A Gray-tailed Tattler (GTTA) was found by Joachim Bertrands and Christian Kelly on June 23rd at Minette Bay. This was Canada's first record. A news story on the bird from CBC news can be found here. A CBC Radio interview with my friend Walter Thorne about the GTTA can be found here.

You may remember how I missed this rare bird by 20 mins in Nome. A painful memory, as not only did I miss him but also a Ross's and Ivory Gull all in the same area. So it was a lifer I really wanted to get. I got the Ivory Gull recently therefore I am just waiting now for the Ross's Gull....

Anyways I decided to get up there on Friday even though it was a long long way from Vancouver. It is beautiful country up there and I looked forward to get back there. 
I arrived and went straight to the spit at Minette Bay and walked out. I met Mark Phinney from Dawson Creek who was there and had been waiting for 8 hours before it showed up. I also met up with local Kitimat birder Walter Thorne. 

The bird was there when I arrived at high tide and was walking on the log booms. It would stick only to the gray logs (which it blended in with) and would bob its tail up and down like a Spotted Sandpiper does. The bird would go in between the logs to duck out of the unrelenting wind and would disappear for up to 30 mins at a time. It looks very different from a Wandering Tattler (WATA). It had white flanks and underbelly, unlike the barred ones of a WATA. It also had a broad white supercilium that not only extended behind the eye but also to the base of the bill which isn't the case in WATA. 

Check out this awesome website if you want to learn more about the differences between these two species HERE.

The wind was howling and bitterly cold. I'm so glad I dressed warm and prepared for the weather. I was so thrilled to get this lifer. It was BC Bird #437 for me as well.  

These birds are declining rapidly and true mega rare vagrants to North America (outside of AK). They breed in Siberia and winter in Asia and Australia. Earlier that same day Jeff Dyck and David Bell had seen a beautiful wolf there but sadly I did not see him!. I did get to see a Grizzly and several Black Bears though!.

Gray-tailed Tattler in Kitimat, BC - Photos: Melissa Hafting

The tide was very high and I stayed till dark with Mark, local birder April McLeod, Quebec birder Pierre Bergeron and Teresa and Diane Weissmiller from Prince Rupert but the tide never went out. I watched it walk the log-booms up and down and Mark and I shared many laughs. Mark is such a great guy. He made us all wonder how long this bird has been there... was it 2 days or 3 weeks?. We watched some great birds including Marbled Murrelets, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, Veery, Varied Thrush and more. 

High tide at Minette Bay looking at the Tattler from the spit - Cell phone photo: Melissa Hafting

I spent the night at my friend's Walter Thorne's house in Kitimat and he was telling me about all the local Grizzly Bear encounters he's had. It was fascinating to hear... he's one brave guy!. He also said he would take me out next time to go looking for Kermode Bears (another dream of mine). He has really been advocating for the wildlife and environment there. Unfortunately the pipeline and the LNG plant there have caused lots of environmental disturbance and clear cutting. It was really sad to see how some of the marine and terrestrial habitats had been destroyed and hear about all the environmental damage occurring in this beautiful estuary.

The next morning Walter and his lovely wife Susan cooked me a delicious breakfast and we went out to look again for the Tattler. There we met up with Nancy Krueger from Prince George and Tom Plath from Vancouver and Michael Shepard from Victoria. Sadly the bird never showed up the whole time we searched. We were there for the high tide and when I left it was the lowest tide with tons of exposed mudflats and we couldn't find him. We searched extremely hard too. The bird was not seen again at the evening high tide and sadly has not been seen since to this disappointment of many who sought to see him.

Weather was nice for my entire visit, cloudy and very windy and only the occasional drizzle. 
A lovely whirlwind trip to the beautiful Kitimat estuary.

Record shots showing the diagnostic features of a GTTA in Kitimat - Photos: Melissa Hafting


  1. So happy you found the bird! What beautiful photos you got!

    1. thanks im so glad i went when i did! i was lucky. it isn't often i still get lifers in north america so all the more special.

  2. You tell a terrific tale of twitching a tattler near terrace. Its a tribute to your tenacity

    1. haha thanks ken that means a lot. you can't let distance stop you when the bird is that good or maybe i'm just nuts or a combo of both ;)


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