Birdwatchers flocked to North Langley this week, hopeful to catch a glimpse of a hawk “incredibly rare” to the area – one native to South America and the southern U.S.
Dozens and dozens of wild bird enthusiast caught online chatter that local birder Phil Henderson had spotted a white-tailed kite in the Nathan Creek area of Glen Valley last Sunday.
In the subsequent three days, the birding community from throughout the Lower Mainland and northwest Washington State poured into the otherwise remote Langley park area trying to spot the bird seldom seen north of California, explained bird enthusiast Michael Klotz.
“It’s super unusual,” he shared, noting the same bird had reportedly been seen a day or two earlier in the Skagit Valley area.
These are described as non-migratory birds, which year-round reside throughout northern South America and the southwestern part of the U.S. (Texas and California). But individual kites may reportedly move short distances during the non-breeding season.
This particular bird was described as a juvenile. Because of black spots on its tail and mascara-like markings around its eyes, it’s believed this primarily white hawk is about two years old, explained Klotz, who grabbed his gear, jumped in his truck, and headed up to Glen Valley the moment he learned of the sighting.
It’s the nice thing about being the boss when being a birder, said the bridge builder. An alert comes in and he can typically bolt.
He was the third birder to get to the site, around 264th Street and 84th Avenue, early Sunday evening.
“To see this bird was pretty exciting,” he recounted.
Klotz described the first day’s viewing as stunning, noting he was probably 50 feet or so out from its perch in a deciduous tree. He was impressed by the small hawks, its narrow pointed wings and long tail making it look quite “delicate.”
In the hours after the rare bird alert was sounded, he said there were maybe 10 bird enthusiast who came out.
But in the days to follow, that tally likely climbed upwards of 40 or more. And, Koltz noted, with the increased traffic the bird relocated further back – out of normal viewing range – meaning onlookers had to have scopes to even catch a glimpse.
This is only the fifth such sighting of a white-tailed kite in Canada in almost a quarter century. All five sightings in that time have been in B.C., and in fact in the Lower Mainland, Klotz noted, reading off dates in 1990, 1999, 2003, and 2015 when spottings were recorded on the birding website called eBird.
He compared the sighting of this rare bird to his viewing of a Russian whopping swan at Trout Lake last spring and a common crane (also from Russia) seen in Washington State last month. Rare sightings are always high on this Murrayville man’s bucket list.
Admittedly, Klotz is a self-proclaimed birding fanatic. He even has his own blog dedicated to his birdwatching shenanigans, called TheBirdBlogger.com.
He took up the hobby when he was 18, and now at age 52, he and his girlfriend Carli Wyllie travel the world birdwatching. They just returned in March from a birding trip to Thailand.
Through the years, he’s spotted 1,162 birds worldwide – that’s one tenth of the world’s bird species – and close to 400 different species in Canada alone.
Actually his Canadian sightings pushed up to 398 Sunday, with the kite viewing.
“I would say it’s a very good bird for Canada,” Klotz said.
This hawk hasn’t been seen in the region again since Tuesday.
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