Today I got out of bed at 03:30 so I could catch the first ferry to Vancouver to see the latest spectacular rarity in what is becoming a winter of spectacular rarities. After seeing the Citrine Wagtail in Comox, I thought it would be a decade or so before I saw a bird so unexpected, or beautiful. What a shocker to receive a message yesterday that a Red-flanked Bluetail had been reported from Queens Park in New Westminster. A Red-flanked Bluetail??? Although they have occurred in the western Aleutians a handful of times, and once on an offshore island in California, this is not a species expected anywhere in mainland North America. But the initial report was convincing enough that several of Vancouver's top birders headed out to New West, and in o time at all the chat groups were abuzz with the news. A Red-flanked Bluetail was indeed flitting about under the cedars in snowy Queens Park. I knew I had to go. As soon as possible.
So off I went at zero dark thirty. Only to arrive at the Duke Point Ferry and learn that the first sailing of the day had been cancelled. AGHHHH! Sometimes living on this island can be exasperating. I was not to be deterred though. I turned around and headed back to Nanaimo, and caught the 06:30 ferry out of Departure Bay. This got me to New Westminster about two hours later than I had hoped to get there, but it didn't end up mattering very much, because it took only a few minutes to find the bird. As most of the park is covered in snow, all one needs to do is pay attention to the bare spots under the cedar trees. The birds is feeding on the ground in these bare spots, and although it does move frequently, if one stays in one spot and pays attention, the bird is fairly easy to follow around the park. Unfortunately, some folks were a little overzealous today (seemed to be more a case of little field experience and too much excitement rather than malicious intent) and the bird was being pushed from spot to spot. When the crowds got a bit too dense for me, I moved on and headed to Vancouver to see a Brambling that had been reported yesterday.
It took about 40 minutes to slide through the busy streets of the lower mainland to the backyard in Vancouver, and about two minutes to locate the Brambling. This was one skulker of a bird though. I saw it probably 15 times over the next two hours, but it never did stop moving, and spent much of it's time barely visible in the blackberry thicket there. It was one of the more spectacular Bramblings that I have ever seen, and was well worth the extra hassle of driving into Vancouver, and then back out again to catch an afternoon ferry back home. I seem to be using the word "spectacular" a lot lately. With birds such as these, it warranted. A Red-flanked Bluetail, a Citrine Wagtail, and Brambling in the same month? SPECTACULAR!