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Rare, predatory songbird tops Greater Victoria spring sightings

Uplands Park marks its first recorded barred owl nest with an owlet
A singing male lazuli bunting spotted in Uplands Park this spring. (Photo by Geoffrey Newell)

Migration makes for the most exciting bird watching and this spring was no different in Greater Victoria.

That’s when the rarest of birds tend to appear, and for longtime Oak Bay birder Geoffrey Newell it presented several rare birds and one rare occurrence.

His most exciting was the loggerhead shrike, spotted at Mount Tolmie Park, early in the morning on May 23.

While the species is common in much of the U.S. and other parts of southern Canada, it’s rare in B.C. The May 23 sighting was only the second confirmed for Greater Victoria. The first was in 1995, Newell said.

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“Besides its very rare status, the loggerhead shrike is a particularly special sight for me because shrikes are North America’s only predatory songbirds,” Newell said.

Shrikes impale prey such as rodents and large insects, on thorns to cache their meals for later. They also look good – with a black mask, slate-grey mantle, black and white wing and tail pattern, and hooked bill.

Newell, who leads frequent group bird-watching outings in Uplands Park, also spotted a rare bird there this spring – a singing male lazuli bunting in Uplands Park.

“This bird stayed in the area for several days, feeding on caterpillars in the Garry oaks. Lazuli buntings are common in the interior sections of B.C. but are scarce on the coast and only a few show up each spring on Vancouver Island,” Newell said.

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Uplands also presented a rare occurrence – a recently fledged barred owl owlet. Newell feels this is the first confirmed nesting recorded in the park.

“The little cutie was perched next to the trail and gave me and others curious looks.”

Newell’s next bird walk with the Friends of Uplands Park is Saturday, June 25 at 8 a.m. starting at Cattle Point.

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Longtime Greater Victoria birder Geoffrey Newell is confident a recently fledged barred owlet is the first confirmed nesting recorded in Uplands Park. (Photo by Geoffrey Newell)

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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