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The November un-blahs continue: Little Blue Heron

November 12, 2010

I’m not sure if it’s a real phenomenon or whether I’m just sensitized to the number of rare birds being reported in the last two weeks because Russell is doing his Big Year in BC, but it has been quite a November so far.  In my last post I mentioned the Northern Parula and other interesting birds around the Okanagan.  Russell drove down from Haida Gwaii (where he and his friends had found a Chestnut-sided Warbler, Brambling and other unexpected migrant goodies) overnight to see that bird, then was off to Chilliwack to look for the Northern Mockingbird and Philadelphia Vireo (!) at Island 22 (he got the mocker but dipped on the vireo).  Then just as it was getting dark yesterday I got an email from Scott Thomson with some cellphone photos of an intriguing small egret at the mouth of Powers Creek in West Kelowna.

Immature Little Blue Heron, Powers Creek, West Kelowna, 12 November 2010

It was definitely not a Cattle Egret, the normal species seen in late fall in British Columbia (as if any egret is normal here).  The neck was too long, the legs were too long, and it was wading in water up to its belly.  But what egret was it then?  Scott suggested immature Little Blue Heron, which the photos did not discount, but I put that out of my mind because it was so unlikely–there was only one previous record for the province.  Even Snowy seemed highly improbable.  Grasping at straws, I suggested that maybe it was a Great Egret that just “looked” small.

Little Blue Heron in flight, showing dark tips to the primaries and dull yellow-green legs

I phoned Chris Charlesworth of Kelowna about the sighting, so he said he’d try to get there in the morning.  I was still in bed when he called at 7 a.m. and said “Little Blue”.  I was up in a second, breakfast at Tim Horton’s, and on my way north.  I found Thor Manson at the site when I arrived and he pointed out the bird, foraging in shallow water at the creek mouth as Scott had seen it the day before.  It was a classic immature Little Blue Heron: dull yellowish legs, greyish bill with a dark tip, plumage all-white except for the dark tips to the wings.  After taking a few pictures, I noted all the other birds along the lakeshore–big flock of coots, Greater and Lesser Scaups, Redheads, Pied-billed, Horned and Western Grebes, and a Belted Kingfisher.  Nice place to be birding in the morning, with a Little Blue Heron on top of it all!

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