Image: Kaaren Perry
Two years ago, the local birding community was in awe when a local birder spotted a severely misplaced bird not far from our flagship store in picturesque Pakenham, Ontario. About a 15-minute drive from our Almonte location, local birder Ray Holland first spotted the bird in late November of 2015.
His original thought led him to believe it was a Baltimore Oriole, which still would be quite unusual for the area that time of year but being the avid birder he was, Holland continued to dig.
After spending some time consulting his favourite field guides, he soon came to the realization that what he had spotted was far rarer than he had originally thought. Turns out, the Pakenham birder had spotted a Bullock’s Oriole and he immediately took to the internet to announce his discovery.
It didn’t take long for the birding community to erupt with news of the bird who calls the west coast its home. While some immediately refuted his claim, others clamored and headed for the small town to get a glimpse of a truly amazing discovery.
Given the time of year, the bird was found, it was noticeably having a difficult time surviving and eventually, Holland found the bird on the ground in terrible shape. Suffering from dehydration, weakness, and hypothermia, the bird was surely doomed if It were to remain outdoors for the winter months.
Holland immediately scooped up the helpless bird and brought it to the good folks at the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre.
Fast forward a couple of years and the little Bullock’s Oriole that could, did!
With a few bumps along the way, the western bird was finally nursed back to health and plans began to unfold as to how it could be transported back to its native range. As the word spread of the bird’s remarkable recovery, so too did the offers to help get it back where it belonged. As some even offered to pay for airfare, it was the BC Wildlife Rescue Association and Air Canada that eventually came together to transport the bird home.
Yesterday, Pakenham’s Bullock’s Oriole made her way home on an Air Canada flight destined for Vancouver and has since landed safely.
The bird will reside at the BC Wildlife Rescue Association where it will be acclimated to the weather and will regain its ability to fly inside the facility’s outdoor flight cage.
The unfortunate reality of this story is its ending is rather bittersweet. Last week, 73-year-old Ray Holland – the man who discovered the bird – died of heart failure at the Ottawa Heart Institute before he could see his beloved bird on her way home.
In Honour of Ray’s life donations came be made to the bird centre in his name.