A duck pond in mid-Vancouver Island got an international visitor recently.
Nanoose Bay birder and photographer Mike Yip happened upon a common pochard at a pond at Morningstar Golf Club in Parksville in late December.
Turns out the common pochard actually isn’t common at all, at least not in North America – Yip said he thinks his sighting was just the bird species’ second appearance in Canada. Another touched down in Victoria a month earlier.
Yip, who recently self-published a Vancouver Island birding guide, was at the golf course pond looking for warblers and ducks. The common pochard was dabbling amongst other ducks.
“It was a little different from all the ducks there, but when I was able to focus my lens on it, I could see there was a white mark on the bill and that made it different from any bird I had seen,” he said.
He wasn’t sure exactly what he was looking at, so he snapped enough photos to make sure he had some good ones, then did some Googling to confirm that he’d spotted a common pochard. He immediately shared his discovery on the B.C. Rare Bird Alert website, and by the time he returned to the pond, other birders had seen the post and were there getting a glimpse of the visitor. Yip told them it was his Christmas present to them.
“All the other birders that came to see it, it was the first time for them, too, and everyone was quite excited about it,” Yip said.
Eventually a bald eagle stopped by the pond, causing the porchard and the other ducks to fly away, but Yip said local birders should keep an eye out, because the porchard might show up somewhere like Diver Lake or Buttertubs Marsh.
It’s not the first rare bird Yip has come across, as he says he was the first person to see a lesser nighthawk in B.C. when he was aboard a fishing boat off Tofino in search of albatross.
Yip said it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
“That’s what it comes down to,” he said. “Because you can’t predict what you’re going to see.”
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