Avid birdwatcher Jody Wells stopped at the Summit Park reservoir on Saturday morning to take some photos of redhead ducks, a bird that’s not very common in Victoria.
Three of the ducks had been spotted there and he had just enough time in between appointments to snap some photos.
Wells got out his binoculars and looked into them. Then he noticed something odd.
“I saw [what looked like] a fourth redhead and it was diving with some ring-necked ducks, coming up really briefly,” Wells said. “I didn’t get a good look at it.”
And Wells didn’t have time to investigate, so he shot a few photos and off he went. It wasn’t until later, when he took a closer look, that Wells realized what he’d encountered.
“I was able to see on the back of my camera when I took the time to just have brief look, that it wasn’t a redhead,” he recalled, smiling. “And the adrenaline started to flow.”
He’d captured an image of a common pochard, a duck that’s extremely rare to see in B.C.. This is the first recorded sighting of the bird in B.C. and it could be the first for the country as well if accepted by the records committee. The bird was initially unknowingly photographed on Nov. 8 by Les Peterson.
“This is a bird that you would normally find in Asia and Europe,” said Ann Nightingale, director of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory. “This time of year though, they migrate out to the coast of Asia, the east coast of Asia, which puts them a little closer to the west coast of Canada, which is probably how this bird ended up here.”
A bird like this that’s not common in North America typically draws large crowds of birdwatchers and enthusiasts, but with border closures, many haven’t been able to make it out.
“If there were not the COVID restrictions there are, I guarantee there would be dozens, if not hundreds, of people coming up from the U.S. to try and see this bird,” Nightingale said, adding that birders keep a list of birds they’ve seen in their life, and this is one that many want to add to it.
Although international birders may not be able to get a glimpse of the bird, the common pochard has drawn crowds of local birdwatchers.