Apr 29, 2014 - 9:26 PM EDT
Last Updated: Apr 30, 2014 - 9:40 AM EDT
There was a buzz in the local birding community Tuesday after reports of an extremely rare sighting of a species normally seen west of here.
Two Smith’s Longspurs were first spotted at around 10:30 a.m. in the Pelee Birding Area, a field next to Hillman Marsh on Mersea Road 21.
“(It) is a bird that spends the winter out on the prairies, sort of Oklahoma, that part of the Midwest, and then it goes up to the treeline in the Arctic to breed, but it comes down through the Prairie provinces down to the states and rarely shows up this far east,” said Paul Pratt, naturalist at the Ojibway Nature Centre.
Three birders reported seeing the pair to Pratt, who has seen the species around Hudson Bay and the Yukon. He was waiting to hear of more spottings later in the day to see if it was worth driving to Leamington.
According to the National Audobon Society, the Smith’s Longspur is a sparrow-sized bird with distinctive buff-coloured marking that winters in the plains territory from Nebraska south to Texas, and congregates en Masse in Illinois before migrating north to the treeline in Canada.
If the birds are spotted here repeatedly over a period of time, they could attract birders from further afield, Pratt said.
“Despite thousands of birders birding Pelee every year for a hundred years or more, they’ve never had one before in the county here,” said Pratt.
“I’m sure there’s lots of people out looking for it. If they stick around, they’d definitely draw some people. There’s nothing like a few rare birds turning up to get a lot of people thinking about coming down to Pelee for a weekend, or a quick trip.”