More than 100 birders have flocked to Bark Lake over the past week to catch a glimpse of a rare visitor from British Columbia.

Enthusiasts from far and wide are travelling to the Bark Lake Leadership and Conference Centre to see the Varied Thrush, a yellow bird native to the pacific coast. But the species has rarely been known to migrate farther east.

Program manager Joe Fortin said staff discovered the bird at the centre Dec. 10 before announcing their doors would be open to the public for sightings Dec. 12. People have visited every day since, coming from as far as Montreal.

“They are having a blast,” Fortin said. “This is amazing. This is a community. These folks who are passionate about wildlife who want to share and have an opportunity to experience.”

Felix Eckley made the trip with his father from Toronto. The birder said they got up early and stopped by multiple times to get their sighting.

“Since we live in Toronto, it was really far for us to regularly go (to British Columbia),” Eckley said. “We saw how great a bird it was. Beautiful bird and actually to be able to go and see it was amazing.”

The thrush has also been subjected to a barrage of cameras as visitors have tried to capture the rare specimen. Ishrani, who requested her last name be withheld, is a photographer who came from Scarborough to see it.

“I’ve never experienced this bird, so it’s a new experience,” she said. “Life is about creating new experiences.”

Fortin said field naturalists suspect the bird is male and over a year old based on its plumage. It is not skittish and has challenged others for feeder food.

“This guy here will chase the blue jays around and sort of hunker down, run at them,” Fortin said. “It’s fun to watch.”

It is uncertain how long it will stick around Bark Lake but Fortin said he hopes it could remain there for the whole winter.

“Selfishly, I want to know he’s okay. This guy came all the way here to Haliburton, all the way here to the highlands,” Fortin said. “I want him to have a good time.”

But ultimately, Fortin said the visitor will make the best decisions for itself.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity,” Fortin said. “It’s always incredible the critters you can find up in Haliburton.”


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