Asian bird found in New Westminster park is a Canadian first

This red-flanked bluetail was photographed at New Westminster’s Queens Park by John Gordon. Click here to view more photos at John Gordon’s The Canadian Warble...

Photograph by: John Gordon , Special to The Sun

METRO VANCOUVER -- A small bird that should be wintering in the foothills of the Himalayas is instead hopping around the playground area of Queen's Park in New Westminster.

The juvenile red-flanked bluetail -- about the size of a junko and the latest Asian bird to make an unexpected appearance -- is a first for Canada and is attracting international interest.

FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THE RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL CLICK HERE.

"It was in the shadows of that big tree," said Joyce Meyer, a retiree from Redmond, Wash. pointing to the base of a western red cedar. "But then it flew. We're waiting to pick it up again."

She and three others left the Seattle area at 7 a.m. Tuesday, the third straight day that the species had been observed in Queen's Park.

"Maniacal birders, but don't quote me on that," said Meyer, who has more than 4,700 species on her world list since the mid-1990s. "It's our passion and hobby."

The bird provided tantalizing glimpses, hopping onto the ground or onto snowy brambles for a few moments, then flying back into the cover provided by the cedar grove.

About 50 birders milled about, repositioned tripods and dodged bombs of wet snow falling from overhead branches, but generally kept a respectful distance of 15 metres or so.

Pat Numata is a semi-retired special-education teacher from Coquitlam who took up bird photography two years ago after a trip to Costa Rica. "I am not really that good, but I am learning from a lot of people."

Numata thought she had a good shot of the red-flanked bluetail with her 300-millimetre lens until another enthusiast preoccupied with the bird changed all that.

"Someone tripped over my tripod. There is some problem now with the focussing. It was perfect lighting and everything. Unfortunate."

New Westminster birder Colin McKenzie spotted the red-flanked bluetail on Sunday, but could not identify it. He sketched the bird and took detailed field notes, which he emailed to Burnaby birder George Clulow, who made a tentative identification and visited the park Monday to confirm it.

Clulow said the sighting is the "stuff of birders' dreams. To find the bird...and confirm its identity in the snow and dim light of dawn is a memory that will last a lifetime."

Dick Cannings, a biologist with Bird Studies Canada, has observed the red-flanked bluetail in Asia and said it should be wintering in areas such as the Himalayan foothills.

He said it has been an extraordinary winter for rare sightings of Asian birds in B.C.; a citrine wagtail sighted near Comox was also a Canadian first.

A Baikal teal was observed at Roberts Bank, one of only a few sightings of the species to date.

There have also been brambling sightings in Vancouver, Victoria, Summerland, and Revelstoke. Southern B.C. can typically go a few years without the species being observed.

"There is a bit of a pattern going on this winter with birds that should be normally found in Asia showing up here," Cannings said. "Birders are very excited."

He said it possible that weather patters blew the birds to B.C. or that the individual birds are not wired up right. "Most young birds are born with an innate sense of direction, of which way they should go, and some just have that screwed up," he said.

Cannings' colleague with Bird Studies Canada, Pete Davidson, attributes such sightings to more birders being out in the field. "It's an exciting time for birding, still so much to be discovered."

Christopher Stephens, a bird researcher on Vancouver Island, said bramblings normally fly from their birch forest breeding grounds in Siberia to wintering grounds in Japan or even central India.

lpynn@vancouversun.com



Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Asian+bird+found+Westminster+park+...

•Story •Photos ( 15 ) This red-flanked bluetail was photographed at New Westminster’s Queens Park by John Gordon. Click here to view more photos at John Gordon’s The Canadian Warbler blog Photograph by: John Gordon , Special to The Sun METRO VANCOUVER -- A small bird that should be wintering in the foothills of the Himalayas is instead hopping around the playground area of Queen's Park in New Westminster. The juvenile red-flanked bluetail -- about the size of a junko and the latest Asian bird to make an unexpected appearance -- is a first for Canada and is attracting international interest. FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THE RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL CLICK HERE. "It was in the shadows of that big tree," said Joyce Meyer, a retiree from Redmond, Wash. pointing to the base of a western red cedar. "But then it flew. We're waiting to pick it up again." She and three others left the Seattle area at 7 a.m. Tuesday, the third straight day that the species had been observed in Queen's Park. "Maniacal birders, but don't quote me on that," said Meyer, who has more than 4,700 species on her world list since the mid-1990s. "It's our passion and hobby." The bird provided tantalizing glimpses, hopping onto the ground or onto snowy brambles for a few moments, then flying back into the cover provided by the cedar grove. About 50 birders milled about, repositioned tripods and dodged bombs of wet snow falling from overhead branches, but generally kept a respectful distance of 15 metres or so. Pat Numata is a semi-retired special-education teacher from Coquitlam who took up bird photography two years ago after a trip to Costa Rica. "I am not really that good, but I am learning from a lot of people." Numata thought she had a good shot of the red-flanked bluetail with her 300-millimetre lens until another enthusiast preoccupied with the bird changed all that. "Someone tripped over my tripod. There is some problem now with the focussing. It was perfect lighting and everything. Unfortunate." New Westminster birder Colin McKenzie spotted the red-flanked bluetail on Sunday, but could not identify it. He sketched the bird and took detailed field notes, which he emailed to Burnaby birder George Clulow, who made a tentative identification and visited the park Monday to confirm it. Clulow said the sighting is the "stuff of birders' dreams. To find the bird...and confirm its identity in the snow and dim light of dawn is a memory that will last a lifetime." Dick Cannings, a biologist with Bird Studies Canada, has observed the red-flanked bluetail in Asia and said it should be wintering in areas such as the Himalayan foothills. He said it has been an extraordinary winter for rare sightings of Asian birds in B.C.; a citrine wagtail sighted near Comox was also a Canadian first. A Baikal teal was observed at Roberts Bank, one of only a few sightings of the species to date. There have also been brambling sightings in Vancouver, Victoria, Summerland, and Revelstoke. Southern B.C. can typically go a few years without the species being observed. "There is a bit of a pattern going on this winter with birds that should be normally found in Asia showing up here," Cannings said. "Birders are very excited." He said it possible that weather patters blew the birds to B.C. or that the individual birds are not wired up right. "Most young birds are born with an innate sense of direction, of which way they should go, and some just have that screwed up," he said. Cannings' colleague with Bird Studies Canada, Pete Davidson, attributes such sightings to more birders being out in the field. "It's an exciting time for birding, still so much to be discovered." Christopher Stephens, a bird researcher on Vancouver Island, said bramblings normally fly from their birch forest breeding grounds in Siberia to wintering grounds in Japan or even central India. lpynn@vancouversun.com Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Asian+bird+found+Westminster+park+...

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Thanks so much for the link to the photos and the story Patricia. Appreciate it.

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