Bird Watching

Rare predatory songbird tops Greater Victoria spring sightings – Victoria News

Migration is the most exciting bird watching and this spring was no different in Greater Victoria.

This is when the rarest birds tend to appear, and for longtime Oak Bay birder Geoffrey Newell, it introduced several rare birds and one rare occurrence.

His most exciting was the Loggerhead Shrike, spotted at Mount Tolmie Park early in the morning of May 23.

Although the species is common throughout much of the United States and other parts of southern Canada, it is rare in British Columbia. The May 23 sighting was only the second confirmed for Greater Victoria. The first was in 1995, Newell said.

“Besides its very rare status, the Loggerhead Shrike is an especially special sight for me, because shrikes are the only predatory songbirds in North America,” Newell said.

Shrikes impale their prey such as rodents and large insects on thorns to hide their meals for later. They also look great – with a black mask, slate gray coat, black and white wing and tail pattern and hooked beak.

Newell, who leads frequent group birding trips in Uplands Park, also spotted a rare bird this spring – a singing male Lazuli Sparrow in Uplands Park.

“This bird stayed in the area for several days, feeding on caterpillars in the Garry Oaks. Lazuli sparrows are common in inland sections of British Columbia, but they are rare on the coast and only a few appear each spring on Vancouver Island,” Newell said.

The highlands also featured a rare occurrence – a recently fledged barred owl. Newell believes this is the first confirmed nesting recorded in the park.

“The little cutie was perched beside the trail and gave me and others curious looks.”

Newell’s next Bird Walk with Friends of Uplands Park will be Saturday, June 25 at 8 a.m. from Cattle Point.


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Longtime Greater Victoria ornithologist Geoffrey Newell is confident that a recently fledged barred owl is the first confirmed nesting recorded in Uplands Park. (Photo by Geoffrey Newell)