Day tour in Kelowna, B.C. ~ Nov 29, 2021.

I met up with two ladies from Kelowna this morning at around sunrise. We headed east of Kelowna on Hwy 33, passing by a Rough-legged Hawk in the grasslands near Black Mountain. A short visit to the Sun Valley Road area yielded our first forest birds, Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and a calling Pacific Wren. Along Philpott Road we saw many chickadees, Black-capped, Mountain, and most interesting, Chestnut-backed chickadees. Steller’s Jays called loudly as they sailed by, and we saw a pair of Canada Jays as well. A male Hairy Woodpecker worked on trees near a burned area. We had brief views of a Pacific Wren hopping about in the tangles. Another stop along 3 Forks Road produced more Chestnut-backed Chickadees, as well as another Hairy Woodpecker. A little stop along Joe Rich Road provided us with good views of a Townsend’s Solitaire, as well as more Steller’s Jays, along with the usual Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows and House Finches.

We had lunch and then visited Scenic Canyon, along Mission Creek. It was fairly quiet here, though we did see an American Dipper along the creek. Pacific Wren was calling on the wooded slope here too. At another location along Mission Creek we were pleased to see a roosting Western Screech-Owl, high up in a cedar tree.

To finish off the day, we went to Thomson Marsh, where our bird list for the day grew by quite a bit. A pair of Great Horned Owls roosted together in amongst the branches of a spruce tree. A Northern Shrike made an appearance, and there was quite a variety of sparrows here including Harris’s Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrows and American Tree Sparrows. Other firsts for the day included Great Blue Heron, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a Marsh Wren.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Pied-billed Grebe; Rock Pigeon; American Coot; Ring-billed Gull; Great Blue Heron; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Rough-legged Hawk; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Northern Shrike; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Black-billed Magpie; Common Raven; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Chestnut-backed Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Pacific Wren; Marsh Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Townsend’s Solitaire; European Starling; House Finch; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; American Tree Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Harris’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco.

Photos: All by Chris Charlesworth. From top of document to bottom: Hairy Woodpecker; American Dipper; Great Horned Owl; Harris’s Sparrow.

June 18 – Birding in the Thompson / Nicola, Region of British Columbia.

We left West Kelowna early this morning, and made our way up and over the Connector to Merritt, and then on to Tunkwa Lake. We spent some time exploring forests, grasslands and wetlands here, finding a wide variety of species. In the forest we encountered birds like Olive-sided Flycatcher, Brown Creeper, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Canada Jay, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swainson’s Thrush and Western Tanager. Grassland areas had plenty of Mountain Bluebirds, Western Meadowlarks, and Vesper and Savannah sparrows, amongst others. Wetlands had a nice variety of waterfowl, including Barrow’s Goldeneye, Canvasback, Ruddy Duck and both Cinnamon and Blue-winged teal. Marsh Wrens chattered from the edge of one marsh, and a Pied-billed Grebe called from within the reeds. Yellow-headed Blackbird, Great Blue Heron, Red-necked Grebe and Common Loons were also all found. In a distant meadow, across Tunkwa Lake, we saw a pair of very rusty colored Sandhill Cranes.

We returned to Merritt, stopped to grab some coffee, and headed northeast along Highway 5a. We had lunch next to Nicola Lake where we were serenaded by some Yellow Warblers. I heard a Pacific-slope Flycatcher singing on the slope above the highway. Our first real birding stop along Hwy 5a, was at Guichon Flats. Here, we had hoped to find a continuing rarity, a White-faced Ibis. There was no sign of the ibis, unfortunately, but we still saw a nice variety of birds here. Many Eared Grebes were busy in the marsh, and there were quit a few ducks present, including Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal and Redhead. A Sora called in some rather distant reeds. There was a Greater Yellowlegs here, along with a couple of Wilson’s Phalaropes. Killdeer with their cute little chicks were seen also. Flying over the marsh were two Vaux’s Swifts.

At Planet Mine Road we watched a pair of Lewis’s Woodpeckers go about their business in amongst some nice old pine trees. Nearby, at the south end of Stump Lake, we saw a couple of Red-necked Grebes at their nest, and we enjoyed a lovely Common Loon. A Spotted Sandpiper was spied along the south shore. All the swallow species regularly found in this part of the world were present.

Separation Lake held a number of Eared Grebes, as well as an assortment of waterfowl. There were at least 30 Yellow-headed Blackbirds making all sorts of noise as they foraged along the muddy shores of the lake. Overhead, we saw up to 4 Swainson’s Hawks here, and two Northern Harriers also sailed by.

We stopped along the lower reaches of Rose Hill Road, where amongst a patch of rose bushes we had a Clay-colored Sparrow. Further along the road, at a rocky outcropping, we enjoyed views of up to 3 Horned Larks.

After a quick stop in town to pick up some coffee / food and fuel, we tried a little birding at dusk, with high hopes of finding some owls. Our search paid off, as we found a family of 3 Great Horned Owls at one location, and a single Great Gray Owl to finish off the day. We had tallied about 110 species as a group.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Canvasback; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Ruddy Duck; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Common Nighthawk; Vaux’s Swift; Sora; American Coot; Sandhill Crane; Killdeer; Spotted Sandpiper; Greater Yellowlegs; Wilson’s Phalarope; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Great Horned Owl; Great Gray Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Merlin; 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; 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; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; House Wren; Marsh Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Mountain Bluebird; Swainson’s Thrush; American Robin; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Clay-colored Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; MacGillivray’s Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Western Tanager; Lazuli Bunting.

Target Birding in B.C.s Interior – February 27, 2021

Observing the covid guidelines I took a small group of four friends out today to look for a few target species. Before we started searching for birds, we visited a park to look for a Lynx that had been frequenting an area next to a pond. We saw the lynx, though it was tucked underneath a bush and did not offer up great photographic opportunities.

For the well-being of the birds, I am not putting locations down for this post, but the day was spent in the southern interior of British Columbia. It was a nice day for raptors, with several very nice views of Rough-legged Hawks as they sailed overhead. There were also Bald Eagles, Northern Harrier and Red-tailed Hawks about today.

Owls were the real highlight though. We had great views of a little Northern Pygmy-Owl that was hunting along the edge of the road. At another location, we heard a hooting Great Horned Owl in the distance. The two most exciting finds included a hunting Great Gray Owl, and a gorgeous Northern Hawk-Owl. The day was not one for large numbers of birds, or a high species count. It was a quality over quantity type of day, and we were very pleased with that.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Mallard; Rock Pigeon; Northern Harrier; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Rough-legged Hawk; Great Horned Owl; Northern Hawk Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Great Gray Owl; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Black-billed Magpie; Common Raven; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; Bohemian Waxwing; House Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Dark-eyed Junco.

Saskatchewan ~ Cranes & Geese

September 30 to October 5, 2021

Day 1 – The group arrived in Saskatoon today. I drove from Regina to Saskatoon this afternoon, spotting two large Moose along the way. The 7 folks in the group, from across Canada, including BC, Alberta and Ontario, plus myself, are all fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a requirement of joining a tour with us these days. This is the first tour I have led since the early days of the pandemic, after which travel shut down worldwide. This would be a different tour than any I had previously guided. For one, we are required to wear masks in all public spaces. Vaccine passports had to be presented before entering restaurants. Crowds had to be avoided, and sanitization to had to be a priority. So, armed with binoculars, and disinfecting wipes, we set out on our birding trip. We had a delicious dinner at La Taverna Italian in downtown Saskatoon. As we walked back to the van after dinner, a White-tailed Jackrabbit popped out and hopped about on the downtown streets! Our home base hotel for 4 of the 5 nights on this trip are near the airport on the northern outskirts of Saskatoon.

Day 2 – We left our hotel at dawn and made our way north to an area where I had heard there had been recent sightings of the big white cranes we so sought after. Along the way we saw some of our first flocks of geese strewn across the blue sky. The weather was superb today, with brilliant sunshine and blue skies. Temperatures were over 20 degrees Celsius and there was a light breeze blowing. We turned off the paved highway onto a dusty dirt road, and in the distance we could see some large white birds standing in a field. They were Whooping Cranes. There were 27 of them there, all together in a flock. Twenty-six were adults and just one was a rusty juvenile. They were feeding and jostling with one another, occasionally jumping into the air and flapping their massive black-and-white wings. Our main target bird for the trip. Twenty-seven of them, and at the first stop of the tour. With the Whoopers ‘in the bag’, the pressure for the day was mostly off, but not totally. I had to find some other goodies to entertain the group for the rest of the day.

In addition to the cranes, there were also masses of geese present in the same area. Tens of thousands of them were Snow Geese, but we also had good views of all 4 other regularly seen species of goose in this area; Canada, Cackling, Ross’s, and Greater White-fronted. A pair of Bald Eagles sat near their nest in a row of aspens across a field, and the constant rattling and tinkling of Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks came from the skies above.

We then checked out a small lake. Or was it a large pond? Anyhow, there were just short of 40 species here. Shorebirds included Greater Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitchers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers and best of all an American Golden-Plover. Waterfowl were plentiful and included Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal and a Blue-winged Teal. Overhead a female Northern Harrier sailed by, as did a rather late Turkey Vulture. Flocks of Lapland Longspurs and Horned Larks flew by, some landing briefly on the mud along the shore. Brushy edges to the shore had several species of sparrows in them, including Swamp, White-throated and Song. Several Rusty Blackbirds crept along branches of dead bushes and trees at the edge of the pond. Along the road to this lake / pond, we had a great view of an American Badger barreling off through the stubble, dust flying behind him. Occasionally he would stop and look back at us, showing off his impressive black and white muzzle.

We returned to Saskatoon feeling very content with our morning. After picking up lunch in the supermarket we headed out to explore Cosmopolitan Park, along the shore of the North Saskatchewan River. It was very quiet in the department of migrant songbirds here. No warblers, or vireos or kinglets could be found, though there were a few White-throated Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows and an American Robin or two. Down on the river were quite a few Ring-billed Gulls, along with an adult California Gull. Franklin’s Gulls were overhead, catching insects on the wing. Our first Double-crested Cormorant of the tour was seen flying up the river. We photographed a Richardson’s Ground-Squirrel that was standing next to a building. Moments later a security guard emerged and asked us what we were photographing. It appeared we had high powered cameras aimed at residents in a mental health facility. Once we assured him we were photographing a squirrel, all was well, and off he went. We returned to our hotel for a bit before heading out for a delicious dinner at Bon Temps Cafe.

Day 3 – This morning we had a bit of a drive ahead of us, as we made our way southeast towards Last Mountain Lake National Wildlife Area. Along the drive, we enjoyed some nice sightings including a fairly photogenic adult Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a pair of very large Moose, the male with a huge rack of antlers. Our first Coyote of the tour was also noted as it scurried off through a field. We stopped along the entrance road at a spot with some bird activity. There were plenty of Yellow-rumped Warblers (Myrtle), White-throated Sparrows, Brewer’s Blackbirds, and finally our first flocks of Sandhill Cranes.

Around the visitor’s center we had some nice migrants including half a dozen immature Harris’s Sparrows, Palm Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and American Robins. ‘Slate-colored’ Dark-eyed Juncos were numerous. Blue Jays were heard, but proved hard to see, while we got nice views of Common Grackles in the trees. For much of our time at the visitor’s center, huge flocks of noisy Sandhill Cranes rattled overhead as they sailed south. They were all gathering at a lake to the south, and several thousand were present. On a bit of water to the south of the center were thousands and thousands of geese. Most appeared to be Snow Geese, and many of them of the ‘blue morph’. We had a picnic lunch at the tables outside.

Next up we did the driving loop, stopping to scope the lake. There were plenty of ducks including Redhead, Canvasback, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Bufflehead, etc. A few Cackling Geese were spotted in amongst the Canada Geese. Tundra Swans were calling as they flew in to land on the lake. A Great Blue Heron, our first for the tour, waded in the shallows, and a few shorebirds present included Black-bellied Plover and Greater Yellowlegs. Northern Harrier was seen several times today, flying low over the grasslands and marshes.

We parked our cars at the Grasslands Trail entrance, and Anthony spotted a Brown Creeper hitching up the trunk of a tree next to the van. We took a walk through the prairie along the Grasslands Trail, hoping for a glimpse of a rather rare and elusive songbird that would be a lifer for everyone on the tour, including the guide, a Smith’s Longspur. As we walked along, several Lapland Longspurs flushed from the grasses and as did little groups of Horned Larks. Then, two longspurs flew up in front of me, showing all the characteristics of Smith’s Longspur. There was more white in the outer tail feathers than on the Lapland Longspur, as well as a very distinct white patch on the lesser wings coverts. The underparts of the bird were warm and buffy colored.The call matched up, as it was a dry, slightly slower rattle than that of the Lapland Longspur. I got a lifer, and that is a rare occurrence in Western Canada for me these days.

We drove around to the east side of Last Mountain Lake at the regional park, where we scanned the lake once again. We added some new species here such as Western and Horned grebes, American Coots, Bonaparte’s Gulls and Hooded Merganser. Along the edge of the road, we watched Hermit Thrushes and an immature Harris’s Sparrow hopping about in the grass. Another big highlight was an immature Golden Eagle sitting in a tree close to the road, next to a raven. The raven, which is a big enough bird itself, was dwarfed by the eagle.

Driving west on Hwy 15, I did a u-turn to see some Gray Partridge that I had seen out of the corner of my eye. I swear I do watch the road! We pulled up and watched 15 of them as they crouched and skulked in the grass. At the south end of the Blackstrap Reservoir we had 6 American White Pelicans, as well as our first Pied-billed Grebes.

Back in Saskatoon, we had a very good dinner at The Granary.

Day 4 – Our morning began with a drive east of Saskatoon to the Blucher / Clavet area. Once again, it was sunny and beautiful today, though a little on the cool side early in the morning. We drove up and down dusty country roads, looking for cranes, geese and other birds in the fields and on the lakes and ponds. One field was covered in Sandhill Cranes, perhaps 2000 or more of them. A little pothole had some fantastic birds including 34 American Avocets, in their black and white winter plumage. Other shorebirds here included both American Golden and Black-bellied plovers, as well as Long-billed Dowitchers, some Pectoral Sandpipers and two late Stilt Sandpipers. At Crawford Lake, we added Sanderlings to the trip list, as perhaps two dozen were present and running about on the shore. Huge flocks of geese were in the area, and included all 5 expected species, Snow, Ross’s, Canada, Cackling and Greater White-fronted.

We returned to Saskatoon for lunch and then started the drive north towards Prince Albert. We traveled via Marcelin, in hopes of spotting Whooping Cranes once more. Anthony spotted three cranes flying in the distance and they were Whooping Cranes. We drove towards them, however we were still quite a distance away from them where we got out to set up our scopes. It was a pair of adults and a juvenile bird.

From Marcelin it was about an hour’s drive to Prince Albert. We arrived, checked in to our hotel and then went for dinner at Boston Pizza. After dinner we went out and got fantastic views of a Northern Saw-whet Owl north of the North Saskatchewan River. The owl was incredible, and the night sky also put on quite a show this evening. We added White-tailed Deer to our growing mammal list.

Day 5 – As the sun came up we left Prince Albert and headed north towards Prince Albert National Park. At Boundary Bog we walked the 2 km trail and had some fantastic sightings. We started off with a big target species for the trip, American Three-toed Woodpecker. As we followed the trail we saw several Boreal Chickadees, as well as Canada Jays and our first Golden-crowned Kinglets of the tour.

Two male Spruce Grouse provided another highlight, as they sat still next to the path. White-winged Crossbills called overhead, and we also had great views of a Pileated Woodpecker. In addition to the birds, the scenery was great. Golden colored tamaracks lit up against the blue sky. The trail opened up to a viewing area at the edge of a small lake, where Carl spotted something in the water. We raised our binoculars and realized it was a Northern River Otter!

We then headed into the town of Waskesiu, on the shores of Lake Waskesiu. We grabbed some lunch at the deli and sat at picnic tables near the lake. Along the shore were some gulls, including mostly Ring-billed Gulls, but also one California Gull. Black-billed Magpies tried to get into bear proof garbage bins, without any luck, I might add. After lunch we took a little drive around to try and spot some American Elk. We found them, about 8 or so, resting on the green grass of the golf course. Most were females, but there was one buck with a big set of antlers.

For the next couple of hours we explored the Narrows Road, stopping in at a couple of locations along the way. At South Bay, we scanned the lake, spying a couple of Common Loons far out on the water. A huge Common Raven poked about on the shoreline right in front of us. Short stops at a little lake provided our first Ring-necked Ducks and Common Goldeneye of the tour, and we had more views of Boreal Chickadees, along with Red-breasted Nuthatches.

As we drove along the Narrows Road, we saw up to 30 Canada Jays, as well as plenty of Dark-eyed Juncos and a couple of obliging Horned Larks! Once at the Narrows, we enjoyed some more views of Common Goldeneye, as well as Red-necked Grebe. There were Rusty Blackbirds present, and the group spotted the 2nd Pileated Woodpecker of the day when I went off to fetch the van. The day was getting on now, and we still had to drive about 2.5 hours back to Saskatoon. The drive was pleasant, but as we neared ‘Toon Town’, a hazy smoke drifted in, apparently from forest fires around Hudson Bay. We went out for a delicious meal this evening at Manos.

Day 6 – It was the final morning of the tour and we hoped to add a few more species to our trip list before all was said and done. We headed to the Saskatoon Forestry Farm, a city park with lots of big trees and manicured lawns. There were some nice birds here, including some birds new for the trip, including White-breasted Nuthatch, House Finch, Purple Finch and Golden-crowned Kinglet.

Our final stop of the tour was at Gabriel Dumont Park, along the shores of the North Saskatchewan River. I hoped we might find a Swamp Sparrow here, as not everyone had obtained a good view of this species yet. In the exact same spot along the shore that I had one in 2018, a Swamp Sparrow appeared and was seen by everyone. Score! There were Yellow-rumped Warblers, a single Palm Warbler, and the final new bird of the tour, an Orange-crowned Warbler here.

We grabbed lunch, took it back to the hotel near the airport, and the tour was all finished. We said our goodbyes and traveled off in various directions. We had tallied 107 species of birds as a group during our tour. Thank you to all who came along. It was a great tour, with fantastic birds, great weather and equally great company. Until next time.

BIRD SPECIES LIST: Snow Goose; Ross’s Goose; Greater White-fronted Goose; Cackling Goose; Canada Goose; Tundra Swan; Blue-winged Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Canvasback; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Bufflehead; Common Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Ruffed Grouse; Spruce Grouse; Sharp-tailed Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Western Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Mourning Dove; American Coot; Sandhill Crane; Whooping Crane; American Avocet; American Golden-Plover; Black-bellied Plover; Stilt Sandpiper; Sanderling; Pectoral Sandpiper; Long-billed Dowitcher; Greater Yellowlegs; Bonaparte’s Gull; Franklin’s Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Common Loon; Double-crested Cormorant; American White Pelican; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Golden Eagle; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Northern Saw-whet Owl; Belted Kingfisher; American Three-toed Woodpecker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Canada Jay; Blue Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Horned Lark; Black-capped Chickadee; Boreal Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Winter Wren; Marsh Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Pipit; House Finch; Purple Finch; White-winged Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Lapland Longspur; Smith’s Longspur; American Tree Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Fox Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Swamp Sparrow; White-throated Sparrow; Harris’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Western Meadowlark; Rusty Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Common Grackle; Orange-crowned Warbler; Palm Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler.

MAMMAL SPECIES LIST: White-tailed Jackrabbit; Red Squirrel; Richardson’s Ground-Squirrel; Muskrat; Northern River Otter; American Badger; Coyote; White-tailed Deer; Mule Deer; Moose; American Elk.

PHOTOS: From top of report to bottom: Snow & Ross’s geese by Nigel Eggers; Whooping Cranes by Chris Charlesworth; Snow Geese by Chris Charlesworth; Richardson’s Ground-Squirrel by Chris Charlesworth; Moose by Chris Charlesworth; Sandhill Crane by Chris Charlesworth; Rusty Blackbird by Nigel Eggers; Hermit Thrush by Nigel Eggers; Golden Eagle by Chris Charlesworth; American White Pelican by Chris Charlesworth; Greater White-fronted geese by Chris Charlesworth; Horned Lark by Chris Charlesworth; Northern Saw-whet Owl by Nigel Eggers; Boundary Bog fall colors by Chris Charlesworth; American Three-toed Woodpecker by Chris Charlesworth; Elk by Chris Charlesworth; Canada Jay by Nigel Eggers; Spruce Grouse by Chris Charlesworth; Golden-crowned Kinglet by Nigel Eggers; Harris’s Sparrow by Nigel Eggers; Group at Boundary Bog by Chris Charlesworth.

South Okanagan Birding – October 7, 2021

I met up with my client, Raj from Prince George, in Summerland at 7 AM and we made our way to Trout Creek Point and Sunoka Provincial Park. Along the beach there were some birds, such as Ring-billed, California, Herring and hybrid Glaucous-winged gulls, Green-winged Teal, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese, Great Blue Heron and a Common Loon. A few migrants were about in the trees, and included Yellow-rumped Warblers, Orange-crowned Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. In the top of the same cottonwood tree, we had both an American Kestrel and a Merlin sitting side by side!

Next up, we visited the waterfront of Okanagan Lake in Penticton. Through the scope, I spotted a raft of 17 female Surf Scoters, a nice bird for the Okanagan Valley. There were plenty of gulls here, including an adult Iceland Gull, which was new for our list. Red-necked, Horned and Western grebes were spotted out on the lake, along with Common Loon as well. Up the Okanagan River, just beyond the dam, we enjoyed watching 5 female type Harlequin Ducks swimming and feeding.

At the Esplanade and Yacht Club in Penticton there were quite a few migrants about in the bushes, including plenty of White-crowned Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Orange-crowned Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a calling Wilson’s Warbler, the latter of which managed to stay out of sight. A Cooper’s Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk screeched through the treetops, perhaps making some of the migrants hesitant to come out into the open. Out on the lake, I spotted my ‘bird of the day’, a Clark’s Grebe! This species is rare in B.C., outside of Salmon Arm where one or two pairs breed most years.

We then headed south to explore the White Lake / Twin Lakes road areas. A stop at Three Gates Farm produced Red-breasted Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadee and a lovely Evening Grosbeak. Mountain Bluebirds were a highlight as they sat on fence posts and telephone wires, and Western Meadowlarks sang, but remained hidden in the grasses. A California Quail (female) sat atop a fence post, and was a new bird for Raj.

At an undisclosed location we saw 5 Burrowing Owls, all from the reintroduction program.

A short stop at Mahoney Lake gave us the opportunity to see all three species of nuthatches in Canada, White-breasted, Pygmy and Red-breasted nuthatches, side by side. Green Lake had a pair of Ruddy Ducks, our only ones for the day, as well as some Ring-necked Ducks.

Another short stop at Okanagan Falls produced an American Dipper that was feeding quietly along a side-channel of the river.

To finish off our day, we headed into the forests east of Okanagan Falls, along Venner Meadows Road and Shuttleworth Creek Road. Here, we added several montane species to the daily tally, including Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Varied Thrush, Clark’s Nutcracker, and overhead an adult Golden Eagle! All in all, it was a great day, with good birds and nice weather! Couldn’t ask for more.

BIRD SPECIES LIST: Canada Goose; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Ring-necked Duck; Harlequin Duck; Surf Scoter; Bufflehead; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; California Quail; Ring-necked Pheasant; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Western Grebe; Clark’s Grebe; Rock Pigeon: American Coot; Sandhill Crane; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Iceland Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Golden Eagle; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Burrowing Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Canyon Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Mountain Bluebird; American Robin; Varied Thrush; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Pipit; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Western Meadowlark; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Orange-crowned Warbler.

PHOTOS: All by Chris Charlesworth on October 7, 2021. In order from top of report to bottom: Common Loon; Harlequin Duck; Glaucous-winged Gull; Western Grebe; Song Sparrow.

Birding Kelowna to Osoyoos, B.C. September 11, 2021

I had the pleasure of birding with three ladies from Kelowna today. We met at Rotary Beach, along Lakeshore Road in Kelowna. Here, we hoped to find some shorebirds feeding along the muddy shoreline and we were not disappointed. Included were Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plover, Western Sandpipers and a Pectoral Sandpiper. An immature Bonaparte’s Gull flew around, and was occasionally joined by a Common Tern.

At the mouth of Mission Creek the highlight was a first year Franklin’s Gull, as well as a Sanderling, a Baird’s Sandpiper and a Least Sandpiper, and a few more views of the Common Tern.

A stop at Sunoka Provincial Park in Summerland’s Trout Creek area, turned out to be a very productive one for migrant passerines. There were Wilson’s, Yellow-rumped, MacGillivray’s, Orange-crowned and a locally rare Tennessee warbler present, as well as Common Yellowthroat, Evening Grosbeak and Warbling Vireo.

Franklin's Gull

At the north end of Vaseux Lake, we walked the boardwalk to the viewing tower. There were a few songbirds in the bushes along the boardwalk, such as Bewick’s Wren, Gray Catbird, and Wilson’s, Yellow and Orange-crowned warblers. A continuing adult Tundra Swan was seen through the scope along with some other waterfowl, such as Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal.

At an undisclosed location we had a nice treat today, the sighting of 13 Burrowing Owls in a field. These birds are reintroduced and it is encouraging to see a good number of young birds out today.

Next up, we visited the pine forests along McKinney Road in Oliver. The area was torched by a forest fire this summer, so it was quite charred, but there were still some birds about, including all three nuthatches (Red-breasted, White-breasted and Pygmy), Red-naped Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker and Red Crossbills.

Red Crossbill

A walk along the dykes at Road 22 was pleasant, but produced no surprises in the bird department. There were the usual Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawks, Ospreys and a Merlin about. Weedy areas had some sparrows including Song, Savannah, White-crowned and Lincoln’s.

We began the northward journey, next stopping along White Lake Road amongst the sweet smelling sagebrush. On the mud at the lake were two shorebirds, a juvenile Sanderling and a Western Sandpiper. Along Twin Lakes Road we were surprised to find a lingering Sage Thrasher on a fence post. Our day’s tally was about 85 species, which is not too shabby for a day in September.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Tundra Swan; Wood Duck; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; California Quail; Red-necked Grebe; Horned Grebe; Western Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; American Coot; Semipalmated Plover; Killdeer; Sanderling; Baird’s Sandpiper; Least Sandpiper; Pectoral Sandpiper; Western Sandpiper; Spotted Sandpiper; Bonaparte’s Gull; Franklin’s Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Common Tern; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Burrowing Owl; Red-naped Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Say’s Phoebe; Warbling Vireo; Steller’s Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Violet-green Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Bewick’s Wren; Marsh Wren; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Mountain Bluebird; American Robin; Sage Thrasher; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; American Pipit; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Tennessee Warbler; Orange-crowned Warbler; MacGillivray’s Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Wilson’s Warbler.

PHOTOS: Semipalmated Sandpiper (CC); Bonaparte’s Gull (CC); Franklin’s Gull (KN); Red Crossbill (KN); Sage Thrasher (CC).

CC – Chris Charlesworth; KN – Kathy Nuszdorfer.

Okanagan Valley, B.C. September 8-10, 2021

Sep 8 – I met up with my client, Anthony from Ontario, and enjoyed a fantastic day of birding in the Central Okanagan area. Our first stop was at Sutherland Hills Park, an excellent place for an introduction to the common birds of the ponderosa forest in this part of the world. We crossed over Mission Creek, and had a Belted Kingfisher, but no dippers. California Quail put on a nice show, and uttered their comical calls from the understory. Red-shafted Northern Flickers were common in park, and Downy Woodpecker was heard, but not seen. A group of Pygmy Nuthatches moved through the trees, providing us with good views of this ‘Okanagan specialty’ (as far as Canada is concerned). A few migrants in the trees included Warbling Vireos, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a lingering Western Wood-Pewee. Gray Catbirds, Swainson’s Thrushes and Spotted Towhees scratched about in the leaflitter, while a Western Tanager showed off its nice white wing bars in a cherry tree.

Our next stop was at the Chichester Bird Sanctuary, where we hoped to find a lingering Cinnamon Teal. After searching through the dozens of Mallards, the Cinnamon Teal was seen and photographed. Another exciting photo subject here was a roosting Great Horned Owl.

We then climbed up out of the valley bottom, exploring Beaver Lake Road, near Lake Country. The first several kilometers of road go through grassland habitat where we had some nice birds including Say’s Phoebe, Mountain Bluebird, Western Meadowlark, Vesper Sparrow, American Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk and Northern Harrier. Once we entered the forest, each stop produced Red-breasted Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadees, American Robins and Yellow-rumped Warblers. At one particular stop we enjoyed watching a pair of Townsend’s Solitaires, one of which fought off some robins to defend some berries, and another of which sat motionless in a tall pine snag. Finches were not numerous, but we did have a group of 3 female type Cassin’s Finches, and a single Evening Grosbeak at different locations along Beaver Lake Road this morning. Cassin’s Vireo sang at one location, but wouldn’t come out to see us, however a Red-naped Sapsucker cooperated nicely and perched in the open for a few moments.

At Beaver Lake itself, we had several Common Loons on the lake. A group of Steller’s Jays, B.C.’s official provincial bird, came in to look for scraps when we had a snack. A couple of Clark’s Nutcrackers flew over, but didn’t hang about. We had a slightly better look at another flyover nutcracker later as well. Osprey and a young Bald Eagle were along the edge of the lake, in search of fish. Another surprise, we had a black colored Yellow Pine Chipmunk here, something that I have only seen once before.

We walked Crooked Lake Road, searching for boreal species, including Am. Three-toed Woodpecker. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the woodpecker, but we did see some Canada Jays, a Pacific Wren, Brown Creepers, the ‘Oregon’ race of Dark-eyed Junco and a lingering Hammond’s Flycatcher along the way. At Crooked Lake there were two female Ring-necked Ducks. On our way back down Beaver Lake Road, we had great views of a male Dusky Grouse on the side of the road.

Along Mission Creek I was able to find us a roosting Western Screech-Owl, one of the avian highlights of the day. A rather small Black Bear was seen swimming across Mission Creek, before it disappeared into the riparian woodlands on the other side.

We then headed up into the mountainous areas east of Kelowna, off Highway 33, where we had an excellent showing of woodpeckers. At one location we had a lovely male Black-backed Woodpecker, a couple of Hairy Woodpeckers, a Pileated Woodpecker and a Northern Flicker all pecking away together. Highlight here, however, was a Northern Pygmy-Owl, one of several lifers for my Anthony today.

As we finished off our way, we took a spin through the parking lot at Willow Park Mall. A Short-billed Gull, the new name for Mew Gull, had been frequenting this parking lot and it didn’t take us too long to spot it sitting up atop the roof at McDonald’s. All in all, it was a fantastic day of birding.

Sep 9 – We began along the shore of Okanagan Lake this morning, at the mouth of Mission Creek in Kelowna. This location is good for waterbirds, shorebirds, gulls and the like, often attracting unusual species. Shorebirds included several Killdeer, a juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper and a juvenile Sanderling. Anthony saw his first California Gulls and Glaucous-winged Gulls here, as well as Bonaparte’s, Ring-billed and Herring gulls. There were a few Red-necked Grebes out on the lake, as well as some super distant Western Grebes. A lingering Western Wood-Pewee foraged for insects from a large cottonwood. Next up, at nearby Rotary Beach, we had our first Wood Duck of the tour, as well as a Pied-billed Grebe and a little group of sandpipers that included 5 Western Sandpipers and 2 possible Pectoral Sandpipers, but they flew off as we arrived.

We then headed across the lake to Peachland where our next stop was at Hardy Falls. We strolled up Deep Creek, enjoying views of the spawning Kokanee along the way. Birds were few and far between in here this morning, but we spotted our target species nonetheless. Two American Dippers, an adult and a juvenile, were watching at length from one of the wooden bridges that cross over the stream. Just another lifer for Anthony.

Continuing south, we headed for the White Lake area, checking in first, along Twin Lakes Road. As we slowly drove along Twin Lakes Road I spotted one of our best birds of the day sitting on a fencepost, a Sage Thrasher! This is a rather late record for this rare and local sagebrush specialty. Further along we stopped to look at some re-introduced Burrowing Owls. Overhead were about 200 Violet-green Swallows and a few Barn Swallows mixed in. Sparrows included Savannah, White-crowned and Vesper. Several Western Meadowlarks were noted and some Horned Larks were heard overhead.

As we drove down Green Lake Road, we paused to check for migrants in a brushy depression and were rewarded with Orange-crowned, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Cassin’s Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Gray Catbird and a brief view of a Canyon Wren. Another stop along Green Lake Road, this time down by the Okanagan River Channel, produced our only Bewick’s Wren of the tour.

At the Vaseux Cliffs we had fantastic views of a Canyon Wren. Some migrants were present, and the best of them was a lingering Gray Flycatcher, another rare and local Okanagan specialty. There were at least 5 Townsend’s Solitaires at one location as well, where they were feasting on elderberries. The local herd of ‘California’ Bighorn Sheep were resting in the shade and feasting on grass as well. All three species of nuthatches, Pygmy, White-breasted and Red-breasted, tallied in the pines here. At the north end of Vaseux Lake we got good views of a Tundra Swan, as well as various other waterfowl. There was a first year Short-billed Gull here as well, and a Black-bellied Plover fed on a sandbar, alongside a Wilson’s Snipe.

As we tried to make our way south to Osoyoos we got turned around by an accident that had closed the highway by Gallagher Lake. Our detour took us along Fairview Road, where we had hoped to bypass the snarl, but to our dismay there was another accident that had closed that road as well. We finally found a way to get through and our next stop was at Kruger Mountain Road near Osoyoos. We could not find any Lesser Goldfinches here, but we did get some other goodies such as Anthony’s first Western Bluebirds, Cassin’s Finch, Western Tanager, Steller’s Jays, Chipping Sparrows and more.

Our final stop of the day was at The Throne, near the north end of Osoyoos Lake. The towering cliffs here are good for Canyon and Rock wrens. We heard Canyon Wren but did not find any Rock Wrens. There was an adult Peregrine Falcon hunting and soaring around the south face of the cliff though. Mixed sparrow flocks here included several Chipping Sparrows. At the end of the day, we had tallied over 90 species!

Sep 10 – We left Kelowna and it was still quite dark at 6 AM, reaching our destination, Salmon Arm, before 8 AM. We began at the pier, where we enjoyed some very nice birding in the morning sunlight. There were many ducks, and quite a few distant Western Grebes here, a lifer for Anthony. Shorebirds included some Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, a Wilson’s Snipe, one each of American Golden-Plover and Black-bellied Plover, Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpipers and 5 juvenile Long-billed Dowitchers right below the pier. A Merlin attempted to catch a Spotted Sandpiper several times by driving it under water. Lucky for the sandpiper, the Merlin was not terribly persistent. A pair of Peregrine Falcons also hunted out over the mudflats. There were Ospreys, Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawk present as well. In with the usual Ring-billed and Herring gulls were a couple of Bonaparte’s Gulls. Flying and calling along the foreshore were Barn Swallows, Horned Lark, American Pipits and a Lapland Longspur.

At Christmas Island, along Salmon Arm’s foreshore, we took a walk for a couple of hours or so, racking up a nice selection of species. Here, we had excellent views of many Western Grebes and we were able to pick out a single Clark’s Grebe amongst them. In with the usual waterfowl were a few interesting ones like Redhead, Greater Scaup, Wood Duck, Cinnamon Teal and Hooded Merganser. We counted 105 American White Pelicans here in Salmon Arm today, with the majority of them resting on the rocks at Christmas Island. Great Blue Herons were plentiful today along the muddy shore, and we also had a Northern Harrier to add to the raptor list. A few migrant passerines were about, but not too many. They included White-crowned, Lincoln’s, and Savannah sparrows, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Gray Catbird, and Cedar Waxwing.

We left Salmon Arm, returning to the Kelowna area, where we spent an hour or so exploring Robert Lake. A few ducks were added to our growing trip list, including Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, as well as a number of Eared Grebes. Shorebirds included a Pectoral Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs and 9 Red-necked Phalaropes. Migrants in the grassy margins around the lake included Horned Lark, American Pipit, Savannah Sparrow and a Marsh Wren. There were mixed groups of Red-winged, Brewer’s and Yellow-headed blackbirds about as well.

Our final stop of the tour was at Munson Pond, where I hoped we’d find a few last targets for Anthony, such as MacGillivray’s Warbler and Vaux’s Swift. It was fairly quiet for migrants here, and we didn’t find the target species, but we still had some birds like Lincoln’s Sparrows, Orange-crowned Warbler, Violet-green Swallows and a very photogenic Belted Kingfisher. After all was said and done, we’d found almost 140 species during our three days of birding in the Southern Interior of B.C. Anthony carried on down to the coast for some more birding with Melissa Hafting, and more lifers, no doubt.

Bird List: Canada Goose; Tundra Swan; Wood Duck; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Greater Scaup; Bufflehead; Common Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Ring-necked Pheasant; Dusky Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Western Grebe; Clark’s Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; American Coot; Black-bellied Plover; American Golden-Plover; Killdeer; Sanderling; Baird’s Sandpiper; Pectoral Sandpiper; Western Sandpiper; Long-billed Dowitcher; Wilson’s Snipe; Spotted Sandpiper; Lesser Yellowlegs; Greater Yellowlegs; Red-necked Phalarope; Bonaparte’s Gull; Short-billed Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Common Loon; American White Pelican; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Burrowing Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Red-naped Sapsucker; Black-backed Woodpecker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Peregrine Falcon; Western Wood-Pewee; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Gray Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Horned Lark; Violet-green Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Canyon Wren; Pacific Wren; Marsh Wren; Bewick’s Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Swainson’s Thrush; American Robin; Gray Catbird; Sage Thrasher; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Pipit; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Lapland Longspur; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Western Tanager.

PHOTOS: All by Chris Charlesworth (C) 2021. From top to bottom of report: Great Horned Owl; Cinnamon Teal; Steller’s Jay; Dusky Grouse; Western Screech-Owl; Short-billed Gull; American Dipper; Savannah Sparrow; Pygmy Nuthatch; Osprey: Pectoral Sandpiper.

South Okanagan Day Tour – August 3, 2021

I met up with my client, a friend from Quesnel, in Naramata early this morning. We made our way to White Lake, where amongst the sagebrush, we had some very nice birds this morning. Sparrows were rather numerous, and most were Vesper Sparrows, though we did have a few Lark Sparrows and a couple of very nice Brewer’s Sparrows. One of the Brewer’s was an adult in rather molty plumage, and the other was a fresh juvenile, the latter of which was feeding along the edge of the road and provided fantastic views. We flushed 13 Gray Partridge here today, with a covey of 12 flushed first, and a single bird subsequently flushed. Through the scope we watched at least 3 Sage Thrashers in the distance, and we speculated there were perhaps 4-5 birds, a family group.

A stroll through the Ponderosa Pines near Mahoney Lake provided us with good views of all three species of nuthatches, as well as Western Wood-Pewee, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbill, Spotted Towhee and more. On Mahoney Lake were Pied-billed Grebes, American Coots and some unidentifiable distant diving ducks.

We made a quick visit to a patch of willows near Vaseux Lake NW Marsh, hoping to find a Bewick’s Wren. We did find one, and it called several times, but remained hidden in the brush. Other birds here included Cassin’s Vireo, Black-headed Grosbeak and Western Tanager.

At the cliffs at Vaseux Lake we heard, but couldn’t see Rock Wren and Canyon Wren. A Peregrine Falcon soared overhead, and we counted close to 40 Bighorn Sheep relaxing in the shade of a pine tree. After a little searching, we found a couple of Lewis’s Woodpeckers. Many of the birds were sitting as still as stones, and one bird, perhaps a Cedar Waxwing, was emitting high-pitched alarm calls that often signal a raptor is in the area. Sure enough, a Merlin leapt out of the trees and soared overhead for a few moments before disappearing. We scanned the north end of Vaseux Lake from the cliffs and we saw a Trumpeter Swan, a continuing bird that has been summering in the area.

After we had lunch in Oliver, we carried on down to Road 22. It was quite hot by this point, as the temperatures today hit 37 degrees Celsius. Birds were being quiet, but still we managed some interesting finds. Eastern Kingbirds were numerous, and we heard but could not see at least a couple of Yellow-breasted Chats. Gray Catbirds called from the vegetation and a Downy Woodpecker flew past. Raptors included several Ospreys and a Northern Harrier. We scanned through fields of thistle, finding a number of American Goldfinches. Swallows were well represented, as we had Barn, Bank, Cliff and Northern Rough-winged. A pair of Hooded Mergansers paddled off in one of the oxbows visible from the dykes.

We then headed to Kruger Mountain Road, up Hwy 3, west of Osoyoos. We hoped to find some Lesser Goldfinch here, and we were successful. As I slowly drove along I heard the high pitched calls of one so we stopped the car. After a short burst of pishing, four Lesser Goldfinches, a couple of males, a female, and perhaps a fledged bird, appeared on the wires. They flew off a short distance and we followed them, viewing them again down right beside a fence, where they were eating seeds. Other birds present included Cassin’s Finch, Black-headed Grosbeak, Say’s Phoebe, Steller’s Jay, California Quail and a female type Black-chinned Hummingbird. A fledgling Townsend’s Solitaire was interesting to watch as it spread its wings and appeared to be sunning itself on a fence post. A pond here added a few ducks to the day list, including American Wigeon and Northern Shoveler.

On our way back north, we popped into Inkaneep Provincial Park. The trail I wanted to explore was closed, but we still managed a few goodies including another calling Yellow-breasted Chat, a Downy Woodpecker, Gray Catbirds and plenty of Cedar Waxwings.

At some cliffs on Allendale Road, we heard and briefly saw at least a couple of Canyon Wrens. Our only White-throated Swift of the day zipped past here as well. All in all, for a hot, somewhat smoky day in August, we did very well.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Trumpeter Swan; Wood Duck; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Bufflehead; Hooded Merganser; California Quail; Gray Partridge; Pied-billed Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; White-throated Swift; Black-chinned Hummingbird; American Coot; Killdeer; Greater Yellowlegs; Ring-billed Gull; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Cooper’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Belted Kingfisher; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Peregrine Falcon; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Western Wood-Pewee; Willow Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Red-eyed Vireo; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; 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; Bewick’s Wren; Western Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; Gray Catbird; Sage Thrasher; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; Lesser Goldfinch; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Brewer’s Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Yellow-breasted Chat; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.

B.C. ~ Southern Interior Birding – June 25 – 28, 2021

June 25 – I met up with my three clients, and friends, at their hotel in Kelowna this morning. It was sunny and hot, and during our upcoming four day birding adventure, we would endure the hottest temperatures on record in Canadian history. We spent the first part of our morning looking for Western Screech-Owls at a couple of their roosting sites, and after a little searching, we found both birds. Both of them were snuggled up to the trunk of their trees, snoozing away the afternoon. In the process of looking for the owls, we encountered some other nice birds like Downy Woodpecker, a singing Yellow-breasted Chat and a couple of Bullock’s Orioles, as well as a female Calliope Hummingbird and a Pileated Woodpecker.

We then headed into the mountains east of Kelowna to look for Northern Pygmy-Owls. We found two of them, presumably a pair, in an area of forest where I have been seeing them regularly this year. In addition to the owls, there were other birds including Townsend’s Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Near Big White Ski Resort, we explored a nice patch of boreal forest. The big highlight was encountering a pair of Boreal Chickadees, but a close runner up was a lovely male Pine Grosbeak. We heard, but could not see, an American Three-toed Woodpecker. An Olive-sided Flycatcher belted out his ‘Quick three beers’ song from the top of a snag. A number of Steller’s Jays were calling as they moved through the forest, and Hermit Thrushes were singing their ethereal songs from the thick vegetation. In a regenerating clearcut, a White-crowned Sparrow sang.

From Kelowna, we made our way towards Merritt on the Connector. Once in Merritt, we followed Hwy 5A to Kamloops, stopping in at a number of spots along the way. Near Quilchena, we stopped to view an adult Swainson’s Hawk on a telephone pole. The hawk flew down into a hay field, and then returned to a closer telephone pole, for excellent scope views. At Guichon Flats we scanned the marshes and wetlands, finding a variety of birds such as Eared Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Redhead, Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal, Northern Pintail, Wilson’s Phalarope and Yellow-headed Blackbirds to name a few. At Planet Mine Road, we watched a pair of Lewis’s Woodpeckers, who appeared to be taking it easy in the sweltering heat. Also along here we had Clark’s Nutcracker, Western Kingbirds, Western Meadowlark and American Kestrel. Driving past lakes as we headed north, we spotted several Red-necked Grebes and an adult Herring Gull at Stump Lake, and a gorgeous Black Tern at Napier Lake.

After checking in at our hotel, we headed back out into the field, this time hoping for some owls. As it was still daylight, we continued to bird until dusk. We found Red-naped Sapsuckers tending to a nest, as well as a nesting House Wren. Clark’s Nutcrackers were flying overhead, and a Common Nighthawk called. Then, our patience paid off, as I spotted a Great Gray Owl sitting nearby in a fir tree, looking this way and that, as he began his evening of hunting.

June 26 – It was to be another sunny and hot day, as we began at Rose Hill near Kamloops. We had excellent views of Horned Larks as they sang from the hilltop and from fence posts. A Clay-colored Sparrow caught our attention, so we were looking for that, when suddenly a Brewer’s Sparrow appeared on the scene and began singing. The Clay-colored and Brewer’s were side by side, showing an excellent comparison of their distinguishing features. The Clay-colored had a much more noticeable face pattern than did the comparatively drab Brewer’s.

From Kamloops we followed the Trans Canada Highway east to Salmon Arm. Here, we began at the pier, where we were somewhat surprised by the lack of birds. The usual numbers of nesting Western Grebes appear to be down, and we didn’t see a Clark’s Grebe today. Ospreys that usually nest here in numbers, appear to be at only one or two nests this year. One highlight was seeing an American White Pelican resting in the bay to the west of the pier, and a bunch of Common Mergansers were resting on a log. We headed for the trail to Christmas Island, where we found the usual songbirds, including Red-eyed Vireo, Gray Catbird, Lazuli Bunting, Willow Flycatcher, Song Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat. At Christmas Island, there was a brood of nearly grown Hooded Mergansers, as well as a Wood Duck and several American Wigeon. Soras called from the marsh, and we viewed a Bald Eagle’s nest in a towering cottonwood tree. There were at least 2 large, brown eaglets. We heard, but couldn’t see a Yellow-breasted Chat, as it sang from a brushy hillside. With close to 50 species tallied at Salmon Arm, it was a good stop. We had lunch on a patio before making our way down to Kelowna.

This evening we again headed out, once the temperatures had cooled ever so slightly. The sun sank below the hillside as we visited Robert Lake. Here, we had a dozen Black-necked Stilts! There were two broods of four young stilts, and two pairs of adults. Also here, we had nice views of Wilson’s Phalaropes, and we got the usual Eared Grebes, teal and Ruddy Ducks. A Mule Deer strolled past us, while we scanned the lake.

This evening we hoped to see a Flammulated Owl, and we did. In fact, we saw two of them together. We heard, but didn’t see Common Poorwills, and there were Common Nighthawks continually buzzing and booming overhead. A Western Screech-Owl let out a few barking calls, but remained hidden as well. Before it was dark, though, we were able to get a number of species, such as Black-headed Grosbeak, Townsend’s Solitaire, Veery and Western Tanager.

June 27 – Leaving Kelowna, we made our first stop of the day, on what was to be the hottest day in Canadian history, at Hardy Falls near Peachland. It was a pleasant stroll up the shady canyon this morning, and we were rewarded at the waterfall, with great views of an American Dipper. Other birds encountered along the walk included Veery, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, a nesting Western Wood-Pewee, Nashville Warbler, American Goldfinch and Spotted Towhee.

At White Lake, it was already nearing 30 degrees Celsius and the birds were not terribly active. The regular species, Mountain Bluebirds, Western and Eastern kingbirds and Western Meadowlarks, were all in attendance, but we couldn’t find any Sage Thrashers unfortunately. We scoped a distant Burrowing Owl, part of a re-introduction program, which was nice to see. Finally, after hearing loads of them, we saw a Vesper Sparrow on a fence post this morning.

In the Ponderosa Pines near Mahoney Lake, we took a stroll, and we encountered both Pygmy and White-breasted nuthatches. The White-breasted was clinging to the trunk of a pine right in front of us! A Gray Flycatcher, the only of our trip, and perhaps the rarest empidonax flycatcher in Canada, popped up and put on a nice show for us. My pygmy owl call brought out a whole bunch of birds such as Western Tanager, Cassin’s Finches, Red Crossbill and Mountain Chickadee.

As the day was really heating up now, and the temperature was close to 40 degrees, we popped into Tickleberry’s for a little ice cream. We then made our way up into the forests east of Okanagan Falls, where we hoped to find some new birds. We watched a pair of Williamson’s Sapsuckers tend to their vociferous nestlings in a cavity high up in a larch. We also had a nest of Red-naped Sapsuckers, with similarly noisy nestlings. A Mountain Chickadee fed a tiny fledgling on its perch near the ground, and Hermit Thrushes were singing once again. A Cassin’s Vireo flitted in the conifers but eventually came out to give us a view. We tried to see a MacGillivray’s Warbler, and in fact there were about 4 of them at one location, but none would sit still, out in the open, for long enough, for a decent view. We heard a singing Orange-crowned Warbler however. At Venner Meadows a few new birds were added to our trip list such as Lincoln’s Sparrow, Dusky Flycatcher and a rather uncooperative Northern Waterthrush. It was a ‘pleasant’ 32 degrees up at the higher elevations we explored this afternoon, but once we returned to the valley bottom, we were hit with temperatures nearing 42 degrees Celsius. We had to take a ‘siesta’ for a while at our hotel.

After dinner, we headed for Road 22, north of Osoyoos, where we had an enjoyable couple of hours of birding. There were Bobolinks singing in the hay fields, and swallows of all sorts were foraging over the fields and over the river as well. Yellow-breasted Chats were singing from all around us, and we saw a couple of them through the scope. Monica pointed out a Vaux’s Swift overhead, our only encounter with this species on the tour. I spotted a Northern Harrier on a fence post, our first bird of this variety as well, and a Cooper’s Hawk also made its debut onto our list. House Wrens sang from the riparian woods. Marsh Wrens chattered from the marsh, and a Bewick’s Wren sang briefly as well. Gray Catbirds, Bullock’s Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeak and Yellow Warbler all joined in to the ‘dusk chorus’. As it got darker, Common Nighthawks began to grow in numbers. At one point, over a dozen were coming down to drink water and catch insects low over the oxbows. It was quite a magical sight. A quick look at the north end of Osoyoos Lake produced some Red-necked Grebes and a very nice view. We made our way back to Oliver via Black Sage Road. I heard the begging call of fledgling Great Horned Owls as I was driving along, so we stopped, and sure enough, there were two fledged owlets calling before flying off into the night.

June 28 – After a quick stop to grab coffee and provisions, we were on our way to the cliffs at ‘The Throne’, a prominent rocky mountain near the north end of Osoyoos Lake, that, if you use your imagination, looks like a throne. We walked through the antelope-brush towards the cliffs, and the songs of Canyon and Rock wrens grew louder as we approached. The chattering of White-throated Swifts soon began to fill the air, but the screams of a pair of Peregrine Falcons soon penetrated the air as well, distracting us from everything else. We eventually had good looks at both the Canyon and Rock wrens as they sang and hopped about on prominent rocky perches. On our way back towards the car, we had great views of a male Western Bluebird, as well as our only Lark Sparrow of the tour.

Back down at Road 22, we explored the southeast dyke, where we had good views of our only Least Flycatcher for the tour. A male Black-chinned Hummingbird was viewed through the scope, on his perch upon a telephone wire. At the north end of Osoyoos Lake there were several Ring-billed Gulls, a California Gull and a large, fairly dark-backed gull that was just too far away for proper identification, unfortunately. A Common Loon was diving towards the northwest corner of the lake, and we had a Pied-billed Grebe in the marsh nearby.

In the Richter Pass, we explored Kruger Mountain Road, hoping for Lesser Goldfinches. This species has only recently been ‘discovered’ to be breeding in Canada, in the hills around Osoyoos. On our first pass through the suitable habitat, we didn’t get any Lesser Goldfinches. On our way back to our cars, I could hear them calling. After a few minutes, a male was sitting on the telephone wire in front of us, while a second bird continued to call in the trees nearby. In general, the birds were very active here this morning, and we even had a nice Northern Pygmy-Owl give us a show. The owl was being mobbed by an entourage of birds, including Black-chinned and Rufous hummingbirds, Red-naped Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-breasted and White-breasted nuthatches, Western Bluebirds, Cassin’s Finches, Nashville Warbler and more! Our last two stops of the day were rather quiet. We looked for Chukar, but could find none, at Elkink Ranch. A Lewis’s Woodpecker flew past, however. At the Nighthawk Border Crossing it was hot and very quiet, so we decided it was time to call it quits. We had seen 162 species during our four days of birding.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Blue-winged Teal; 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; Ring-necked Pheasant; Pied-billed Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Western Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Common Nighthawk; Common Poorwill; Vaux’s Swift; White-throated Swift; Black-chinned Hummingbird; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; Sora; American Coot; Black-necked Stilt; American Avocet; Killdeer; Spotted Sandpiper; Wilson’s Phalarope; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Common Loon; American White Pelican; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Flammulated Owl; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Burrowing Owl; Great Gray Owl; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Peregrine Falcon; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Olive-sided Flycatcher; Western Wood-Pewee; Willow Flycatcher; Least Flycatcher; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Gray Flycatcher; Dusky Flycatcher; Pacific-slope Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Red-eyed Vireo; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Horned Lark; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Boreal Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Rock Wren; Canyon Wren; House Wren; Pacific Wren; Marsh Wren; Bewick’s Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Veery; Swainson’s Thrush; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; Gray Catbird; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; Pine Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; Lesser Goldfinch; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Clay-colored Sparrow; Brewer’s Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-breasted Chat; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Bobolink; 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.

Photos: All by Chris Charlesworth (C). In the order they appear on the blog: Western Screech-Owl; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Great Gray Owl; Black-necked Stilt; American Dipper; Rock Wren; Western Bluebird; Mule Deer. All June 2021.

A Morning in the South Okanagan – June 24, 2021

I went out with a friend from Kelowna this morning, for a morning of bird photography in the south Okanagan, in British Columbia. We left Kelowna at 6 AM and made our way to White Lake, near Okanagan Falls. We were hoping to find a Sage Thrasher, but we couldn’t find one today. The temperature was hot and there was a good breeze, which may have hampered our efforts. We still saw some nice things, however, including some dazzling Mountain Bluebirds, a stunning male Lazuli Bunting, a singing Gray Catbird, both Western and Eastern kingbirds, Vesper Sparrows and plenty of Western Meadowlarks. Through the scope we saw two re-introduced Burrowing Owls, another highlight of the morning.

We then headed south down to Road 22, at the north end of Osoyoos Lake. Here, we saw at least 3 male Bobolinks frolicking in the hayfields. Heard, but not seen, was a Yellow-breasted Chat. A female Northern Harrier sailed by, and several Ospreys were noted as well.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Mallard; Barrow’s Goldeneye; California Quail; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Black-chinned Hummingbird; Killdeer; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Burrowing Owl; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Western Wood-Pewee; Say’s Phoebe; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; House Wren; Mountain Bluebird; American Robin; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Goldfinch; Brewer’s Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Yellow-breasted Chat; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Bobolink; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Yellow Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Lazuli Bunting.

Photos: All by Stew Turcotte (C) in the order they appear on blog: Lazuli Bunting; Gray Catbird; Bobolink. June 2021.

Tales and photographs of the adventures of Avocet Tours