Friday 25 January 2019

Twitching the Dusky Thrush

Jan 21 2019
Gordon Rd Nanaimo
Vancouver Island

This is what a rare bird alert looks like. Below is the link to more rare bird sightings.

At approximately 4:00pm on January 19, 2019, David Baird and Bryan Vroom found a Dusky Thrush at the Nanaimo River Estuary in Nanaimo. The bird was photographed along Gordon Road near the Holden Creek entrance to the estuary.

On January 20 the bird was relocated in the same area, feeding in the grassy fields on the North side of Gordon Road. It continues as of Jan 22 at this location.

Please be respectful of private property and do not block traffic when parking and viewing it from the road.

This is the third record for the province of BC.

Courtesy BC Rare Bird Alert


The alarm went off at 5.45 a.m. but I was already awake. The ferry from Tsawwassen to Vancouver Island would leave in a few hours. The plan was to meet fellow birder Mike Tabak. He comes from a birding background and has become an excellent bird photographer. Mike is a great one to have around especially when trying to identify alcids and gulls from a fast moving ferry. We had been on a few twitches before, namely the Acorn Woodpecker in Victoria.

A long time friend mine had agreed to pick us up at Duke Point ferry terminal, it meant we wouldn't have to take a car. As a senior (still trying to get my head around that) I qualify for free BC ferry rides Monday through Thursday, aside from a few cups of coffee the whole twitch would me cost less than ten dollars.
To give the journey some scale for my friends in the UK the ferry ride is about the same distance from Calais France across the English Channel to Dover.
There's a certain kind of nervous energy that comes with chasing a bird. Some birders can't sleep in anticipation, others have problems waking up. On board we met up with other bleary eyed twitchers. Most were perched around the bow peering off into the distance at Common Murres and Pelagic Cormorants. 

I used my 'super zoom' to ID birds on the ride across, focus is hit and miss at hundreds of feet or more but occasionally everything works like in the picture below. 

Common Murre
Nikon P1000

Feeding Frenzy

As we approached Nanaimo and Vancouver Island the ships captain announced a feeding frenzy off the port-side bow. Thirty or forty Bald Eagles joined a mixed flock of gulls as they fed on a herring ball. The skipper even changed course so as not to disturb the birds. Also joining in the feast but out of picture were Red-breasted Mergansers and Pacific Loons.

 Two Bald Eagles catching herring while sitting on the surface of the water.
D500 200mm-500mm

Gulls, Bald Eagles and Common Murres

Gulls join in the feeding frenzy.

Finally The Twitch

A short ride from the ferry is Gordon Rd where the Dusky Thrush had been seen hanging out with a flock of American Robins. The thrush wasn't hard to find, there were already fifteen birders on site. It took less than two minutes to get on the bird. After taking a few snapshots I wanted to know from some of the veteran twitchers how significant this sighting ranked in the grand scheme of things. I honestly didn't know. One birder told me it was considered a Mega. The Dusky Thrush was a lifer for me and for pretty well everyone else present while for myself it was Canadian bird #399 

Mega - n. A very rare bird generally confined to a given region. 

Megatick - n. An extremely good tick for novice birders to expert veterans. 

Dusky Thrush
Nikon D500 200mm-500mm
Though the bird kept its distance we stayed in the hope that it would perch somewhere in the open, it never did. Eventually we both got a few frame so two of it flipping leaves in the meadow. The bird aside, it was great to see my dear friend who kindly drove us from the ferry to Gordon Rd and to meet up fellow island birders who I hadn't seen in a long while.
Whenever the bird disappeared us Brits talked football and Brexit and moaned about the state of the world. Brits are expert moaners, we'll moan about anything, especially the weather. Did I tell you how freaking cold my feet got! 
Anyway, as soon as the thrush re-appeared all the doom and gloom faded away and we were back to twitching. 
It was a day well spent, may there be many more.

To be continued.....

"It's never too late to start twitching
John Gordon
BC Canada


  1. That is some mean twitching. Very jealous.

    Are the pictures that are posted in full resolution or has the resolution been reduced for the online post?

  2. So glad you got it. I was happy I got the chance to get him after getting back from Ecuador all we need in BC now is the Eyebrowed Thrush!

  3. PS Your photo of the DUTH is among the best we have seen. One showed up in OR shortly after ours disappeared good chance it is the same bird.