to the left but today was to the right of the path opposite the brush piles
If we were just chasing this bird, we would have hopped on a plane and be back in Calgary now.  Instead, we drove down to Victoria looking unsuccessfully for a Yellow-billed Loon.  There are a few other species that we would like to add to our big year list and we will spend the next couple of days looking for them.  For tonight though, we will just enjoy the memories of the rarest bird we have seen this year.




1 comment:

  1. Great!!! I was wondering just how long you guys would be able to resist a bird like that!