The bird is the word: Exceptional find sets birder on 10-hour drive to Labrador
The endangered yellow-breasted bunting is a star attraction from Russia
A singular opportunity to see an incredibly rare bird prompted Ken Knowles to drive 10 hours on Tuesday.
Knowles has been an avid birder for years but the bird he wanted to see was in Forteau on the southeast coast of Labrador — and he lives in Middle Cove, on the southeast portion of Newfoundland.
The star attraction that prompted the thousand-kilometre drive is a yellow-breasted bunting, which Knowles' friend Vernon Buckle spotted at his bird feeder .
"Its home is in Asia. It's a bird of, basically, Siberia … northern Russia and it makes it into parts of Europe like Finland," said Knowles.
This particular variety, which looks like a large sparrow with a yellow breast, is also on the endangered species list.
'Within five minutes of getting there, the rare bird showed up' - Ken Knowles
When Knowles heard of the find, he decided it was something he just had to see for himself.
"My wife was good enough to humour me and come along. Unfortunately, it's a terribly long drive, as you know," said Knowles. "It's close to a thousand kilometres just to get to the ferry to Labrador,"
An overnight motel stop near the ferry terminal, a two-hour ferry ride and another 20-minute drive finally found Knowles and his wife at his friends' home.
Fortunately, the bird co-operated.
"Within five minutes of getting there, the rare bird showed up at the feeder. It was almost too easy in that regard after the long struggle to get there," Knowles laughed.
According to Knowles, the bird would normally be migrating south to southern Asia at this time of year.
"You can see how off-course and how off the wall it is for a bird like that to end up in Forteau, Labrador. It's certainly the first time it's been spotted in eastern North America," Knowles said.
He added that no one can figure out how or why the bird got so far off track.
with files from David Newell