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‘The weirdest bird I’ve ever seen’: Sighting of flamboyant duck brightens birders’ January

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When Christopher Deane first caught a glimpse of the mandarin duck in the Lower Mainland, he knew it wasn’t from around here.

“I thought that’s the weirdest bird I’ve ever seen,” the hobby birder told CBC News. “It looks like a parade float! They just don’t look like a normal bird. They’re all fancy and frilly!”

The mandarin duck is native to East Asia, but has made appearances in the Lower Mainland. Dean spotted one in Stanley Park last year, and in Burnaby just a few days ago.

In fact, recent sightings in Deer Lake Park have prompted dozens of wildlife and nature photographers to crowd the lake in hopes of catching a glimpse.

Colourful critters

Male mandarin ducks are known for their intensely colourful plumage, which includes a purple crest and two large orange “sails” at their rear.

Avid birder and professional photographer John Priessl was one of the first to spot the bird in the Burnaby park, Dec. 28, 2018, while he was leading a wildlife tour.

Birders and photographers crowded the boardward along Deer Lake attempting to catch a glimpse of the colourful bird. (John Preissl)

“We stumbled upon it just by accident,” he told CBC News. “We decided it was a good place for a lot of photographers and people from the birding community to view the duck, where it was.”

Dozens of people lined the boardwalk near the northern end of Deer Lake park following the initial sighting. Priessl says the duck only makes itself visible a couple of times per day.

The mandarin duck has colourful plumage, including a purple crest and two large orange feathers on its back. (John Preissl)

Unfortunately, Priessl says, several people attempted to lure the bird out by giving it food.

“That’s a big no-no in the wildlife photography world,” said Priessl. He warns food can be harmful to its health and even attract it into areas where there are predators.

Where did it come from?

According to Georgle Clulow, former president of the B.C. Field Ornithologists, this particular bird was likely the same one spotted last year in Burnaby Lake Park, when it was a juvenile.

George Clulow says the mandarin duck is native to parts of East Asia that have similar climates to the Lower Mainland. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

“This is almost certainly a bird that’s been released, probably initially at Burnaby Lake,” said Clulow. “As the years progressed, this bird has moulted into a beautiful, male mandarin duck. It’s such a beautiful bird, it’s attracting a lot of attention.”

Mandarin ducks are typically found in Japan and in eastern parts of Russia and China. Clulow says its native climate is similar to that of the Lower Mainland, enabling the bird to live comfortably in local parks.

He says the bird is closely related to the North American wood duck and is likely looking for a mate.

“There are known hybrids between mandarin ducks and wood ducks, but for the most part … they’re not fertile. So there won’t be a breeding population of hybrids.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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