Birding the Okanagan – May 28-29, 2021

May 28 – I met up with my client this morning at 8 AM and we explored an area of riparian habitat, hoping to find a Western Screech-Owl. Our efforts were rewarded with excellent views of a roosting bird, the first owl of our tour. Next, we headed up Hwy 33, east of Kelowna to search for a few tough to find forest birds. We searched a burned area, hoping to see a Black-backed Woodpecker. We did not see one, though we did hear one call several times. Another of our targets, Northern Pygmy-Owl did show itself, rather briefly, however. Other forest birds noted here included Canada Jay, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Cassin’s Vireo, and MacGillivray’s Warbler.

We then crossed the bridge and made our way over to Rose Valley for some late morning birding. It was very active with birds here, despite quite a strong wind. Some of the more noteworthy birds we encountered included Rufous and Calliope hummingbirds, Red-naped Sapsucker, Dusky Flycatcher, White-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches, Western Bluebird, Veery, Wilson’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak and Lazuli Bunting!

We took a ‘siesta’ for a few hours in the afternoon and we met once again after dinner. We spent half an hour or so checking out Robert Lake and Alki Lake. Highlights included nesting Black-necked Stilts, a number of Wilson’s Phalarope and at Alki Lake, a few American Avocets. The usual waterfowl were present including Ruddy Ducks, Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal, Redhead and Bufflehead, as well as close to 2 dozen Eared Grebes.

We headed up Beaver Lake Road, east of Lake Country, enjoying some early evening birding in the grasslands, where there were Western Meadowlarks, Lazuli Buntings, Vesper Sparrows and more. Once we entered the forest more birds were there, this time including a drumming Ruffed Grouse, singing Swainson’s, Hermit and Varied thrushes, Cassin’s Finch, Townsend’s Warbler and others. We tried some owling, once the sun went down, and we heard a calling Northern Saw-whet Owl.

May 29 – Along White Lake Road, near OK Falls, we began with a nice view of Lewis’s Woodpecker, as well as a Gray Flycatcher in the Ponderosa Pine trees. White Lake itself had a few ducks, including Blue-winged and Cinnamon teals, Northern Shoveler and Ruddy Duck. Along the shore were Wilson’s Phalarope, Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper. We had a single Sage Thrasher singing from the top of a sagebush in the distance. Along nearby Twin Lakes Road we had views of Clay-colored Sparrow and a Brewer’s Sparrow, as well as a male Black-chinned Hummingbird, both Western and Mountain bluebirds, Western Kingbird and Bullock’s Oriole. A Yellow-breasted Chat was heard, but not seen.

In the mountains east of Okanagan Falls we watched a Williamson’s Sapsucker pair tending to their nest in a tall larch tree. Venner Meadows was productive and we saw Dusky Flycatcher, Wilson’s Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Lincoln’s Sparrow here. In a wooded gully we had a pair of Barred Owls as well as Pacific Wren and Townsend’s Warbler.

The lower reaches of McKinney Road yielded another male Black-chinned Hummingbird, though this one provided excellent views. Also new, a Lark Sparrow showed nicely in the sagebrush and pine trees.

Exploration of a section of riparian habitat along the Okanagan River near Oliver produced a Yellow-breasted Chat, as well as Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow Warbler and Lazuli Bunting.

The cliffs at Vaseux Lake yielded both Canyon Wren and Rock Wren, as well as over a dozen White-throated Swifts. A Cooper’s Hawk circled over the cliffs as well, our first for the tour.

After dark we explored an area of forest where we heard several, and saw one Flammulated Owl. Also, we heard up to four Common Poorwills here as well. Our two full days of birding had come to an end. We had tallied, between the two of us, over 130 species of birds!

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Ruffed Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Eared Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Common Poorwill; White-throated Swift; Black-chinned Hummingbird; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; American Coot; Black-necked Stilt; American Avocet; Killdeer; Wilson’s Snipe; Spotted Sandpiper; Wilson’s Phalarope; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Flammulated Owl; Western Screech-Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Burrowing Owl; Northern Saw-whet Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Black-backed Woodpecker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Western Wood-Pewee; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Gray Flycatcher; Dusky Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Canada Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Rock Wren; Canyon Wren; House Wren; Pacific Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Veery; Swainson’s Thrush; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; Varied Thrush; Gray Catbird; Sage Thrasher; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Clay-colored Sparrow; Brewer’s Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-breasted Chat; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Northern Waterthrush; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; MacGillivray’s Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Wilson’s Warbler; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.

Chris Charlesworth

Kelowna to Kamloops, BC – June 5, 2021

I met up with my four local friends and clients in West Kelowna early this morning. We drove up over the Connector towards Kamloops, stopping in at Laurie Guichon Memorial Grasslands Interpretive Site, near Merritt. It was very birdy here, as usual. Highlights included Least, Dusky and Willow flycatchers, Western Wood-Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, MacGillivray’s, Yellow, and Orange-crowned warblers, House Wren, Marsh Wren, and Clay-colored Sparrow. There were a few ducks on the pond here as well, such as Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Duck. An Osprey was sitting watching over pond, near a nest.

We carried on towards Kamloops, stopping in at Merritt to get some coffee. Around Lac Le Jeune we explored some higher elevation forest areas, where we found birds like Mountain Chickadee, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Swainson’s Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglet, to name just a few species. A cow and calf Moose out in a meadow made for a great sighting, and were our 3rd and 4th Moose of the day, as we’d seen two from the Connector on our drive.

The next couple of hours were spent exploring Goose Lake Road, where we tallied close to 80 species this morning! Lakes and ponds had a variety of waterfowl that included Blue-winged, Green-winged and Cinnamon teal, Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Bufflehead and Barrow’s Goldeneye. At Goose Lake we were happy to watch a pair of Horned Grebes tending to their nest. We heard, but did not see, both Sora and Virginia Rails in wetland areas, as well as Wilson’s Snipe, Yellow-headed Blackbird and Common Yellowthroat. Flycatchers were also well represented, and we enjoyed views of Hammond’s and Pacific-slope flycatchers, and we heard at least two more Least Flycatchers. A Say’s Phoebe was another nice addition to the list. We spotted a Western Wood-Pewees nest here as well. Two Olive-sided Flycatchers showed nicely near Goose Lake, and were my first of the year. Raptors included Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, and Swainson’s and Red-tailed hawks. One of the better sightings for the area was of a male Black-headed Grosbeak. The bird was singing and was seen in flight across the road.

At Separation Lake, we were surprised to see a pair of adult Semipalmated Plovers. We wondered if they were early southbound migrants or late northbound migrants. Otherwise, we saw the usual species here, including loads of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a few Eared Grebes, Northern Harrier, Swainson’s Hawk, and at least 50 Bank Swallows!

Closer to Kamloops we searched for a locally rare Brewer’s Sparrow on a hillside in Aberdeen. There were plenty of sparrows here, including Chipping, Clay-colored, Vesper, Song and Lincoln’s. We heard the Brewer’s Sparrow quite well, though it just flitted through the sagebrush and didn’t offer up great views.

In the Rose Hill area we continued our explorations, and we did find a couple of interesting birds. The first was a Short-eared Owl sitting on a distant fence post. The second was at least 3 Horned Larks singing and chasing one another around at the top of a rocky hill. All in all, we had a really enjoyable day of birding together, and we tallied 102 species as a group!

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Eared Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; Sora; American Coot; Killdeer; Semipalmated Plover; Wilson’s Snipe; Spotted Sandpiper; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Short-eared Owl; Red-naped Sapsucker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Olive-sided Flycatcher; Western Wood-Pewee; Willow Flycatcher; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Dusky Flycatcher; Pacific-slope Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; House Wren; Marsh Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Swainson’s Thrush; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Chipping Sparrow; Clay-colored Sparrow; Brewer’s Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; MacGillivray’s Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.

Photos: All by Chris Charlesworth. In order they appear: Osprey, Moose, Blue-winged Teal, Swainson’s Hawk.

Photographing South Okanagan Birds – May 21 and 22, 2021

I spent parts of two days with a couple of clients, and our goal was to see and try and photograph a bunch of birds given to me as target species. We spent most of our time in the South Okanagan, with a little owling in the Kelowna area as well. Weather was fantastic with mostly sunny and warm conditions, and some afternoon winds.

May 21 – We began at White Lake, where the smell of sagebrush filled the air, as did the songs of Western Meadowlarks! After a little hunting we were watching and listening to one of our target species, the rare and local Sage Thrasher. The bird we were watching sang from the tops of bushes and did several flight displays, but would sit in the right spot for the photo we wanted. I could hear another distant thrasher so we made our way towards that one. We crept up over a little hill and there he was singing away, at the top of a bush, in the morning sunlight. Photographs were taken. As we stalked through the sagebrush we flushed a single Gray Partridge from the grass. This introduced chicken, is an uncommon resident in grassland and sagebrush ecosystems in the South Okanagan. Some other highlights at White Lake included American Kestrel, both Mountain and Western bluebirds, both Eastern and Western kingbirds and a Northern Harrier.

A short stop in the mixed pine / fir forest near Willowbrook produced a nice list of birds, though none of them wanted to be photographed particularly. Birds here included Cassin’s Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Northern Waterthrush, Calliope Hummingbird, Western Wood-Pewee and Western Tanager. Clark’s Nutcrackers were active on a hillside nearby, and their loud, grating calls were continually in the background.

At Road 22, near Osoyoos, there were plenty of birds about, however our two big highlights here were a male Bobolink and a lovely Yellow-breasted Chat. The Bobolink sat on fenceposts at the edge of its hayfield, singing loudly. The chat was in the riparian forest along the oxbows and it sang from the understory, then did a flight display song and landed atop a birch, where it continued to sing for several minutes. Both the chat and the Bobolink were well photographed. Other birds that were either seen or heard included Bewick’s Wren, Cliff Swallow, Common Yellowthroat and Black-headed Grosbeak.

We then headed up into the Richter Pass, stopping in at the Nighthawk Border Crossing, where we hoped to pick up a couple of other sagebrush species. We were happy to bump into a couple of very attractive Lewis’s Woodpeckers that were foraging at the edge of an orchard here. The photographs of these pink and green woodpeckers turned out to be quite good. Further down towards the US border, we found both Brewer’s and Lark sparrows, our two target species here. Having had a very good morning of birding we decided to take an afternoon break.

In the evening we met in an area in the Central Okanagan for a little nocturnal outing. It was very successful. We saw, and the client managed to photograph, Western Screech-Owl, Flammulated Owl and Great Horned Owl. Common Poorwills were calling incessantly, and we saw one in the distance in the beam of the flashlight.

May 22 – We explored the mountains east of Okanagan Falls this morning, where we enjoyed watching and taking pictures of a Rock Wren singing in the morning sunlight. Another bird on our photo target list was a Nashville Warbler. There were several singing from the open woodlands as we made our way up the road, so we stopped to look for one. Eventually, this frenetic little bird finally sat still long enough for us to snap the ‘money-shot’. In the larch forests we were treated to excellent views of male and female Williamson’s Sapsucker as they made forays between their nest cavity and a popular feeding tree. Another big highlight was the observation of a pair of Barred Owls. We chased a Cassin’s Vireo around for a while, and eventually we got a pretty good photo of that species as well. The afternoon winds had kicked up by about lunchtime and we decided to call it a day. All in all, a very productive and enjoyable outing.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Gadwall; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Gray Partridge; Ring-necked Pheasant; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Common Poorwill; White-throated Swift; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; Sora; American Coot; Killdeer; Spotted Sandpiper; Wilson’s Snipe; Wilson’s Phalarope; Ring-billed Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Flammulated Owl; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Barred Owl; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Western Wood-Pewee; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Dusky Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Canada Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Rock Wren; Canyon Wren; House Wren; Bewick’s Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Veery; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; Gray Catbird; Sage Thrasher; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Brewer’s Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-breasted Chat; Bobolink; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Sparrow; Northern Waterthrush; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; MacGillivray’s Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Wilson’s Warbler; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.

Photos: All by Chris Charlesworth, in order they appear: Sage Thrasher; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Bobolink; Brewer’s Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Barred Owl.

South Okanagan Birding – May 24, 2021

I spent the day leading 4 friends from the Central Okanagan on a birding excursion to the South Okanagan. We met up in West Kelowna and made our way south to Penticton, where we had a quick look around the airport. The weather was quite variable today with morning rain showers and afternoon sunshine. It was lightly raining as we explored the airport, but the birds were still out. A few of the highlights included Calliope Hummingbird, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a calling Swainson’s Hawk, Bullock’s Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeak and Lazuli Buntings.

Next up, we birded along White Lake Road, making several stops along the way. It was quite birdy along here, and we racked up a nice list of birds such as Lewis’s Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Calliope and Rufous hummingbirds, Steller’s Jay, Gray Catbird, Veery, Yellow-breasted Chat, Nashville and Wilson’s warblers, Western Tanager and Black-headed Grosbeak.

At White Lake we searched for, and eventually found, a singing Sage Thrasher. Other species found in the sagebrush included Mountain and Western bluebirds, Eastern and Western kingbirds, Western Meadowlarks and Vesper Sparrows. We had great views of a singing Clay-colored Sparrow this morning. A Lark Sparrow also cooperated nicely for photographs. I heard the grating calls of a Gray Partridge out in the sage as well. On White Lake itself there were ducks including Barrow’s Goldeneye, Lesser Scaup, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Green-winged Teal and Ruddy Duck. Three Eared Grebes were on the lake as well. Along the shore were Killdeer and several Wilson’s Phalarope.

Next, we took a spin up McKinney Road near Oliver. I had staked out a male Black-chinned Hummingbird in a dry ravine and as soon as I pulled the vehicle off the road, I spotted the little fellow sitting atop a dead tree. Further up the road we scanned a field for a Long-billed Curlew, but unfortunately, it was nowhere to be seen today.

At Road 22 we tallied close to 60 species! New waterfowl included Cinnamon and Blue-winged teal and a pair of Hooded Mergansers. At the north end of Osoyoos Lake were Red-necked and Pied-billed grebes. Another male Black-chinned Hummingbird was seen well as it sat on a telephone wire. Raptors included Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk. A Willow Flycatcher gave its sneezy ‘fitzbew’ call in the distance. House, Marsh and Bewick’s wrens were all heard, but remained hidden from our sight. At least three Yellow-breasted Chats were heard, and briefly seen hopping about in the thick understory. A male Bobolink showed nicely in the hayfields along the west side of the river channel. Yellow Warblers seemed to be everywhere, and there were a few Black-headed Grosbeaks and Bullock’s Orioles here as well. I stumbled upon a pair of good sized Yellow-bellied Racer snakes that appeared to be mating. As their name implies, they are very fast snakes.

To finish off our tour, we visited the cliffs at Vaseux Lake. Canyon and Rock wrens sang from the cliffs, and we had great views of the Rock Wren. Overhead, White-throated Swifts were numerous. A couple of Lewis’s Woodpeckers appeared to be nesting in a large pine tree. Up in the pine forest we had our last couple of new species for the day, Cassin’s Finch and Townsend’s Solitaire. Our final day tally, as a group was 110 species.

Species List: Canada Goose; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Lesser Scaup; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Gray Partridge; Ring-necked Pheasant; Pied-billed Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; White-throated Swift; Black-chinned Hummingbird; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; American Coot; Killdeer; Wilson’s Snipe; Spotted Sandpiper; Wilson’s Phalarope; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Western Wood-Pewee; Willow Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Warbling Vireo; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Rock Wren; Canyon Wren; House Wren; Marsh Wren; Bewick’s Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Veery; American Robin; Gray Catbird; Sage Thrasher; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Clay-colored Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Yellow-breasted Chat; Bobolink; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Nashville Warbler; MacGillivray’s Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Wilson’s Warbler; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.

Photos: All by Chris Charlesworth, in order they appear: Gray Catbird, Clay-colored Sparrow, Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Spring in the Central Okanagan Valley, B.C. May 7, 2021.

I spent the better part of the day birding and photographing with a friend and fellow Kelowna resident. We began early, and it was a cool, cloudy start to the day. My client had given me a couple of challenges for the day. One was to find him and allow him to photograph both Dusky and Hammond’s flycatchers, a task in which we succeeded. We did so at Rose Valley Regional Park, in West Kelowna. As it was a cool morning with a slight breeze, bird song and activity was fairly low early on. As we explored a bit, the sun eventually came out and birds began to sing and forage for insects. We had several good views of Dusky Flycatchers here, and we heard, though didn’t see, a Hammond’s Flycatcher or two, as well. Migration appears to be somewhat delayed this spring, so I was happy to see my first Western Tanager of the season here this morning. There were both Calliope and Rufous hummingbirds busily buzzing about, and several Ruby-crowned Kinglets foraged low in the shrubbery. Nashville Warblers were singing from all corners of the valley it seemed, and we also had a couple of Orange-crowned Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warbler. I was a bit surprised to hear a Hermit Thrush sing and utter a few call notes from the brush in an aspen copse. Other spring migrants that were about included Warbling Vireo, Chipping Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow. Red-naped Sapsuckers and Hairy Woodpecker were seen, and a Northern Flicker pair was seen poking their heads out of a nest cavity. On our way up the path, the female was peering out, and on our way back down, the male was there. A flock of a dozen or so Evening Grosbeaks bolted past, giving their distinctive call notes, and a Townsend’s Solitaire was found atop a pine tree.

Next, we headed up to the Joe Rich area, east of Kelowna. Here, in the coniferous forests, I wanted to find my client a Northern Pygmy-Owl. It took a fair bit of effort, but in the end we did enjoy good views of a pygmy-owl high atop a larch tree. Other forest birds encountered were Dark-eyed Junco, Townsend’s Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Mountain Chickadee and Red-breasted Nuthatches. A Brown Creeper emitted high-pitched calls from somewhere nearby.

As we drove up Cardinal Creek Road, I spotted a distant raptor soaring over a ridge. The bird appeared to be a small buteo and it was making tight circles as it gained some elevation in a thermal. I put the scope on it, and my suspicions were confirmed. It was a Broad-winged Hawk. This species is a rare migrant in British Columbia’s Southern Interior, with substantially more records occurring in the fall than in the spring. This particular bird was a light morph adult and was, no doubt, my bird of the day. Further up, along Sun Valley Road, we had views of Orange-crowned Warblers, another flock of Evening Grosbeaks and a soaring Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Back down in the valley bottom we explored a riparian area within the city and found a roosting Western Screech-Owl. In addition, there were a few spring birds about, including a nice male Yellow Warbler, some Western Tanagers, and a confiding Hammond’s Flycatcher that allowed good views and some photos.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Gadwall; Mallard: California Quail; Ring-necked Pheasant; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; Sora; Turkey Vulture; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Bald Eagle; Broad-winged Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Western Screech-Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Red-naped Sapsucker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Dusky Flycatcher; Warbling Vireo; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Violet-green Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Townsend’s Solitaire; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; European Starling; House Sparrow; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Song Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Red-winged Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Western Tanager.

PHOTOS: Dusky Flycatcher, Northern Pygmy-Owl and Hammond’s Flycatcher, in the order they appear in the report. All photos by Nigel Eggers.

Birding the Central Okanagan Valley. April 5, 2021

I took a couple of clients out today in the Kelowna area, where we were searching for several target species. We began with an immature Harris’s Sparrow at Munson Pond in Kelowna. This sparrow was been present since the Fall of 2020, and is visiting a feeder, alongside a selection of other birds including White-crowned Sparrow, Black-capped Chickadee, Mourning Dove and California Quail. On the pond were several Cackling Geese, alongside the Canada Geese. There were many American Wigeon and I saw at least one male Eurasian Wigeon as well.

We then visited forests east of Kelowna, hoping to find Northern Pygmy-Owl. We were not disappointed as we enjoyed watching two of them in the tall coniferous trees. Try as we might, we could not find a Black-backed Woodpecker. We had plenty of the other usual forest dwellers, such as Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees and Dark-eyed Juncos.

We finished off looking for Western Screech-Owl and eventually our persistence paid off as we spotted one snoozing in a cedar hedge. Great weather, excellent birds and enjoyable company made this a successful tour for sure.

Okanagan Spring Birding – April 9-11, 2021

Day 1 – Our annual Okanagan Spring Birding trip, in the southern interior of British Columbia, was held once again, albeit in a much scaled- back manner, due to the pandemic. We began in Kelowna this morning, where we headed to Thomson Marsh for our first stop. Our goal was to find a pair of Great Horned Owls that have been frequenting the area. We found the two owls almost immediately as they snoozed in their favorite trees. We then scanned a flooded field, finding some goodies including FOY (First of year) Greater Yellowlegs, and a male Eurasian Wigeon in with a flock of American Wigeon. Other waterfowl present included Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, and a pair of Wood Ducks. There were a number of Cackling Geese present as well, and conveniently, they were next to Canada Geese for size comparison. Violet-green, Tree and Northern Rough-winged swallows were busily feeding on the wing over the ponds. In the reeds we caught a glimpse of a Virginia Rail and we watched a nice male Yellow-headed Blackbird as he displayed and sang amongst the Red-winged Blackbirds.

We then headed for an area where I hoped to find my small group a Western Screech-Owl. After a quick search I located the snoozing owl and we left it alone. This was a lifer for several people.

East of Kelowna, we explored the forests in the Joe Rich area, where we encountered our third owl species of the day, Northern Pygmy-Owl. There were two present and we enjoyed lengthy views of them amongst the conifers. Canada Jays, Mountain Chickadees, Varied Thrush and Red-breasted Nuthatch were all seen as well. Along a creek we found a lovely American Dipper, and the bird was singing its elaborate song next to the babbling water. Another FOY bird for us, a male Red-naped Sapsucker was found in a little grove of aspens as well.

To finish off, we headed for Robert Lake. It was a little quiet here, and there was no sign of the American Avocets seen by someone here earlier in the day. As far as waterfowl was concerned, we had Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Redhead and a distant Canvasback here. There were many American Coots about. A group of half a dozen or so Yellow-headed Blackbirds were singing noisily in a dead willow tree that was half submerged by the waters of the lake.

Though we did go out and try for some owls this evening, we got skunked unfortunately. Still, it was nice to be out at night, in an area where light pollution did not spoil the show of the Milky Way.

Day 2 – At 8 in the morning, we met up at Munson Pond in Kelowna. Today was a strange day, as far as the weather was concerned. Temperatures varied greatly from about 10 degrees Celsius to -5 degrees Celsius, and we encountered wind, hail, heavy snow and sun! Nonetheless, we tallied close to 80 species today alone. At Munson Pond we started off with a nice variety of waterfowl on the pond itself. There were American Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Common Merganser, Northern Shoveler and Green-winged Teal. Douglas pointed out a male Brown-headed Cowbird in a tree near the parking area, an FOY for us. I pointed out a Barn Swallow flying low over the pond, the first I’ve heard of this species in the area this spring. As we walked along, I heard the whistled calls of a Long-billed Curlew. Turning my eyes to the sky, I spotted a flock of 9 curlews flying in from the south. They circled several times, calling all the while, and dropped down into a grassy field. Another good sighting here, and immature Glaucous Gull was seen in flight with a few other gulls, against a dark and stormy sky. We waited by the feeder at Munson Pond for a while and were eventually rewarded by the appearance of the long-staying immature Harris’s Sparrow. Other feeder birds included Red-winged Blackbirds, Black-capped Chickadees, and Song and White-crowned sparrows. A few raptors were about this morning as well, including Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vultures, Merlin, Sharp-shinned Hawk and Northern Harrier. Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were flitting about in trees at many locations we visited today, including Munson Pond.

Next, we stopped at Gellatly Bay in West Kelowna. Swimming quite close to shore were several breeding plumage Horned Grebes, which was a treat to see, as we normally see these grebes in their rather drab winter plumage. There were at least two Common Loons further offshore. A male and three female Red-breasted Mergansers were resting along the edge of the gravel bar at the mouth of Powers Creek. In the cottonwoods at Rotary Trails park, a Pileated Woodpecker called.

Our next stop was in Penticton, at the beach along Okanagan Lake. A squall was coming in off the lake here, and we encountered strong winds and blowing snow, so we made our visit brief. Just long enough, in fact, to get a few extra gulls on our trip list, including Herring Gull, California Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull and an adult ‘Thayer’s’ Iceland Gull.

We drove up into the mountains east of Okanagan Falls as a heavy snow fell. We sat in our cars and ate lunch amongst the larch trees, and by the time we were finished, the sun was out. We enjoyed great views of a pair of Williamson’s Sapsuckers here, with both the very differently plumaged male and female posing for us. On our way back down the mountain, we stopped and heard a Ruffed Grouse drumming. After a quick search, I found the grouse, sitting on the ground, blending in well with its surroundings. Another added bonus, we also had a Townsend’s Solitaire.

At the cliffs on Allendale Road, another storm hit, this time with wind and hail. We sat in the car for a little bit, and then a little group of Western Bluebirds came by to brighten the day. A male Mountain Bluebird was also here, as was a Say’s Phoebe.

At the Vaseux Cliffs we heard a Canyon Wren, but it wouldn’t come out of hiding. We saw some nice raptors here, including a Golden Eagle and a Northern Harrier. The FOY male Calliope Hummingbird was displaying at the base of the cliffs as well. We encountered a herd of California Bighorn Sheep a little further along the road. At the end of the road, amongst the pine trees, we saw a couple of Western Bluebirds and a male Cassin’s Finch.

An evening outing to the north end of Osoyoos Lake produced a single Great Horned Owl, as well as a group of howling Coyotes. A couple of us saw a Striped Skunk along the side of Black Sage Road on our way back to Oliver.

Day 3 – This morning it was sunny, and relatively warm, and we began birding at Road 22. The first few migrants were flitting through the trees, including Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Raptors in the area included several Red-tailed Hawks, and Ospreys, as well as Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture and Northern Harriers. One of the harriers, a male, was engaged in a flight display in the sky above us. We watched some Great Blue Herons bringing sticks to their nests at a heronry near Road 22. At least a couple of Bewick’s Wrens were singing along the oxbows in the riparian vegetation, but they remained hidden. Two Downy Woodpeckers, the only ones on our tour, clung to a trunk along the edge of the river. Little groups of White-crowned Sparrows were noted here and there, and we also heard Lincoln’s Sparrow and several Song Sparrows. Swallows were feasting on insects over the fields and wetlands, and most were Violet-green and Tree swallows, along with a few Northern Rough-winged Swallows and at least one Cliff Swallow.

We walked through the ‘pocket-desert’ at The Throne next, and it was a very enjoyable stroll in the warm sun. The lovely cascading songs of Canyon Wrens were echoing from various locations on the south-facing cliff face. One Canyon Wren came right out and sat on the rocks close to us, allowing the photographers in the group good photo opportunities for this ‘Okanagan specialty’. I spotted an adult Peregrine Falcon sitting high up on the cliffs. At least two Say’s Phoebes were flycatching along the edge of the boulders at the bottom of the slope, and Western Meadowlarks were also seen on our walk.

After a short stop to refuel in Osoyoos, we headed up into the Richter Pass, where we spent an hour or so along Kruger Mountain Road. Here we had some nice finches, including a number of Cassin’s Finch. Both Evening Grosbeak and the locally rare Lesser Goldfinch were also heard, but not seen. Overhead, we had a nice comparison of a Sharp-shinned Hawk soaring next to a Cooper’s Hawk. We had lunch next to a pond where we saw our first Barrow’s Goldeneye of the tour, a pair. Also here was a pair of Hooded Mergansers.

Making our way back north again, we stopped for a walk through the Ponderosa Pines at Mahoney Lake. I had hoped for a White-breasted Nuthatch here, but we couldn’t find one. There were several Pygmy and Red-breasted nuthatches present though. On Mahoney Lake itself were Ruddy Duck, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon, Mallard, Lesser Scaup and Pied-billed Grebe. A Pileated Woodpecker called in the distance.

At White Lake we enjoyed great views of Mountain Bluebirds as well as several Western Meadowlarks. An American Kestrel was seen eating its prey, though we couldn’t tell just what the prey was. This was our final stop on the tour, so we said our goodbyes and parted ways. It had been a very productive 3 days of birding. We tallied 108 species.

Bird Species: Snow Goose; Cackling Goose; Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; Eurasian Wigeon; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Canvasback; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Common Goldeneye; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; Red-breasted Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Ring-necked Pheasant; Ruffed Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; American Coot; Killdeer; Greater Yellowlegs; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Iceland Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Glaucous Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Golden Eagle; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Peregrine Falcon; Say’s Phoebe; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Canyon Wren; Bewick’s Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; Varied Thrush; European Starling; House Sparrow; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Pine Siskin; Lesser Goldfinch; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Harris’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Chris Charlesworth

PHOTOS: (In order) Great Horned Owl, Western Screech Owl, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Red-breasted Merganser, ‘Thayer’s’ Iceland Gull, Townsend’s Solitaire, Horned Grebe, Song Sparrow and Beaver all by Chris Charlesworth. Canyon Wren by Claude Rioux.

Spring in the South Okanagan – May 10, 2021

I met up with two ladies in Kelowna this morning and we made our way south to Okanagan Falls, where we spent the day birding in the White Lake, Shuttleworth Rd, Mahoney Lake areas. It was a gorgeous morning with sunny skies and cool temperatures. By mid-day the temperature had climbed to close to 20 degrees Celsius. As the afternoon wore on, cloud gathered and a few light showers developed, but the birding throughout our day was great.

We began on Shuttleworth Road, where a couple of stops in the burned out areas lower down produced some nice sightings including our first House Wren and Rock wrens of the day. Western and Mountain bluebirds were seen here, as were Red Crossbills and Cassin’s Finches. We returned to this area later on and enjoyed amazing views of a Lewis’s Woodpecker as well. Further up the road, we explored the larches, hoping to find a Williamson’s Sapsucker. It didn’t take us long to find two of them, a male and a female, excavating their nest cavity. Other interesting birds found in the same area included Canada Jays, a Barred Owl, Townsend’s Warbler, Red-naped Sapsucker, both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned kinglets, Evening Grosbeak, Varied Thrush and Pacific Wren!

We stopped briefly to check on a dippers nest at OK Falls, but it appeared the nest had been washed away, unfortunately. We did, however, see our only Spotted Sandpiper for the day here.

White Lake was kind to us. In addition to the usual sagebrush species like Vesper Sparrows, Western Bluebirds, Mountain Bluebirds, Black-billed Magpies, American Kestrel and Western Meadowlark, we saw a couple of other uncommon to rare species. These were a pair of Gray Partridge and a Sage Thrasher! The partridge, an introduced species, is uncommon in the Okanagan, and not seen often, while the thrasher is an endangered species and our sighting was the first of the spring in the Okanagan Valley. Other grassland birds found included a brief view of a male Lazuli Bunting, as well as Northern Harrier, Say’s Phoebe, Western Kingbirds and Savannah Sparrow. The birds just kept coming! A stop at a little wetland area on White Lake Road was also productive. On the pond were Ruddy Ducks and American Coots. We heard Sora and Wilson’s Snipe calling from within the reeds. Both Rufous and Calliope hummingbirds made appearances, as did a Common Yellowthroat, a Clark’s Nutcracker and a calling Downy Woodpecker. White Lake itself had a nice variety of waterfowl including Green-winged and Cinnamon teal, Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Bufflehead and Barrow’s Goldeneye! Three lovely Red-necked Phalaropes were a good score here, and we picked out a Least Sandpiper poking its way along the shore.

Our final stop was at Mahoney Lake. Here, we took a stroll hoping for an early Gray Flycatcher, but we had no luck. It was very quiet in the pine forest in fact, with just a few peeps out of the Pygmy Nuthatches. On the lake were some ducks and a nice Pied-billed Grebe. A Yellow-headed Blackbird sang its rather unattractive song in the marsh at the north end of the lake.

Another great day out in the field, with good company. We found 92 species today.

Bird List: Canada Goose; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Gray Partridge; Pied-billed Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Calliope Hummingbird; Rufous Hummingbird; Sora; American Coot; Killdeer; Least Sandpiper; Wilson’s Snipe; Spotted Sandpiper; Red-necked Phalarope; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Cooper’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Burrowing Owl; Barred Owl; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Western Kingbird; Dusky Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Warbling Vireo; Canada Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Rock Wren; House Wren; Pacific Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; Varied Thrush; Sage Thrasher; European Starling; House Sparrow; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Lazuli Bunting.

Photos: Lewis’s Woodpecker, Sage Thrasher and Barred Owl, all by Chris Charlesworth.

Ebird Big Day – May 8, 2021.

May 8, 2021 was EBird big day, which is a day in which ebird encourages its users to get out and submit as many checklists of as many bird species as possible around the world. I, and two of my birding buddies, Nathan and Jesse, decided we would like to take part this year. For the second year in a row, Covid-19 is an issue, so we had to ride separately and keep some distance, but this wasn’t difficult to do. We decided to limit our big day to the Central Okanagan Regional District boundaries.

We began up in the high elevation forests on the plateau east of Lake Country. Our first bird was a Northern Saw-whet Owl that was calling incessantly, followed up shortly by distant yodeling Common Loons. Our third species was one of the highlights of the day, Great Gray Owl. We could hear the deep hooting coming from nearby, within a path of spruce forest. A short search with the flashlight yielded the owl sitting in a tree. We later heard another hooting at a different location. As the day began to break, the first birds began to sing in the dawn chorus. The first songster was the American Robin, followed up by others like Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Dark-eyed Juncos, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Pacific Wrens. Woodpeckers were drumming away, and some were most likely American Three-toed Woodpeckers, but we could not track one down. We settled for Red-naped Sapsuckers, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker and Pileated Woodpecker. Jesse detected movement in the boreal forest understory and soon enough he was shouting ‘Grouse, grouse’. Nathan and I went over to check it out and there was a male Spruce Grouse displaying. Nathan picked a Boreal Chickadee out of a small group of Mountain Chickadees, another great find. Canada Jays were added to the list here too, along with Brown Creeper, Wilson’s Snipe, Varied Thrush and Evening Grosbeak. We worked our way back down into the valley bottom, stopping to check different habitats along the way. In the lower elevation forests we added birds like Warbling and Cassin’s vireos, Nashville Warbler, Dusky and Hammond’s flycatchers, Cassin’s Finch, Ruffed Grouse, Townsend’s Warbler and Western Tanager. Grassland habitats yielded both Western and Mountain bluebirds, as well as Say’s Phoebe, Western Meadowlark, Western Kingbird, American Kestrel and House Wren. A flock of White-crowned Sparrows, perhaps 50 strong, popped up into one of the roadside bushes. Nathan and Jesse spotted two Golden-crowned Sparrows in amongst them.

Next up, we headed through Kelowna, to the mouth of Mission Creek. We had high hopes for this ‘rarity-producing’ area, but it wasn’t as productive as it could have been. Still, there were a few gulls about, including two Mew Gulls, a flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls and the usual Ring-billed and California gulls. Out on the lake were perhaps 250 Western Grebes. I spotted four distant ducks through my scope, and two of them turned out to be White-winged Scoters, while the other two, smaller ducks, remained unidentified. Otherwise it fairly quiet here, aside from swallows and an American Pipit.

The Maude Roxby Bird Sanctuary was also on the quiet side today, and we found that almost all locations seemed to have a distinct lack of birds. Let’s hope it is just a late spring for the birds and they are still on their way and there is not some larger issue at play. The bay had Cinnamon Teal, and farther out on the lake were Red-necked and Horned grebes, our only ones for the day. A Great Blue Heron flew over and a Spotted Sandpiper was a nice catch along the muddy shore. The trees along the boardwalk were fairly quiet, though we had Hammond’s and Dusky flycatcher, Cedar Waxwings, a Western Tanager and Yellow Warbler.

Thomson Marsh was quite productive this morning, as well tallied close to 50 species during our 45 minute visit. A flooded field east of the marsh was quite good, and we added some shorebirds here including a Semipalmated Plover, Long-billed Dowitchers, Least Sandpiper and Semipalmated sandpiper, as well as Lesser Yellowlegs. Jesse pointed out a male Eurasian Wigeon in amongst the American Wigeon. We heard both Sora and Virginia rail here also.

As we headed up Highway 33, east of Kelowna, we paused in the grasslands to look for raptors and we were rewarded with a couple of nice Swainson’s Hawks, a Red-tailed Hawk and an American Kestrel. Along Philpott Road we searched for, but could not find a Northern Pygmy-Owl, so we tried Three Forks Road. Again, no pygmy owl, but we did have nice views of a Chestnut-backed Chickadee here. We spent about 40 minutes watching and waiting for an American Dipper to return to its nest, but it would not cooperate so we missed that one.

At Scenic Canyon we were happy to hear a calling Western Screech-Owl, and we were relieved to see both Vaux’s and White-throated swits, both new birds for the day list, zipping above with swallows.

A quick visit to the Kelowna Landfill at Bredin Pond added a few goodies to the list, including Barrow’s Goldeneye and Lesser Scaup, as well as gulls including Herring and Glaucous-winged gulls. Bald Eagles were everywhere and we estimated there to be about 50 present! Jesse pointed out our only Greater Yellowlegs of the day here. Scoping down onto the landfill’s Alki Lake, we added a couple of very distant American Avocets.

At Robert Lake, Wilson’s Phalarope and Solitary Sandpiper were nice additions to our day list, as were 2-3 continuing Black-necked Stilts. Ruddy and Ring-necked ducks, as well as Eared Grebes were also new day birds.

We then crossed over Okanagan Lake via the Bennett Bridge and headed for Goat’s Peak Regional Park near Peachland. The walk was lovely as the afternoon sun illuminated the views. A Canyon Wren sang loudly from a steep hillside covered in boulders, and we finally added Pygmy Nuthatch to our growing day tally. Both Lewis’s Woodpecker and Clark’s Nutcracker were welcome additions as well.

It was a team effort at the mouth of Powers Creek in West Kelowna, as Nathan picked out Downy Woodpecker, Jesse got us a Merlin and I spotted a pair of male Greater Scaup.

Our final stop of the day was at Rose Valley Regional Park, also in West Kelowna. We hiked up to Rose Valley Reservoir, enjoying birds like Dusky Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler, and Calliope Hummingbird along the way. Several Townsend’s Solitaires were here, another first for the day, and they were doing their flight songs high overhead. Our last bird, Common Poorwill began calling as it got dark. We watched one in the beam of the flashlight as it called from a branch, and we heard about 4 more in the canyon before we were finished. At the end of the day, we had tallied 142 species.

Species List: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; Eurasian Wigeon; American Wigeon; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Ring-necked Duck; Greater Scaup; Lesser Scaup; White-winged Scoter; Bufflehead; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Ring-necked Pheasant; Ruffed Grouse; Spruce Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Western Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Common Poorwill; Vaux’s Swift; White-throated Swift; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; Sora; American Coot; Black-necked Stilt; American Avocet; Semipalmated Plover; Killdeer; Least Sandpiper; Semipalmated Sandpiper; Long-billed Dowitcher; Wilson’s Snipe; Spotted Sandpiper; Solitary Sandpiper; Lesser Yellowlegs; Greater Yellowlegs; Wilson’s Phalarope; Bonaparte’s Gull; Mew Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Western Screech-Owl; Great Gray Owl; Northern Saw-whet Owl; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Western Kingbird; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Dusky Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Chestnut-backed Chickadee; Boreal Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Canyon Wren; House Wren; Pacific Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; Varied Thrush; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Pipit; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Golden-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Western Tanager.

Okanagan Spring Birding – April 2-4, 2021

Day 1 – An small group of 4 of us embarked on a three-day birding outing in the Okanagan Valley. We began at Thomson Marsh in Kelowna where we started off with 2 Great Horned Owls roosting in some spruce trees. Flooded fields here held Mallards, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal and Northern Pintail. Violet-green and Tree swallows were added to our list here, as were White-crowned Sparrow and a male Yellow-rumped Warbler. We enjoyed watching American Goldfinches, with the males having mostly acquired their golden breeding plumage. A pair of Brewer’s Blackbirds strutting about on the ground was new for others in our group as well.

Our next stop was at Mill Creek, where we enjoyed watching several lovely male Yellow-rumped Warblers chase one another about in the trees. In the reeds I could hear the squeaky notes of a calling Virginia Rail, though it did not emerge from the vegetation. Several Gadwall, the only ones we had today, were on a little pond here though.

We strolled along the trail at Scenic Canyon, where we find it to be rather quiet. There was a Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitting alongside the path in the bushes. A Belted Kingfisher rattled away as it took off from its creek-side perch. Overhead, a Downy Woodpecker pecked away at the trunk of a skinny cottonwood.

At Belgo Pond, it was also rather quiet, though on the lake we saw Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Mallard and Common Goldeneye.

Our next destination was the Joe Rich area, east of Kelowna on Highway 33. Driving various side roads, we racked up a few nice species. We encountered two different pairs of Northern Pygmy-Owls, and we even watched one pair mate in the tree in front of us. We had upwards of ten Chestnut-backed Chickadees here, with some venturing low onto the boughs of cedar trees for excellent views. The other usual ‘dicky birds’ like Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped and Mountain chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet and a nice Brown Creeper were also noted in the forest. A pair of Canada Jays came in to investigate us as well, and we had a few Steller’s Jays too. Soaring high overhead at one point, we watched an immature Golden Eagle. Another highlight today, I spotted a well camouflaged Ruffed Grouse sitting on the forest floor.

To finish off our day we headed for Robert Lake. Waterfowl included Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser and Greater scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, American Wigeon, Canvasback and Redhead. There were also many American Coots about, and a couple of Pied-billed Grebes. Mixed in with Canada Geese on the far side of the lake were a number of Cackling Geese, a species that is migrating through our area right now. Our first of the year Yellow-headed Blackbirds were found here. To end our first day, we had seen close to 70 species!

Day 2 – Our morning began at Munson Pond in Kelowna. There was an assortment of waterfowl present on the pond, including Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, Barrow’s and Common goldeneye, American Wigeon, Hooded and Common mergansers and Green-winged Teal. A flock of approx. 450 Bohemian Waxwings sailed overhead, and disappeared quickly before everyone saw them. Some early migrants like Tree Swallows, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Lincoln’s Sparrow were noted here. Best of all was the continuing immature Harris’s Sparrow that came in to the area where the feeder is hanging up. The Harris’s didn’t actually visit the feeder, though several White-crowned and Song sparrows were feeding.

We made a short stop at Trout Creek Point in Summerland, where a Lesser Goldfinch has been seen. We found plenty of American Goldfinches, House Finches and Pine Siskins, but no Lesser Goldfinch. I spotted a White-throated Sparrow however, and our first Cooper’s Hawk of the trip flew past and landed in a tall cottonwood.

After a quick stop to pick up a coffee, we headed to the beach on Okanagan Lake in Penticton. There were not many birds present, but we did add some gulls to the trip list; Herring, Ring-billed, Glaucous-winged, California and Iceland gulls.

Our attention then turned to forest birds as we headed up into the larch forests east of Okanagan Falls. It did not take us long to find our target species up here, Williamson’s Sapsucker. There were two, a male and a female, that put on a nice show for us this morning. Also present were Canada Jays, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadees.

Next up, we checked some cliffs near Okanagan Falls for Canyon Wren, and almost immediately we spotted one hopping about on the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs. There were also both Western and Mountain bluebirds, Western Meadowlark and Say’s Phoebe here as well. Overhead, Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures were sailing in the southerly breeze.

At the Vaseux Lake Cliffs we enjoyed watching a Golden Eagle being dive bombed by a Red-tailed Hawk. A Canyon Wren let out a burst of its beautiful, cascading song up on the cliffs. In a couple of non-bird sightings, we saw several Bighorn Sheep alongside the road, and we saw our first blooming Arrowleaf Balsamroot on a hillside.

In the evening, we headed to Road 22 to see if we could find any owls. We spotted a Great Horned Owl on a telephone wire, and that was the only one we found. Near the spot I intended to check there was a loud party happening outside so we didn’t stay long.

Day 3 – After a quick stop at Tim Horton’s in Oliver, we headed for Road 22. The skies were mixed sun and cloud today, but we were followed by a brisk north wind that made things a little cool at times. In the vicinity of Road 22, we tallied nearly 50 species this morning, with raptors stealing the show. There were plenty of Turkey Vultures teetering here and there overhead, and there were up to half a dozen Red-tailed Hawks as well. A few Bald Eagles were seen, including one on its massive nest. Northern Harriers hovered over the reeds while the first Ospreys we had seen this year scanned for fish in the river channel. A male American Kestrel posed nicely on a fencepost. As I was scanning the sky for raptors, I spotted a single American White Pelican sailing by. The sight of two crows dive-bombing something in a tree made me stop and scan with my binoculars. Sure enough, the crows were mobbing a Great Horned Owl. Looking for insects above the river were swallows, including Northern Rough-winged, Tree and Violet-green. Other sightings included Say’s Phoebe, White-crowned Sparrows and a Northern Shrike. We heard, but couldn’t see, a couple of singing Bewick’s Wrens in the riparian habitat along the oxbows.

It was then time to head into the Richter Pass, where the rather strong north wind continued. Along Kruger Mountain Road we hit the ‘finch jackpot’ as there were several Red Crossbills, some lovely Cassin’s Finches, House Finches, and best of all a pair of Lesser Goldfinches. We had lunch at the Nighthawk Border Crossing. Due to the wind, there were not many birds here, though we did see some Western Meadowlarks, as well as American Robins and a number of European Starlings. Raptors, such as Red-tailed Hawk and Bald Eagle, continued to be spotted in the skies.

Next, at White Lake, one of my favorite birding locations anywhere, we scanned the sagebrush habitat and the many fenceposts and telephone poles for bluebirds and such. We had very nice views of several Mountain Bluebirds, and there were some nice Western Meadowlarks about. Another Northern Shrike made a brief appearance, but didn’t hang around too long.

A Dunlin was being seen at the Maude Roxby Bird Sanctuary in Kelowna, so we made our way north and finished up our tour along the shores of Mud Bay. The Dunlin, a lovely breeding plumage bird, was foraging alongside a Killdeer. This was a nice ending to our three day tour of the Okanagan Valley’s Spring birds! Our final species count was 99.

Bird Species: Cackling Goose; Canada Goose; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Canvasback; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Greater Scaup; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Common Goldeneye; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Ring-necked Pheasant; Ruffed Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; American Coot; Killdeer; Dunlin; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Iceland Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; American White Pelican; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Golden Eagle; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Say’s Phoebe; Northern Shrike; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Chestnut-backed Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Canyon Wren; Bewick’s Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; Bohemian Waxwing; House Sparrow; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; Lesser Goldfinch; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-throated Sparrow; Harris’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Yellow-rumped Warbler.

PHOTOGRAPHS: All taken by Chris Charlesworth. In the order they appear: Great Horned Owl, Kelowna, B.C. April 2, 2021. Yellow-rumped Warbler, Kelowna. B.C. April 2, 2021. Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Kelowna, B.C. April 2, 2021. Harris’s Sparrow, Kelowna, B.C. April 3, 2021. American White Pelican, Osoyoos, B.C. April 4, 2021. Lesser Goldfinch, Osoyoos, B.C. April 4, 2021. Dunlin, Kelowna, B.C. April 4, 2021.

Tales and photographs of the adventures of Avocet Tours