This photo captured what’s believed to be the first-ever sighting of a wood sandpiper on Vancouver Island, in Panama Flats on June 5. (Photo by Geoffrey Newell)

This photo captured what’s believed to be the first-ever sighting of a wood sandpiper on Vancouver Island, in Panama Flats on June 5. (Photo by Geoffrey Newell)

Two separate bird-sightings in Greater Victoria said to be a first on Vancouver Island

Great-tailed grackles seen at Esquimalt Lagoon, wood sandpiper at Panama Flats

Two bird species extremely rare to B.C. have been spotted in Greater Victoria in the last two days.

A few female great-tailed grackles were seen foraging along the Esquimalt Lagoon on Sunday, while a wood sandpiper was observed in Panama Flats early Monday morning.

The great-tailed grackle is usually found in the southern U.S. and Mexico and has only been sighted in B.C. six times before, according to B.C. Rare Bird Alert. Ann Nightingale of Rocky Point Bird Observatory said she believes this is the first time the bird has ever been sighted on Vancouver Island.

Three female great-tailed grackles were spotted at the Esquimalt Lagoon June 4 in what’s thought to be a first on Vancouver Island. (Credit: Vicky Capitano)

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Normally, she said, the birds travel in flocks of hundreds to thousands, so to see a few by themselves is odd. Nightingale doesn’t know why they would be so far off track, but said people in the birding community are wondering whether the hot weather could have something to do with it. In recent years, great-tailed grackles have been moving northward, with some now regulars around San Francisco, she added.

The wood sandpiper is even further from home. Usually, the brown-and-white birds breed in Europe before migrating to Africa, Asia and Australia. They’ve only been spotted in B.C. twice before, according to B.C. Rare Bird Alert, and Nightingale believes they are also a first on Vancouver Island.

It’s unclear why the two bird species are here, Nightingale said, but Esquimalt Lagoon and Panama Flats are key spots for rarities to show up.

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