Saturday, January 23, 2016

January 2016. Redwing, Siberian Accentor, Yellow-breasted Chat, Saw Whet, American Kestrel, Pacific vs Winter Wren

Things were going along as usual and then January came.  First a Redwing showed up in Victoria and then a Siberian Accentor in Surrey.   It was mega rarity time. 
It took two ferry trips for the Redwing but we found it on January 1.  
This may be the second record for BC.   It was found by Nathan Hentze on the Christmas bird count.
There are multiple records of vagrants from the north-east coast of North America, as well as three recent previous sightings on the north-west coast (one in Washington in 2005, and one in Seward, Alaska in November 2011, and ironically, one from almost the exact same location in Victoria in December 2013.  This may be the same bird). Information contained here is what I have  gleaned from the internet and may or may not be accurate.
Redwing Location
A Yellow-breasted Chat was an added bonus on our Redwing trip.  Usually seen in the Okanagan in summer it is a rare visitor anywhere in winter in Canada, preferring Central America.
This Coyote was encountered on our Christmas bird count on Matsqui Prairie.   A bare spot on the rump may be mange.
American Kestrel on our Christmas Bird Count.

The next mega rarity was a Siberian Accentor.  This bird was closer to home in Surrey.  The first photo was a little disappointing as the aesthetics were something to be desired.
A later visit provided a better shot but through a chain link fence.
Finally after 7 visits the Accentor posed in a more favourable location. This bird was found by George Clulow on the Christmas Bird Count.  Since found, it has been seen by birders from many states and provinces.
The Accentor summers in Northern Siberia and winters in Southeast Asia.  A few records have it in Alaska but very few in the rest of North America.  
According to Biodiversity Centre for Wildlife Studies, the Siberian Accentor has been reported in British Columbia five times in 21 years between 1991 and 2011. 
My last view of the Accentor Jan. 20 2016
Accentor location
A small section of birders anxiously awaiting the appearance of the Accentor.  One lady I met in Victoria while searching for the Redwing was from Ohio.  I met her again here.  That is two plane trips. It took two ferry trips for me to see the Redwing so I am not sure who spent more. (Tongue in cheek)
I presented a picture of a Eurasian Widgeon in my previous blog.  I stated it looked like hybrid.  Here is a picture of a Eurasian Widgeon which appears to be a much purer strain or perhaps just in full breeding plumage.  No evidence of these birds breeding in North America has yet been found although it is thought that some probably do.

Last month we had a report of a Winter Wren.  Winter Wrens are rare here as they are usually found east of the Rockies.  That got me wondering what does a Winter Wren look like and how would it compare to our Pacific Wren pictured above.  In 2010 the Winter Wren was split into 3 species-west of the Rockies, Pacific Wren-east of the Rockies, Winter Wren-and in the old world, Eurasian Wren.  So I googled Winter Wren and found lots of pictures but not knowing if the pictures were taken before or after 2010 I wasn't sure what I was looking at.
So I contacted excellent birder and photographer Gerald Romanchuk of Edmonton and he sent me some pictures of Winter Wrens from Alberta that I could use here.  This picture of a Winter Wren, being a lot paler and brighter,  appears to have enough differences to distinguish it from the above darker Pacific Wren.
But then if I compare it to this Pacific Wren taken in Chilliwack the differences are not as obvious.
Finally, Gerald's picture of this Winter Wren appears to be darker than the above Pacific Wren.  Different lighting can change the appearance but I think one thing I can ascertain from this little informal experiment is that the field guides are right-it is difficult to identify Winter and Pacific Wrens by sight.   If anything, the Winter Wren appears to be more finely speckled, has a paler flank and the Pacific Wren may have a more defined supercilium.  Apparently the only way to be sure of an identification is by their song and for someone with a tin ear, I will have to rely on species location.  If anyone knows of a specific field mark to separate these two species please add it to the comments below.  Many thanks to Gerald for your assistance.

This Dark-eyed Junco with some leucistic traits entertained some of the birders while they waited for the Accentor to make an appearance.
Finally a Northern Saw Whet Owl at Reifel.  

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