Birders have been descending on Boundary Bay Regional Park this last week in the hope of catching sight of a rare Yellow-breasted Chat. This large warbler has a loud, chattering call, interspersed with whistles and other odd notes, and is more often heard than seen. Its occurrence in Boundary Bay park is most unusual, as this is a bird of the dry Interior, usually only encountered in the South Okanagan in BC. While it is quite common in suitable habitat in the USA, in BC it is listed as “endangered” and is at the northernmost limit of its range. The fact that this bird has been heard or seen on consecutive days for over a week in suitable breeding habitat (rose bushes, hardhack and other dense shrubs near a small stream) is raising hopes that it might stay around for a while. The best way to observe it is to listen for the distinctive loud call and then sit quietly and wait. It sometimes emerges from the shrubs to sing in the open, where its bright yellow breast and white facial markings can be clearly seen. On at least one occasion birders observed it singing in a display flight.
The Boundary Bay area is renowned for unusual bird sightings and the chat is just the latest observation in a long list of migrants and strays. The complete bird list for the Boundary Bay watershed includes over 330 species. My website has an annotated list based on the decades-long records of local birders. Additions are always welcome.