Birders flock to Surrey farmland for rare Asian bird


The Siberian Accentor has been sighted only 6 or 7 times in B.C.

  • Jan. 22, 2016 8:00 p.m.

Birders from around the continent are taking flight to an obscure patch of South Surrey farmland to see a striking little bird that belongs in Asia — the Siberian Accentor.

By Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun

 

METRO VANCOUVER — Birders from around the continent are taking flight to a patch of south Surrey farmland to see a striking little bird that belongs in Asia — the Siberian Accentor.

“This particular bird is in an easily accessible area,” George Clulow, president of B.C. Field Ornithologists, said in an interview Friday.

“People can easily fly in, which is what they’ve been doing from all over North America. I was standing next to people from Massachusetts, California, Florida, Minnesota.”

There are only six or seven recorded sightings of the wayward bird in B.C., Clulow noted. Normally it is found in Southeast Asia and breeds across Siberia.

Clulow first spotted the Siberian Accentor with fellow birder Mandy Lu on Jan. 3 during the annual Christmas Bird Count, an event that forces birders to look in unusual and less-visited areas to help pump up their counts.

They were in an agricultural area on 160th Street when he noticed small birds flying in a blueberry field. “I turned around and saw this bird for a split second perched in a blueberry shrub,” he recalled.

“It dropped down and we couldn’t find it. It was a bird I’d never seen before — sparrow-sized but with a striking head pattern (featuring dark and rust stripes).”

That evening at home he pulled out a reference book, Rare Birds of North America, and there on the cover was a photograph of the Siberian Accentor. “That’s it. That made it easier.”

He returned three days later and after four hours had a good sighting of the bird, snapped a few photos to confirm identification and posted it on the Internet. “It just went viral from there,” he said. “It’s a rare bird.”

The bird has remained at the site ever since, with continued sightings this week. It is often seen feeding on the ground with dark-eyed juncos.

To reach the site head east on No. 10 Highway toward Cloverdale, turn right (south) on 160th Street, cross the railway tracks and look for the birders.

lpynn@vancouversun.com

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