Red-flanked Bluetail in New Westminster

On Sunday afternoon a probable Red-flanked Bluetail was reported in New Westminster’s Queen’s Park. I had no idea what a Red-flanked Bluetail looked like yet alone even thought of it as a possible bird to show up in the Lower Mainland so needless to say I planned to make a run for it the next day (Monday, January 14th)! By the time I left home around mid morning the bird’s identity had already been confirmed, heightening my excitement and sense of urgency. Queen’s Park is conveniently located on public transit which made chasing the bird much easier as I don’t own a vehicle. The only potential dampener on my plans was that it was snowing today! Thankfully, not too heavily at least.

When I got off the bus at the park I didn’t have far to walk before sighting a group of birders observing the bird. The area that the Bluetail was foraging around in consists of some tall conifers with little to no underbrush (paste 49.216514,-122.9093 into google maps to see the area of the park where the bird was). The only understory cover comes from the low hanging leaves of the younger conifers, tree stumps, and the occasional leafless bush. There was also a playground and a number of picnic tables. Luckily for us humans this makes moving around quite easy, and the bird certainly made everyone work for their views. Thankfully it was hanging around low down underneath or at the bottoms of the conifer trees; however, it wouldn’t sit still for more than a few seconds at most before moving around the base of a tree or to an entirely different tree. Viewing the bird basically consisted of a few seconds watching through binoculars before it would fly off, then moving five to ten metres before repeating. Occasionally I and the other birders would lose track of the bird and we’d have to spread out looking for it. It also didn’t seem to associate with any of the Juncos and Sparrows also hanging around. I also don’t think it made a single sound the entire time I spent observing it.

The snow and low light levels underneath the trees made getting photos a bit difficult, not to mention the shy skittish nature of the bird! But I did manage to get a few record shots showing the diagnostic features of a Red-flanked Bluetail…

I also managed to get a shot of it with a small insect in its bill. I can’t say that I noticed many bugs around with the snow and all but hopefully this little fellow is getting enough to eat. Maybe it was moving around so much in order to find enough food.

I spent about four hours following the bird as it circled the playground from tree to tree. It was truly a fantastic experience observing and appreciating this spectacular rarity. Many many thanks to the birder who first found the bird!


1 Response to “Red-flanked Bluetail in New Westminster”

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