'A really, really significant sighting': Vancouver Island birdwatchers aflutter over unusual arrival

It's believed the pine bunting has never been seen south of Alaska — until this week.

Sighting of pine bunting believed to be first time bird spotted south of Alaska

The bird was first found on the grass at the south end of Uplands Park along Beach Drive (where Beach Drive bisects Uplands Park). (Maury Swoveland/BC Rare Bird Alert)

The B.C. birding community — in fact, the North American birding community — is aflutter over a sighting so rare it's sending birders flocking to Vancouver Island. 

As birder and Rocky Point Bird Observatory volunteer Ann Nightingale puts it: "On a scale of 1 to 10, this is like a 100."

The cause of all the excitement is the rare sighting of a pine bunting.

The bird, which is native to temperate regions across Asia, was spotted in Uplands Park in Oak Bay in the Greater Victoria area. It's thought to be the first sighting in B.C.

It also marks the first time the bird has been spotted south of Alaska, Nightingale said.

Delay in identification 

Nightingale says the bird was spotted on Monday afternoon but wasn't properly identified until a day later. 

"An Oak Bay birder, who is fairly new at this, but is getting out a lot and getting lots of pictures posted a picture of a bird that he thought was a Lapland longspur [a bird regularly found in Victoria]," she said. 

Nightingale said when Blair Dudeck, also with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, took a look at the photograph, he realized it wasn't a Lapland longspur. 

Listen to the interview with Ann Nightingale on All Points West:

"This is really, really significant sighting therefore people are going to go above and beyond to try and see this bird," says Rocky Point Bird Observatory volunteer Ann Nightingale. 5:20

Dudeck sent the photo to the American Birding Association's Facebook page, which identified the bird as a pine bunting.

"We [got] the world involved in identifying this bird," she said. 

Unfortunately for keen birders, the delay in identification meant a delay for birders to actively look for the bird again.

"It hasn't been found again yet. They're still looking."

Keen birders could be flying in 

And Nightingale said birders will definitely be on the lookout for some time.

She says there are already plenty of people combing through Uplands Park looking for the tiny visitor. 

"Already, people have come from Vancouver and had it been seen again today, I guarantee you that there would be people flying in from all over North America tomorrow," she said. 

In previous years, she said birders from Florida, New England, and Texas all flew in to see a redwing, which showed up in the Strawberry Vale area of Saanich. It was the same when a citrine wagtail appeared in the Comox area.

"This is really, really significant sighting therefore people are going to go above and beyond to try and see this bird,"  Nightingale said.

The pine bunting, which has brown and white plumage, can grow up to 17.5 centimetres. 

With files from All Points West