British Columbia: Birding for the Varied Thrush in Stanley Park’s forest

I’m just back in the UK after an excellent day’s birding with a friend
and colleague, Simon Tickle, in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, a 1000 acre
‘urban oasis’ made up of (primarily second and third growth)
Douglas-fir, Western Red cedar, Western Hemlock, and Sitka Spruce
trees. An 8.8 kilometre (5.5 mile) seawall path circles the park, and
the Lost Lagoon – a 41 acre body of water, west of Georgia Street
(near the Georgia Street entrance to the park) – is renowned for
wintering wildfowl and gulls.

We saw a really good variety of species (Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Golden and Bald Eagles, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Fox Sparrow, Golden-crowned Kinglet for example), and – almost as we headed back to the hotel after about seven hours of rewarding birding – one of my favourite birds in the world: the gorgeous Varied Thrush Ixoreus naevius Go here to see photos:

Stanley Park used to be the one site I could almost guarantee finding
a wintering Varied Thrush, but since about 2004 I’ve struggled to find
one. We’d just about given up seeing one this time too when Simon
spotted this superb male just before it dived into cover near the
bridge that goes over the western neck of the Lost Lagoon.

A few anxious minutes passed as we hoped the steady stream of joggers and
weekend walkers wouldn’t spook the thrush into even deeper cover when it suddenly popped up, posed in the sunlight for a few precious seconds, then hopped straight towards me before grabbing an item of food and disappearing again not to be seen again…

Birding is often made up of brief moments of great excitement between long periods of  (relatively) quiet spells – but it’s the great excitements that you
remember, and I’m not going to be forgetting this stunning encounter  for many years. What a fantastic bird!

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