Rare warbler sighting thrills birders and photographers in Abbotsford

Locals believe it's the first recorded sighting of a Cape May warbler in the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland.

Locals believe it's the 1st recorded sighting of a Cape May warbler in the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland

Bird photographer Nick Balachanoff captured a number of photos of the Cape May warbler that was spotted in Abbotsford's Mill Lake Park. (Nick Balachanoff)

It should be wintering somewhere in the West Indies with its bird brothers and bird sisters.

But instead of spending time in Turks and Caicos or Barbados, a tiny yellow Cape May warbler has somehow ended up in Abbotsford, B.C.

"We don't see this here," said bird photographer Nick Balachanoff. "To my understanding, it's the first identified Cape May warbler in the Lower Mainland or Fraser Valley."

The Cape May was spotted a few days ago by birder Neal Doan in Mill Lake Park. Doan put out the word to the local birding community, alerting Balachanoff, who was able to capture a number of beautiful photos.

Cape May warblers usually spend their winters in the West Indies. This is the first recorded sighting of one in the Lower Mainland or Fraser Valley. (Nick Balachanoff)

Although other warbler species are common in the area, no one knows how this particular bird wound up in Abbotsford.

Cape May warblers do range as far west as Alberta and northeastern B.C. during the summer. A few have been spotted in the Okanagan, but normally they fly south for the winter. 

The little yellow bird has been feeding on mahonia bush nectar and chasing the resident Anna's hummingbirds away. (Nick Balachanoff)

Balachanoff​ says the bird has been feeding on the nectar of the winter flowering mahonia bushes while chasing away the resident Anna's hummingbirds. His photos even show a ring of pollen and nectar that's built up around the little bird's beak. 

"I count myself fortunate to get those photos," he said. "It's just a great little thing, especially against the dullness of January."

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