Native to northern Europe and Asia, this fieldfare, a member of the thrush family, has caused a stir by making a rare appearance in Salmon Arm. The bird was spotted by Nan Bearmore among a flock of robins during the Dec. 16 bird count. (Roger Beardmore photo)

Rare Russian bird sighting sees birdwatchers flock to the B.C. Shuswap

The fieldfare, a member of the thrush family, might have made its way to B.C. from Russia

Bird fanciers have been flocking to Salmon Arm following a report of a rare sighting.

The subject of the excitement is a beautiful fieldfare, a member of the thrush family and native to Northern Europe, Asia and North Africa, says avid birder Roger Beardmore who, thanks to his wife Nan, was able to see and take photos of the unusual visitor.

The Beardmores and their good friends Peter and Sharon Lawless were taking part in the annual bird count on Sunday, Dec. 16 as they have done for a number of years.

The weather was dull and drizzly as the couples headed to their usual observation grounds along Salmon River Road.

They took a right off Salmon River Road on Branchflower, hoping for their usual good luck.

“When we get to Branchflower and Crick Road, typically there’s families with bird feeders, which is often a good indication there will be birds, but there weren’t many birds,” Roger says, noting there weren’t as many feeders as in past years. “We were a bit disappointed.”

Related: Rare owl sighted during bird count

The group carried on to the corner of Kernaghan and Crick Road where they noticed robins in a mountain ash tree.

“We got out the binoculars and Nan said, ‘that one looks different,’” says Roger of the fieldfare that was among a flock of about a dozen robins. “I looked through my glasses and said, ‘yeah that is different; looks like a robin, but has a stripy chest.’”

Thinking it was perhaps a juvenile robin, the couples headed back to their vehicle, underwhelmed by what they had seen.

But something nagged at Roger, who took out his camera and went back to the tree to get a picture of the fieldfare.

He didn’t think much more of it until he downloaded the photos and did online research, where he read about an “unusual vagrant” that showed up in Victoria one year. It was a redwing thrush, which is also a European species.

“It made quite a sensation, so I Googled red wing and right beside it was a picture of a fieldfare,” he says. “And I thought that looks like this bird, a perfect match, so I sent the notice to Melissa Hafting, the provincial rare bird alert co-ordinator.”

The fieldfare’s range is referred to as “Northern Hemisphere Old World Europe, Asia and North Africa,” Roger says, pointing out the bird breeds in the northern part of that range and winters as far west as Iceland.

“If you’re going to get a vagrant, typically it would be most likely to go to eastern Canada, although they do occasionally come across from Russia to Alaska,” he adds, surmising this fieldfare arrived down the coast from Alaska and somehow made it into the Interior.

The rare sighting was recorded on an American Birding Association blog that set off a storm of excitement among birdwatchers.

Roger says visitors have come to view the fieldfare from as far away as the Lower Mainland and Seattle, and perhaps Georgia.

Despite the less-than-stellar weather, Beardmore says he and his fellow birdwatchers enjoyed the outing and recorded 30 species in their section of the bird count – eagles, swans, red-tail hawks, a northern shrike and other “usual suspects,” including pigeons, crows and ravens.

Meanwhile, Shuswap Naturalist Club member and annual Salmon Arm bird count co-ordinator Ted Hilary said Wednesday that, so far, 71 species had been accounted for.

Related: Social media, digital photography allow millennials to flock to birdwatching

“The highlight, of course, is the fieldfare,” Hilary says, pointing out some 22 volunteers in four teams spread out over four quadrants in a 15-mile circle around Salmon Arm, a circle that was first established in 1971.

“Starting at the Tim Hortons at the top of the hill, we go east as far as Canoe, south along Highway 97B to the junction of 97A including Grindrod and touches on the west side of Mara Lake, south on Salmon River Road to the Silver Creek store and west to Ford Road in Tappen,” he says.

The most prolific bird this year was 2,000 Canada geese, along with 1,200 starlings and “a goodly number of robins” – more than 500.

Also included in the count as of Wednesday morning were about 400 goldfinches, more than 800 pine siskins, some 500 Bohemian waxwings and, in another unusual sighting, four snow buntings were spied on the wharf in Canoe. And watchers saw one red-necked grebe, a bird that eats fish so needs open water and usually winters in Idaho, California, or the B.C. coast.

“This is a really good year for mountain ash berries so, depending on how harsh the winter is, in February and March, I think we will have lots of birds – wax wings, robins, siskins and grosbeaks,” says Hilary, who is still waiting for more bird count information, particularly from those who counted visitors to their bird feeders.


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

College of the Rockies to add 96 beds for student housing

$17.7 million project of six cottege-style buildings to be completed by 2020

Creative Monkeys gets permanent home, launches summer camps

Grand opening for new studio is April 6

Highways maintenance contractor seeking public feedback

Mainroad East Kootenay Contracting to share results of survey ahead of pre-winter public forums

City concludes urban deer removal efforts, culls three deer

Challenges included trap vandalism, shortened window under wildlife permit terms

New city role to foster business development

A new position within city hall hopes to encourage and develop business… Continue reading

After mosque attacks, New Zealand bans ‘military-style’ guns

The gunman killed 50 in a Christchurch mosque

The Kootenay Ice, the Clock, and Time’s Arrow

It was the dying seconds in the last — the very, very… Continue reading

What’s on at the Cranbrook Public Library

Mike Selby Rick James (not the singer) tells the little known story… Continue reading

Letters to the Editor

Respect and Best Wishes Hats off to the fans of the Kootenay… Continue reading

Nowhere to grieve: How homeless people deal with loss during the opioid crisis

Abbotsford homeless advocate says grief has distinct challenges for those living on the streets

ICBC shifts to Alberta model, with higher rates, private insurers say

B.C. public insurance includes funding enforcement, driver licensing

B.C., feds accused of ‘environmental racism’ over Site C, Mount Polley

Amnesty International Canada says governments failed to recognize threats to Indigenous peoples

Most Read