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#ABArare – Citrine Wagtail – British Columbia – UPDATE (Dec 1)

[Updates at bottom of post.]

Before I write an #ABArare post, I like to have solid directions, a photo, etc., but I’m making an exception for this one because of the species involved. Citrine Wagtail (Code 5) has been documented just once in the ABA Area, and it is one of the great head-scratchers of all time. One was at Starkville, MS Jan 31-Feb 1, 1992 — not a place one expects to find a vagrant of that magnitude.

ABArare Citrine Wagtailphoto by Jeremy Gatten

The current report comes from Vancouver Island at Comox, BC. It was first found on Nov 14 by David and Adele Routledge and thought to be possibly a Yellow Wagtail. Speculation then shifted to White Wagtail, but then photographs established the identification as Citrine Wagtail.

Check the BC Rare Bird Alert blog for more information and directions (which at this time aren’t completely clear). Please note that the bird is on private land. Permission has been granted to bird on the private road where the bird was found, but not on the land to the left of the road. We will also update this post as information and photos become available.

UPDATE: The wagtail was refound on Nov 18. Here is updated directions from the BC Rare Bird Alert blog: “Direction to the site are as follows: From Courtenay, cross the bridge heading east out of town and turn right. Continue towards Comox approximately 500m to the second dirt track on the left. Park here and walk up the track towards the the steel cable blocking vehicle access (~100m). The bird is being seen past this barrier on the left. Please note that this is private land and for those visiting this property, permission has been granted to walk down the farm road but NOT to enter the property on the left side of the road. Please be considerate and respectful.

UPDATE 2 (Nov 20): The wagtail was reported on both Nov 19 and Nov 20. More photos and a sound recording can be found at Jeremy Gatten’s excellent blog post. I created a map of the wagtail’s location, which is available here. And below is a photo of the site from the roadside parking location that I took on Nov 19. I would’ve taken a photo of the spot to park at too, but there was too much traffic (due to the morning rush hour and nearby road construction) to safely get a decent photo. [I like photos of where a bird is being seen because I find a location never looks like the way I picture it before I get there. Photos help me find the correct site.]

Wagtail site_0729
Looking towards the wagtail’s location from the roadside. Walk down this road to the trees. There’s a cable gate there. Step over the gate and continue on to the next field. The wagtail has been in the area around the puddles just beyond the gate and trees and also around the large brushpile further down the road. Stay on this road. The land to the left is off-limits.

UPDATE 3 (Nov 23): The wagtail is still there as of the morning of Nov 23. For those of you considering going for this bird (and you should if you’re into that kind of thing — this is a pretty major and unexpected occurrence), Jeremy Gatten has a blog post with comprehensive directions on how to get to Vancouver Island and Comox here. Due to the consistency of where it has been appearing on a daily basis, this bird is perhaps the most accurately Google-mapped vagrant of all time!

UPDATE 4 (Dec 1): After a three-day absence, the wagtail was found again on Dec 1 by Dave Ingram. Multiple observers saw it from 10:30 to 11:30 AM around the brush piles and nearby hedgerow. If you go, be aware that the road is flooded, so bring waterproof knee boots.

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John Puschock

John Puschock

John Puschock reports ABA rare bird alerts and manages #ABArare for the American Birding Association. John is a frequent participant in rare bird forums around the web and has knack for gathering details necessary to relocate birds. He has been a birder since 1984 and now leads tours for Bird Treks, as well as for his own company Zugunruhe Birding Tours. He has led tours to locations across North America, from Newfoundland to New Mexico and from Costa Rica to Alaska. He specializes in leading tours to Adak in the Aleutian Islands.
  • Today, SUNDAY, Dec 2nd and the sun has returned. Time to go back and check for the wagtail. Photo quality today should be excellent! The last few days were dark as sin and rainy. This is my usual birding area mostly along the shoreline of Dyke Road hunting sea bird images. Blog is PhotoTonyG.blogspot.c..

  • Still there as of December 20! Road is not as flooded but rubber boots definitely recommended.

  • Larry Dea

    This bird was seen yesterday 13/03/25/09:30) at the above location. It is acquiring a yellow wash to its belly/breast. Access is restricted now by a gate, making a scope necessary.
    and good birding.
    Larry Dea
    North Vancouver

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