Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cassin's Finch in Atlin!

Well folks it's been a slow winter for unusual sightings in British Columbia (at least on a provincial scale), so I thought I would post this remarkable feeder report from Atlin, British Columbia. This is our first report ever on the blog from Atlin so that's exciting in its own right! Not far from the Yukon border, one would not expect too much diversity at a bird feeder, but as you can see from Cameron Eckert's report below--the finches are putting on a show!

Cameron was following up on a report/photos of a potential Cassin's Finch seen by Hein and Wil de Vries in late January. On Feb 2 he made the drive down from Whitehorse and followed up with this report]

"It was -30C when I left Whitehorse at 7:30am this morning, and 2 hours later rolled into Atlin, just in time for sunrise, where it was a pleasant -24C with a light north wind. It was a stunning blue-sky day with a curtain of ice fog drifting over Atlin Lake which has yet to freeze. Despite the current cold snap, it's been a record-warm winter.

The de Vries' yard was awash in Pine Siskins when I arrived, though the first two birds I spotted were the Cassin's Finch and the American Tree Sparrow. Over the next couple of hours I also tallied 3 Purple Finches, 20 Common Redpolls, 8 Pine Grosbeaks, 1 Downy Woodpecker, 1 adult White-crowned Sparrow, 2 Dark-eyed Juncos, and 6 Common Ravens, as well as a flock of 53 Snow Buntings in the meadow across the street. 

There is only one Yukon winter record for Purple Finch, so I assume that it's similarly rare in winter in Atlin. This is the first record that I know of for Cassin's Finch in Atlin -- thanks to Hein and Wil for getting the word out about these interesting birds.

Cassin's Finch (Photo: C. Eckert). Note the bold streaks in the undertail and relatively straight culmen.
When I dropped by later in the day, the Cassin's Finch was singing a long rambling "subsong" -- fairly easy to pick out from the cacophony of siskins."

--Cameron Eckert

**So, first record for Atlin, and possibly the northern most Canadian record of the species?**