I met my friends Lin and Josh in Penticton this morning at 7 AM and we began birding at White Lake just as the sun came up and bathed the sagebrush covered hills in sunlight. One of the first birds we noticed was a Rough-legged Hawk, the first for the Fall, for me, atop a fir tree on a ridge. It took flight and was joined by a male and a female Northern Harrier. On White Lake were a few ducks, including Barrow’s Goldeneye, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, and some Ruddy Ducks. A single Horned Grebe was there as well, and is not a bird one would expect to find at White Lake. A few Western Meadowlarks were singing away and we saw a couple of the them perched atop the sage.
At Willowbrook, a short stop in the pine forest produced all three Western North American species of nuthatch, Pygmy, Red-breasted and White-breasted. Also here were our first Western Bluebirds, as well as a Cassin’s Finch.
A little strip of riparian habitat near the N.W. Marsh at Vaseux Lake was quite good. Upon arrival, we heard a Canyon Wren calling on the cliffs above the road, but we never did see the bird. We did, however, see a Bewick’s Wren as it skulked away in the vegetation. There were also Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Townsend’s Solitaire. Raptors were well represented as we saw singles of Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk, as well as two Bald Eagles. Perhaps the best bird here, a Great Horned Owl sat quietly in a cottonwood, looking almost as surprised to see us as we were to see it. As we were about to leave, I spotted a group of 41 Sandhill Cranes heading south, high overhead.
At Okanagan Falls Provincial Park, a short walk produced our target species, an American Dipper, as it sang and bobbed on rocks near the dam. Otherwise, we just had the usual Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglet here.
A scan of the north end of Vaseux Lake with our scopes produced large numbers of several species, the most abundant of which was American Coot. We estimated there to be a minimum of 5500 of them covering the lake. Mixed in with the coots were American Wigeon, Gadwall, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks and Ruddy Ducks.
Up at the cliffs we spent some time trying to get views of Canyon Wren, and eventually we succeeded. An adult Golden Eagle sailed over the top of the cliffs, our only one for this tour. Feeding on cones in a large Ponderosa Pine was our first Clark’s Nutcracker of the trip.
A short stop at Inkaneep Provincial Park proved to be very quiet, though we heard a Belted Kingfisher ‘rattling’ along the Okanagan River, and we saw a covey of California Quail in the campground. Another short stop nearby at River Road yielded some species new for our trip list such as White-crowned Sparrow, Ring-necked Pheasant and a Virginia Rail.
We had lunch in Oliver before carrying on south to Osoyoos and Haynes Point Park. It was fairly active in here, and we found our first American Robins here, as well as our first Spotted Towhee. At least two White-throated Sparrows were noted in the marshy areas along the trail here, as well as a Bewick’s Wren and many Yellow-rumped Warbler.
In the Richter Pass, we explored Kruger Mountain Road, hoping to find a Lesser Goldfinch, though we did not. However, we did find some nice birds such as Western Bluebirds, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbills, Steller’s Jay and a Red-tailed Hawk. Josh and I watched a pair of Northern Pygmy-Owls lock talons and tumble down through a fir tree, towards the ground, which was a bit of excitement.
Our last stop of the day was at the north end of Osoyoos Lake. We saw our first Western Grebe of the trip here, as well as Common Loons out on the lake. A Northern Harrier was seen gliding over the grasslands, and I saw a late Barn Swallow, though it swiftly disappeared. We had enjoyed a great day of birding in the South Okanagan, so we began to travel north to Kelowna.
This morning we again began at 7 AM. I met Josh and Lin with some unfortunate news this morning. They had asked me to recommend a restaurant for dinner the night before and I suggested one of my favorite local places, Olympia Greek Taverna, which is where they went. They were rather surprised when I told them that the restaurant had burned down shortly after they finished dinner! Once we put that news behind us, we headed out and started birding at Sutherland Hills Park in Kelowna. I tried to find a Western Screech-Owl here for them, but we came up empty handed. The birding was rather slow in the park this morning all around, with very few migrants present. We had to make due to Pygmy Nuthatches, a calling Pileated Woodpecker and a couple of White-throated Sparrows.
Next stop was at Scenic Canyon. Here, I finally located a Western Screech-Owl, but there was a hitch. The bird was calling right in front of us, but despite a long search, we never did see it. We did, however, hear a Swamp Sparrow, and we saw a Pacific Wren at a little spring that cascades down a hillside.
At the Mouth of Mission Creek, we finally added our first shorebird to the trip list, Killdeer. There were about ten of them on the sandbar. Gulls were feasting away on Kokanee, and we saw Ring-billed, Herring, California and Glaucous-winged gulls, and a couple of ‘Thayer’s’ Iceland Gulls. Out on the lake were Western and Red-necked grebes, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Gadwall and Common Mergansers, as well as several Common Loons. Our only Osprey for the trip sailed overhead here.
We took a drive out towards Okanagan Mountain Park, stopping first at a picnic table to have lunch, overlooking the glassy calm waters of Okanagan Lake. Once we were in the park, we scanned the lake for loons, eventually finding about 15 Common Loons feeding offshore. We scanned through some noisy groups of Pygmy Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees, finally seeing our first Mountain Chickadees of the trip.
At Sutherland Bay, in Kelowna’s North End, gulls were loafing on the log booms by the hundreds. We couldn’t find anything unusual mixed in with the regular gull species however. We finally saw our first Great Blue Heron of the trip, as there were two of them perched on the logs. Even if the birding was a tad on the slow side today, it was a joy to be out in October in the sunshine, in 24 degree Celsius weather.
Our final stop was at Robert Lake, where we added a few last birds to the trip list. There were several Eared Grebes out on the lake, as well as some distant Long-billed Dowitchers feeding on the far shore of the lake. Amongst the flocks of Canada Geese we picked out a single Cackling Goose, my first of the fall. Two male Wood Ducks sat on a log next to a Gadwall. Wood Duck is not common at Robert Lake. Other ducks included Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck and Ruddy Ducks. Just before we were about to leave, I spotted a lingering Cinnamon Teal nearby on the shore. It had been a fantastic couple of days with Josh and Lin, with nice birds and excellent company. The trip list finished up at 91 species.
Bird Species: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard: Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Western Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Virginia Rail; American Coot; Sandhill Crane; Killdeer; Long-billed Dowitcher; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Iceland Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Osprey; Golden Eagle; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Rough-legged Hawk; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Downy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Canyon Wren; Pacific Wren; Bewick’s Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Pipit; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Swamp Sparrow; White-throated Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Yellow-rumped Warbler.
*All photos by Chris Charlesworth – Rough-legged Hawk; Great Horned Owl; White Lake, B.C.; White-throated Sparrow; Killdeer; Cinnamon Teal.