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

Jumbo saga reaches finale

A three-decade long disagreement comes to a close.

Province looking at steps to dissolve Jumbo resort municipality

Disincorporating municipality will likely require a legislative change, according to the province

Almost 20,000 parking tickets issued by Interior Health at hospitals in 2019

In 2018, pay parking in Interior Health hospitals totalled $5.3 million of their $2.2-billion budget

Ktunaxa, supporters celebrate protection of Qat’muk and the Jumbo valley

Speeches, acknowledgements and ceremonies mark an emotional gathering in Cranbrook

Former Waterside property to be rezoned?

Invermere residents supported rezoning Waterside property.

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Risk of coronavirus low in B.C. as first case emerges in Toronto: officials

There have been no confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.

Most Read