Thursday 21 January 2016

Finally..If At First You Don't Succeed!

Jan 20 2015 160th and Colebrook Rd Surrey British Columbia Canada
 8c Clouds and Sun

During the past two weeks I have been among many birders flocking to the Singh Blueberry farm in Surrey. The goal was to hopefully catch a glimpse or even better photograph a vagrant Siberian Accentor that had landed on our shores. Despite the location being only ten minutes from my Cloverdale home the bird proved quite a challenge.
How long it has been around no one knows. There is link at the end of the blog for those interested in historical data. Anyway, the accentor has and continues to show in and around a blueberry farm and bushes surrounding an abandoned farm building.
Originally it was found during the White Rock Christmas Bird Count by BC birder George Clulow and his crew. It's not the first rarity found during an annual count and I'm sure not the last.
I haven't been on that many twitches but talking to the many birders present the accentor was proving difficult to tick. The chances of ever seeing one again are probably non-existent so this was a chance of a lifetime not to be passed up. I expect quite a few have already left disappointed while others scored on their very first visit.
Today all that finally changed for myself and about thirty lucky birders when the accentor was spotted by 'Big' Mike Tabak who kindly alerted us all to the bird's presence in a bush next to the house. Only moments before Mike and I had been chatting about how much co-operation there is between birders. He's right of course, one of the best things about birding is the camaraderie and of course the odd rarity thrown in for good measure!

Siberian Accentor (Prunella montanella)

Leucistic Dark-eyed Junco. 

The Back Story
The waiting game for me began Jan11th with a fruitless 8 hour wait. When the sun set I photographed this pretty looking junco so that the whole day wasn't a complete loss. Cute face Eh!
The next two days it poured and only the hardy and those who had flown in from far away stuck it out.
Jan14th I spent another seven fruitless hours peering through my bins and snapping shots of sparrows but to tell you the truth my heart wasn't really into it, there was a lifer out there and that was the only thing that was going to satisfy my bird addled brain! Jan15th I put in a mere five hours, again with no success. The word was getting around, don't stand next to John Gordon but there were plenty of others who had made numerous visits and were yet to see the bird. It was so cold I could hear my kneecaps rattling. Then just as I thought my luck would break the bird appeared in front of us and to be honest I couldn't see it for the life of me, so deep it was in the thickets. I couldn't count it. Things were looking up, I would have to return. I spent the next three days knocked out by the flu, unable to bird and even too sick watch the FA Cup games...
Eventually enough energy returned to spend the morning of Jan20th birding and besides I needed some fresh air. Some of the familiar faces were there, some who had seen the bird, others who had already had glimpses but were hoping for a better view and those like myself who were just hoping for anything. 
Two hours into the wait I was packing away my gear with the idea of returning in the afternoon when the bird landed on a bush beside the house. I ran with my camera and tripod, heart beating from the short sprint from the farm gate to the bush. As I looked through the viewfinder there it was.
Siberia Accentor (Prunella montanella)
The wait was finally over! 

After perhaps 30 seconds the bird flew from the bush into a conifer where it sat on top and sang for a brief moment. Many had great shots, there was smiles all around, a few high fives, a huge sigh of relief and for some a mad dash back to the ferry or airport.

Overheard at the Siberian Accentor twitch.

1. I saw the bird for 5 secs about four hundred metres away!
2. I saw the bird's leg and rump in a bush, I think!
3. The bird was in right in front of me but I couldn't see it! 
4. The bird turned up 5 minutes after I left.
5. The bird turned up 5 minutes before I arrived.
6. The bird turned up in my dreams.
7. I was there when the bird made a brief appearance but I couldn't get on it.
8. My wife who isn't a birder but came to see what was the fuss was about saw it but I didn't!
9. Gord's son saw it but dad didn't, Ouch!
10. Have you seen the bird yet?

                   Obviously I have way too much time on my hands so until the next time. Here are some links

                  George Clulow supplied me with this historical reference which makes for a great read.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada
Siberian Accentor Capital of Canada


  1. Good stuff John. Those pictures look familiar : > )

  2. Mike Tabak who was on my left had a slightly different take.I am told the bird was a no show Saturday and Sunday, too bad for the many out of towners. We certainly hit the motherlode...finally! Good to see you in the field.

  3. Hi John, I am so glad you finally got this mega! He is a truly beautiful bird and these are among the best shots I have seen of him! A nice welcome back for you!


  4. Thanks very much. It was so cold!
    I can't wait to see your amazing pix from your California trip.