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Birdwatchers flock to rare dove sighting

This marks the first time a Eurasian Collared Dove has been spotted in Newfoundland and Labrador. The sighting prompted birdwatchers from across the province, including from St. John’s, to rush to Port aux Basques to snap a photograph – Courtesy of Yvonne Lane

By Ryan King

Community News Reporter

GRAND BAY WEST – Bird Watchers on the island were excited to hear that a Eurasian Collared Dove had made its way to the shores of Newfoundland. This marks the first time the bird has been officially spotted on the island.

The dove has dark-tipped wings, long white-tipped tail feathers, a grey plump body, and a unique black half-collar on its nape from which it gets its moniker. The bird is not a native species to North America, but after it was introduced in the Bahamas in the ‘70s, it quickly spread, with reported sightings across Canada in all provinces except Nunavut and – until now – Newfoundland and Labrador.

The bird was first spotted in Port aux Basques by Yvonne Lane on her Smallwood Drive property.

“I was in the kitchen washing dishes and looked out and saw it in the garden,” shared Lane. “I knew it was a different bird than I had seen in the yard before, so I got my camera and took a few more shots of it. I originally thought it was a ring neck turtle dove.”

The excitement over the bird grew rapidly once Lane’s neighbour, Colin Osmond, also spotted it a week later and posted pictures in an online birdwatchers group. Osmond soon received messages and calls from all over the province. The bird was subsequently identified as a Eurasian Collared Dove.

Osmond said that he knew the bird was unusual given its colour and size, and his father who worked with the provincial parks, hadn’t seen anything like it.

“It wasn’t until my wife mentioned to post it to the NL bird watching group to see if someone there knew what it was. It didn’t take long – minutes actually – before someone from St. John’s called my house and said what it was, and asked if it was okay if he came to my property to take some pictures of it as this was a very rare sighting,” said Osmond. “I then called my neighbour, the Lanes, and let her know that if she saw someone in her yard not to be alarmed as it was a man who traveled from St. John’s to see this bird that was in her backyard.”

The excitement over the rare dove was a pleasant surprise for Lane.

“It was easy to get caught up in the excitement. I only recently started birdwatching, but to see the enthusiasm and interest in this dove was remarkable. People traveled from the East coast just to take pictures of it,” said Lane.

Osmond was also impressed with the attention surrounding the town’s feathery guest. At one point his driveway and the entire road looked like a drive-in theatre, given the number of cars and people.

“I was shocked to hear someone say that they were coming from St. John’s to see this bird, and I kind of said I would believe it when I saw it. I’m glad I didn’t bet any money on it because the guy was here the next morning,” said Osmond. “And that’s when the messages really started to pour in from people asking if the bird was still here, and asking if they could come here to take a picture of it. I must have called my neighbour 15-20 times that day letting her know about the people asking and that were coming to see this bird.”

Alvan Buckley, a noted Newfoundland contributor to the birdwatching site eBird, also confirmed the sighting.

“It was an expected addition to the province’s bird list as they’ve been expanding across the continent over recent decades. I think we are the last province to get one.”

It may not be just one dove that is visiting the province. Lane shared that, although he did not get a photo of two together, there were two doves that were spotted in different locations at the same time.

“Since then, myself and Colin are pretty sure there are two of them. Slight variations between them. Colin has seen two together up until three weeks ago,” said Lane.

As of late last week, at least one of the doves is still visiting the Lane property.

“I saw him lunchtime today,” confirmed Lane. “He visits my backyard several times a day. I have a feeder there and I also put our special treats for them. He really likes black sunflower seeds, oranges and cut up grapes, as well as dried corn.”

Lane’s backyard attracts a considerable variety of birds, and watching them, including the dove, has helped her find a new passion.

“Birdwatching brings me so much enjoyment and I feel a sense of calm when watching them,” said Lane. “I often put plain in-shell peanuts on the rail of the patio and sit back with my tea and watch the birds come take them. Even the dove visits the rail at times and will look in the window inquisitively!”

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