South Okanagan Birding – August 22, 2022

I met up with my friends Kathy and Richard early this morning. Richard, who use to live in the Okanagan, moved to Australia several years ago, so it was good to see him again. The weather was quite nice today, as it was a few degrees cooler than it had been on previous days. Birds were quite numerous, as were some interesting mammals as well.

We drove from West Kelowna down to Penticton where we picked up our morning coffee. We then watched up to 8 distant Burrowing Owls through the scope, at an undisclosed location. These birds have been reintroduced. Other birds seen in the area included Lark Sparrows, Eastern Kingbird, Bullock’s Orioles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Mourning Doves. A sow Black Bear with 3 cubs climbing up a brushy hillside was also quite a treat to see!

In the pine forest at Mahoney Lake we had some nice birds including Red-breasted, White-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches, Mountain Chickadee, Western Wood-Pewee, Cedar Waxwings, Cassin’s Finches, Red Crossbills, Chipping Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler and a calling Western Tanager. At pair of Pileated Woodpeckers flew over the lake and called loudly to advertise their presence.

A stop at the NW Marshes at Vaseux Lake produced nearly 30 species this morning, including many migrant type passerines. There was Yellow and Nashville warblers, Cassin’s and Warbling vireos, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanagers, Bullock’s Orioles, Calliope Hummingbird, Gray Catbirds, and Veery and Swainson’s Thrush. Canyon Wren was heard on the cliffs above, while Bewick’s and House wrens showed off nicely. Overhead, a Double-crested Cormorant flew towards Vaseux Lake. Best birds though were two Yellow-breasted Chats that even posed a little bit for photographs.

Next up, a drive along Old Kaleden Road is always exciting. This narrow, one laned road, is reminiscent of some of the roads through the South American Andes, as it is chipped right into a hillside with a sheer dropoff on one side and just about room for one vehicle. It was worth the drive though, because we saw about 8 Lewis’s Woodpeckers here, flycatching and flapping around amongst the Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs. We got an added bonus as well. There were two juvenile Sabine’s Gulls, a species that normally is found at this time of year, out over the open ocean. They were near the south end of Skaha Lake and we enjoyed pretty good views through the scope. The showing of swallows was also rather impressive here as Bank, Northern Rough-winged, Violet-green, Tree and Barn swallows were all in attendance, many of which were lined up on telephone wires and sitting on the gravel road. Two Western Kingbirds, our only for the day, and perhaps the last I’ll see this year, as they disappear by late August, were flycatching from the tops of tall pines. A few raptors were about too, such as Bald Eagles, Osprey, American Kestrel, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

We then poked in for a stroll along the boardwalk to the viewing tower at the north end of Vaseux Lake. At the first viewpoint there was an immature Great Blue Heron feeding amongst the reeds. From the viewing tower we scanned the sandbars and water at the north end of the lake. There were lots of Canada Geese here, but we picked out two immature Double-crested Cormorants as well, one of which was probably the same bird that flew overhead earlier. There were a few gulls here, including Ring-billed and California. There was a good showing of waterfowl here, with Wood Ducks, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Mallard and Redhead all added to the list. There were a few Pied-billed Grebes out there as well.

The Vaseux Cliffs produced some great birds too. We heard several, and saw one Canyon Wren on the boulders at the base of the cliffs. The bird perched nicely for photographs. A rather late White-throated Swift chattered above the cliffs. Up to 5 more Lewis’s Woodpeckers were hanging out in an old area of burned forest where they clung to the sides of the blackened trunks. One Clark’s Nutcracker made a brief appearance. There were several Say’s Phoebes about, and at one spot we saw 4-5 Western Meadowlarks, our only for the day, out in a field. Further up towards the end of the open bit of Macintyre Creek Road, we had some flocks of birds including Vesper, Chipping and Lark sparrows, Spotted Towhee and Pygmy and Red-breasted nuthatches. We saw the most bedraggled looking Mountain Chickadee ever that in a full state of molt of the body feathers. On our way back down the road, we found a group of 20-30 Bighorn Sheep feeding in a grassy field.

The drive back to West Kelowna took us along the shore of Okanagan Lake where we saw Common Loons, Red-necked Grebes and Horned Grebe. By the end of the day we’d seen over 90 species of birds!

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Common Merganser; California Quail; Pied-billed Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Horned Grebe; Rock (Feral) Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; White-throated Swift; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; American Coot; Spotted Sandpiper; Sabine’s Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Common Loon; Double-crested Cormorant; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Burrowing Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Western Wood-Pewee; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; N. Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Canyon Wren; House Wren; Marsh Wren; Bewick’s Wren; Veery; Swainson’s Thrush; American Robin; Gray Catbird; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Yellow-breasted Chat; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Nashville Warbler; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.

Mammals: Mule Deer; American Black Bear; Bighorn Sheep; Yellow-pine Chipmunk.

PHOTOS: All by Chris Charlesworth (c) 2002. From top to bottom: American Black Bear with cubs; Yellow-breasted Chat; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Bewick’s Wren.

Central Okanagan Valley Birding, August 10, 2022

I met up Greg and his two daughters in downtown Kelowna nice and early this morning. We headed north, through town, to Lake Country, where we spent a few hours exploring the Beaver Lake Road. Grassland areas along the first several kilometers of the road yielded some nice sightings, such as Eastern Kingbird, Western Meadowlark, Western Bluebird, Bullock’s Oriole, Cedar Waxwings, Vesper Sparrow, and a brief fly-by of a Lark Sparrow, seen just by me. We saw two Merlins chasing off across the sky and a nice American Kestrel sitting on wires and fence posts. We stopped at a clump of deciduous trees and there was considerable birdlife here. Lazuli Buntings were quite numerous, and we were happy to see a couple of the males still pretty much in full breeding plumage. There were plenty of Western Tanagers, and Greg pointed out a nice full breeding garb male at one point. There were Spotted Towhees, Gray Catbirds, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Wood-Pewee, Cassin’s Finch, and both Downy and Hairy woodpeckers present, so it was a very active spot indeed!

Further up the road Greg and the girls seemed to stop to look at almost every roadside cow. We made a couple more stops in the pine / fir forest, but didn’t see as many birds. There were Red-breasted Nuthatches, Red Crossbills and Dark-eyed Juncos. We saw a female Calliope Hummingbird, and a Pileated Woodpecker called loudly. Up at Beaver Lake itself we grabbed a coffee and tried a couple of spots along Dee Lake Road, hoping perhaps for a Northern Pygmy-Owl. It was getting to be later in the morning by now on a hot and sunny Okanagan day, so birds were starting to hide out. A Steller’s Jay called, and we drove past a group of chattering Golden-crowned Kinglets. As I drove along in front, a pair of Varied Thrushes flew off into the trees.

We made our way to Robert Lake, one of the most productive birding sites in the Okanagan Valley, especially for shorebirds and waterfowl. Shorebirds were not numerous, but a nice variety was on display such as Western, Least and Semipalmated sandpipers, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Red-necked and Wilson’s phalaropes, a distant dowitcher and at least 6 Black-necked Stilts, 5 of which were juveniles and hatched at Robert Lk. Killdeer were of course well represented. Waterfowl were almost too much to deal with. All of them are in eclipse plumage. There were Ring-necked Ducks, Mallard, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Redhead, Bufflehead, and loads of Ruddy Ducks about. There was a brood of fairly young Ruddy Ducks with their mother, feeding next to where we were standing. American Coots were super abundant, with adults and young ones right next to us. We had excellent views of both Sora and Virginia Rails along the marsh edge as well. To finish off our birding we tried to find a roosting screech-owl, but our search came up empty handed. All in all it was an enjoyable day of birding.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Bufflehead; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Pied-billed Grebe; Eared Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; Sora; American Coot; Black-necked Stilt; Killdeer; Least Sandpiper; Western Sandpiper; Semipalmated Sandpiper; dowitcher sp; Spotted Sandpiper; Lesser Yellowlegs; Red-necked Phalarope; Ring-billed Gull; Common Loon; Osprey; Red-tailed Hawk; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Eastern Kingbird; Western Wood-Pewee; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Steller’s Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; House Wren; Marsh Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Swainson’s Thrush; American Robin; Varied Thrush; Gray Catbird; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.

Rich and Chris’s U.K. Adventure, July 17 – 23, 2022

July 17 – I attended the birdfair in the U.K., this year coined the Global Birdfair. My good friend Rich Mooney, who I have been friends with for close to 20 years met me after the fair today and we took off on a birding adventure. Little did we know our adventure would coincide with the hottest days for temperature on record in the U.K. This first afternoon we made our way to a motel near Hull, where we spent the night.

July 18 – We woke up nice and early to a hot and sunny day! Temps neared 40 degrees Celsius today, making birding a bit difficult at times, but I think we did very well. Our first stop was in some fields near Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire. A rare bird had been found here and had remained for weeks. It was a Red-tailed Shrike. After a short search we found the bird, a lifer for me, sitting in a hedgerow. We watched the bird at length and it even grabbed a bee or wasp at one point, and ate it. What a great way to start our trip.

As we walked through the long grass, Rich called out ‘Corn Bunting’, and pointed to a sparrow-like bird sitting atop some grasses where it was singing. The bunting, another lifer me, uttered its song, a jingly song, reminiscent of a jangling set of keys! I fired off a series of photographs of the bird, which reminded me quite a bit of a Vesper Sparrow, before we walked closer to the cliff edge. Other species we had in the fields included Yellowhammer, Eurasian Skylark, and an immature Red-legged Partridge. A new mammal for me was European Hare.

My jaw dropped when we looked over the edge of Bempton Cliffs. It was a sheer drop of maybe a couple of hundred feet right down to the sea. There was no fence, or barricade, and it was breathtaking to say the least. Not to mention the birds, there was a Razorbill staring at me right from a little ledge at the top of the cliffs. Common Murres and Northern Gannets were also very abundant with numbers into the thousands.

Amongst the alcids, Rich called out ‘Atlantic Puffin’ and I got my binoculars onto it. They’re small, black and white seabirds with large, brightly colored, mostly orange bills. Yet another lifer, we saw several Atlantic Puffins here, including some sitting on the ledges for photographs. Other species present included Northern Fulmar, Black-legged Kittiwakes and European Herring Gulls. We did not spot the locally famous Black-browed Albatross that has been frequenting this location for quite a long time, although it did appear later on in the day, once we’d left.

Small flies were extremely annoying here and I commented they could be used as some form of torture treatment or interrogation. They didn’t bite, but they were unbelievably itchy as they crawled about all over your bare skin. The flies, and the boiling heat may both have had something to do with our retreat to the visitor’s center, where we may or may not have had an ice cream. As we ate our ice cream we watched several Eurasian Tree Sparrows hop about the picnic tables looking for scraps.

We then visited a nearby location called Flamborough Head. We did another seawatch here, hoping to pick up one bird in particular, a European Shag. We scanned several Great Cormorants as they flew past and eventually we started picking up a few shags. I would say we saw close to half a dozen of these birds fly past while we were there. This was my 4th lifer of the day! Other species seen here included Eurasian Oystercatcher, Whimbrel and White Wagtail. Gray Seals, a cetacean I’ve never seen before, were numerous in the waters below the cliffs at Flamborough.

At our next stop, Alkborough Flats, there was a North American shorebird called a Stilt Sandpiper present, so we stopped to try and see it. It was scorching hot at this point and the short walk to the hide seemed to drag on. A Common Chiffchaff sang from some nearby willows, and a Blackcap sang several times. Beerded Reedlings called from the reeds but remained hidden. We did see, however, Eurasian Reed Warblers. Once we got to the hide and peered through, there were loads of birds. Most numerous were Black-tailed Godwits, and Graylag Geese, however many other birds were mixed in, such as a dozen Eurasian Spoonbills, 15 Little Egrets, Gray Herons, Northern Lapwings, Ruffs and Black-headed Gulls, to name a few.

Hiding amongst them were a couple of Eurasian Curlews, as well as many Dunlin, and Common Redshanks. We did see the Stilt Sandpiper as well, an adult in breeding plumage. The sighting was brief, however, as the sandpiper wandered off almost immediately into an area concealed by long grass. This was a new bird for Rich in the U.K.!

Our last stop, at Frampton Marshes in Lincolnshire, was fantastic. It was late in the day and it was hot, and Rich and I had the entire reserve to ourselves. We scanned a pond near the entrance for shorebirds, finding Ruff, Common Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Pied Avocets, Common and Spotted redshanks, Common Greenshank, Common Snipe and three Red Knot. In a field nearby we spotted a few European Golden-Plovers as well. We found a fluffy young Little Ringed Plover at the edge of a pond, being watched over by its parent.

Swallows were abundant, and the three regular species were there; Common House Martin, Bank Swallow (called Sand Martin in the UK), and Barn Swallow. Other birds were coming down to the edges of the water for a drink, including European Greenfinch, Western Yellow Wagtail and House Sparrows. A bit of a surprise was a Brant wandering about in a field, since most Brant should have gone north to breed. Little and Great Crested grebes were spotted on the ponds, along with immature Tufted Duck, our only for the tour, Common Shelducks, and a Common Pochard. We carried on to Kings-Lynn, where we spent the night, and we figure we saw very close to 100 species today alone!

July 19 – Today would be the hottest day in the history of record keeping of temperatures in the U.K. It topped out at about 42 degrees Celsius. Rich had planned out a fantastic itinerary for our trip and that included a stop at a quarry to see nesting European Bee-eaters. Because it was so not we could not visit the site today, however, as it was closed to the public. We started off with a quick stop at West Rudham to investigate a thrush that we thought could have been my much sought after nemesis, the Mistle Thrush. It was most likely a Song Thrush, however. I did enjoy watching about 15 Common Swifts zipping through the sky here, chasing one another over the rooftops.

Next stop was at the Swanton Novers Raptor Watchpoint in Norfolk. We scanned the treetops, hoping for European Honey-Buzzards, which had been using this area and perhaps breeding. Northern Goshawk was seen a couple of times, as were Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Kestrel, Red Kite and Common Buzzard. Then, two buzzards appeared low over the treetops and appeared to hunting together as a team. They were the honey buzzards. Yellowhammers, Eurasian Bullfinch, and Linnets were also frequently observed as we watched for raptors. It was very hot and I resorted to pouring water all over my head several times. We met up with Dominic Mitchell at the hawkwatch, and he’s the founder of Birdwatching magazine in the U.K.

Dominic told us to follow him and he’d show us a nice birding spot on the coast called Kelling Water Meadows. I hoped that being closer to the coast might mean the temperatures were a tad cooler. That wasn’t really the case. We took off down the track suggested by Dominic, enjoying views of Eurasian Blue Tits and Great Tits, as well as European Robin, along the way.

Common Wood-Pigeons seemed to explode from the trees as they took off from inside the foliage, startling me every time. We emerged from the hedgerow and could see a cattle pond that was full of birds. Waterfowl included the introduced Canada Geese and Egyptian Geese, as well as Green-winged Teal, Mallard and Northern Shoveler. There were 30-40 Black-tailed Godwits on the pond, as well as Northern Lapwings, and several Eurasian Moorhens. An Eurasian Hobby appeared briefly and then sailed off into the village. There was no sign of a Wood Sandpiper here, a bird Rich was determined to find on this trip for his year list. Black-headed Gulls were numerous in this area and we were hoping for another lifer for me, a Mediterranean Gull. Rich spotted one, and I saw it too, though rather briefly, as it took off and flew towards the coast. It wasn’t the best look I was hoping for, but it was a lifer nonetheless. We continued on the path, hot and thirsty, towards the coast. We rounded a corner and bumped into a lovely specimen of a male European Stonechat.

I could then see the shingle beach ahead and could hear the waves of the North Sea crashing in, so I made straight for the sea, and walked straight in, clothes on and everything. I did leave my binoculars and camera on the beach though. Rich giggled with envy as I splashed about and eventually I convinced him to take off his boots and come into the North Sea. It was very refreshing. A Gray Seal watched us from nearby and seemed rather interested in our antics. Out over the sea, Great Cormorants flew past. We scoped a bunch of Black-headed Gulls in a pool nearby and relocated the Mediterranean Gull! I enjoyed great scope views of the bird, and managed one or two poor photos that show the larger, redder bill, blacker head and white wingtips that separate it from Black-headed Gull.

It was so hot we had to forego our plans to visit Cley this afternoon. Instead we had a cold pint at the Three Swallows Pub and I cooled myself off in a sprinkler. Later on we headed out once again, visiting a coastal pathway in Snettisham. We were hoping to find me yet another lifer here, a European Turtle-Dove. We succeeded quite quickly in finding the doves, as they let out their gentle purring calls from the trees nearby. There were several of them present, perhaps 5. Other birds along our walk included our first Great Egret of the tour, as well as singing Cetti’s Warblers that remained unseen. Their loud, bursting song was quite intriguing to me anyhow.

There were Eurasian Spoonbill and Gray Heron about, and we saw at least another 8 Mediterranean Gulls flying past with dozens of Black-headed Gulls. Green Sandpiper flew out of a wet field and over a burning patch of woods with smoke still emanating from the ground. Feeding next to the burned ground was a Muntjac, a small deer species, introduced from southeast Asia.

Rich was unhappy as this was a large swath of turtle-dove habitat that had been burned. Long-tailed Tits flew across the path in front of us, appearing to barely stay afloat in the air. A Red Kite slowly flew past, perhaps patrolling the edge of the burn for fleeing creatures.

We carried on into Kings-Lynn, where we spent the night at Rich’s friend’s house. We had initially planned to return to Woking after birding today, but because we were unable to see the bee-eaters Rich arranged for us to stay at his friend’s place so we could try for the them the next morning.

July 20 – If the forecast was correct, it was to be quite a bit cooler today than the previous several days, and that was a welcome bit of news to me. I woke up at Rich’s friend’s house and looked out the window to see a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers at their feeder!

We drove straight out to a quarry near Trimmingham, which was the site of at least a couple of nesting European Bee-eaters, a rare and beautiful bird to get on your list in the U.K. It was actually windy, cloudy and softly sprinkling with rain as we waited beneath the tent for the birds, scope trained on a nest hole in a dirt bank. I wished I had brought my sweater down with me as it was actually chilly. We waited quite a long time and there was no sign of bee-eaters. Rich made a sacrifice for me though, and he went to use the washroom. Pretty much as soon as he disappeared into the loo, a bee-eater popped up on a telephone wire. I trained the scope on the bird and had a good look at, enjoying its blue, red and yellow colorations. Rich came back quickly when he saw I had the scope on something. The bee-eater then flew down into the quarry and reappeared at the nest hole. We watched as the bird poked its head out of the nest before flying off back down into the quarry! This wasn’t a lifer for me, as I had seen them before in South Africa, but it was a great bird to see again and to get on my U.K. list.

We visited the Norfolk seaside city of Cromer next, hoping to spot some interesting gulls. We walked down to the pier and located perhaps a hundred gulls in the water, on the pilons and on the beach. Many of them were Black-headed Gulls, and many more were ‘European’ Herring Gulls. The first year Herring Gulls over here look very different from the first year Herring Gulls we see back in British Columbia, so it took me a little while to get use to them. Despite trying quite hard, we couldn’t turn any gulls into the previously reported Caspian Gulls, which would have been a new bird for both Rich and I. Down here on the coast, the sun was out and it was quite hot again, so we indulged in an ice cream.

We needed to get back to Woking, to relax a little, and I needed to get some laundry done, so we traveled back to Rich’s place where we spent the night.

July 21 – Sleep was precious and I didn’t get enough of it before the alarm went off this morning before 5 am. We were off on another adventure, this time to Wales. It was a pretty drive and the scenery began to change as we headed west, with a few more hills on the horizon. We crossed over the impressive Prince of Wales Bridge and we were in Wales! Our first stop was at Bryngarw Country Park, where we walked along a creek searching for one of my most wanted birds in the U.K., a White-throated Dipper. We followed the pretty little creek down through the trees, finding several interesting birds as we went along, including Eurasian Jay, Eurasian Nuthatch, Gray Wagtail, European Robin, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Great Tit and more.

Finally, I spotted the dipper sitting on a rock in the middle of the stream. Differing from our American Dipper by having a white bib, bordered on the bottom by chestnut, the White-throated Dipper has the same habits, however, of sitting on rocks mid-stream, jumping in and sinking to the bottom where they search for larvae and other things to eat.

It took us a couple of hours to drive out to the Gower, a peninsula with scenic rocky cliffs and nice beaches. We stopped at a spot called Rhosilli where we hoped to find yet another lifer for me, a Red-legged Chough. As we walked out along the top of the cliffs, we peered down to see Northern Fulmar sailing low over the ocean. A strange noise came from behind us, so we turned around and there were two choughs flapping past. These black birds, related to crows, have red legs and feet, and a long, downcurved, red bill! Feeling quite content with ourselves we had a quick pint at a local pub. There was a wedding happening, and the two of us were certainly the worst dressed out of the crowd!

A short stop along the coastal promenade in Swansea produced some interesting wading birds like Gray Heron, Little Egrets, White Wagtail and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

After another long drive, and Rich can attest I am excellent at falling asleep in a car as long as I am a passenger, we arrived at our next destination. These Welsh names give me some trouble, as I don’t know how to pronounce them, but the location was called the Gwenffrwd-Dinas RSPB Reserve., and it was a lovely spot, situated along a river in the bottom of a lush valley. It was very birdy here this afternoon. As we were nearing the entrance, Rich spotted a large thrush hopping about on a hillside. It was a Mistle Thrush! My nemesis. It was noticeably larger and more gray than the Song Thrushes I had seen many of. In the end there were about 10 Mistle Thrushes here on this hillside.

Once in the reserve, there were little flocks of tits, nuthatches and Eurasian Treecreeper about, and Eurasian Wren seemed to be constantly calling. European Robins hopped up and down out of sight onto the forest floor, while Common Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests called from hidden positions within the canopy. I glimpsed yet another lifer, a juvenile European Pied Flycatcher, before it zipped off into the greenery. We enjoyed more views of White-throated Dipper along the river here, and I enjoyed watching a Gray Wagtail forage along the stream edge. Just as we were getting back to the parking lot, a brightly colored warbler flew past into a bush. It was a Wood Warbler, another lifer.

The day was getting on, and we had quite a drive back to where we were staying this evening in Taffs Well. We said we’ll just take a half hour drive up into an area where Rich had seen Whinchat before. This would be another lifer. We drove, and drove, for about half an hour, and we didn’t see too much, other than Common Buzzards, more Mistle Thrushes and some Meadow Pipits. We turned around and drove back down, but Rich spotted a silhouetted bird in a bush next to the road. All he could tell was that it was a chat. Both Whinchat and European Stonechat could be found here. Rich scanned the hill above the road, and I checked fields below the road. A strange, plump, buffy colored bird with a white supercilium popped up in the ferns, alongside of juvenile of what appeared to be the same species. I called for Rich to bring down the scope. They were Whinchats! We saw at least 3 of them. What a way to finish off our day. We arrived at Rich’s friend Stuart’s place as it was getting dark and we heard a Tawny Owl calling across the river.

July 22 – We had a more leisurely morning today before heading to our only birding location of the day, the Newport Wetlands RSPB Reserve. Forty species were tallied during the three hours we spent here. Some of the highlights included Little Grebes, Common Shelducks, calling Water Rails, Eurasian Oystercatchers and Eurasian Curlews, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Green Woodpecker, more singing Cetti’s Warblers, and a juvenile Common Redstart!

July 23 – My last day in the U.K. started bright and early, at about 5 AM when the alarm went off. Rich, Jacqueline and I were heading off explore some areas in Kent, such as Oare Marshes and Stodmarsh. Our first stop was at Oare Marshes and it was a buffet of birds. There were many shorebirds including Pied Avocets, Eurasian Oystercatchers, European Golden-Plover, Northern Lapwing, Whimbrel, hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits, many Common Redshanks, Dunlin and a single breeding plumage Curlew Sandpiper! I scanned through the waterfowl and picked out two female Garganey from the lot.

Amongst the loads of Black-headed Gulls, I picked out a long staying rarity, an adult Bonaparte’s Gull, from the flock. There was also a single Mediterranean Gull and a Common Gull. Suddenly many of the gulls and shorebirds took to the air. It was a Peregrine Falcon, an immature, and it was chasing a lapwing. The lapwing escaped unscathed. At another point during our visit, the shorebirds also took to the air. We bumped into a couple of birders shortly after that told us a Montague’s Harrier had scared them all off. Too bad we didn’t see this rare raptor! Nonetheless, I was happy to finally get a view of another nemesis, the Cetti’s Warbler. I had heard quite a few of them on this trip, but this was the first one I actually laid binoculars on. Many other passerines were tallied here, including Western Yellow Wagtail, Bearded Reedling, Sedge Warbler, Eurasian Reed Warbler, Greater Whitethroat, and a Corn Bunting.

Next stop was at Stodmarsh, a National Wildlife Reserve. This reservoir surrounded with reeds and riparian forest was also alive with birds today. Due to high temperatures there had been an algae bloom in the lake and there were many, stinky dead fish lining the shores. This was a good spot to see a bittern, and there had been a Purple Heron reported earlier today, but we didn’t see either of them. From the hides we spotted Eurasian Spoonbills, Little and Great egrets, Gray Herons, Great Cormorants, Green Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, and we watched a Eurasian Marsh Harrier sail above the reeds. In the riparian woodlands there were singing Eurasian Blackcaps and I nailed yet another lifer, a Garden Warbler. Stock Dove, another lifer, was cooing from the trees as well. Feeling as though we were deserving of it, we stopped at a little pub in Stodmarsh, and had a pint before heading back to Woking to do some packing in order to be ready for my flight back to Canada early the next day.

After a little bit of a rest, Rich and I headed out to Chobham Common, a heath habitat not too far from his house. We arrived at dusk as we were searching for just one last lifer before I had to leave the U.K. We waited patiently, and it got darker and darker, and just before we were about to call it quits, Rich’s face lit up with excitement and he exclaimed, ‘Nightjar’. Sure enough there it was, a European Nightjar sailing past and circling us once before heading off into the darkness. Rich and I had found 140 species on our days in the field, and 16 of them were lifers for me! Thank you so much to Richard Mooney for my own private tour of the UK., and to his friends in Kings-Lynn and Taff’s Well, who put us up for the night. And thanks to Rich’s gf Jacqueline for putting up with me for a few days as well! Great birds and memories with good friends.

Bird Species: Greylag Goose; Brant; Canada Goose; Mute Swan; Egyptian Goose; Common Shelduck; Garganey; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Common Pochard; Tufted Duck; Common Merganser; Ring-necked Pheasant; Red-legged Partridge; Little Grebe; Great Crested Grebe; Rock (Feral) Pigeon; Stock Dove; Common Wood-Pigeon; European Turtle-Dove; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Eurasian Nightjar; Common Swift; Water Rail; Eurasian Moorhen; Eurasian Coot; Pied Avocet; Eurasian Oystercatcher; European Golden-Plover; Northern Lapwing; Common Ringed Plover; Little Ringed Plover; Whimbrel; Eurasian Curlew; Black-tailed Godwit; Red Knot; Ruff; Stilt Sandpiper; Curlew Sandpiper; Dunlin; Common Sandpiper; Green Sandpiper; Spotted Redshank; Common Redshank; Common Murre; Razorbill; Atlantic Puffin; Black-legged Kittiwake; Bonaparte’s Gull; Black-headed Gull; Mediterranean Gull; Common Gull; ‘European’ Herring Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Great Black-backed Gull; Common Tern; Sandwich Tern; Northern Fulmar; Northern Gannet; Great Cormorant; European Shag; Gray Heron; Great Egret; Little Egret; Eurasian Spoonbill; Osprey; European Honey-Buzzard; Eurasian Marsh-Harrier; Eurasian Sparrowhawk; Northern Goshawk; Red Kite; Common Buzzard; Tawny Owl; Common Kingfisher; European Bee-eater; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Eurasian Green Woodpecker; Eurasian Kestrel; Eurasian Hobby; Peregrine Falcon; Red-tailed Shrike; Eurasian Jay; Eurasian Magpie; Red-billed Chough; Eurasian Jackdaw; Rook; Carrion Crow; Common Raven; Coal Tit; Eurasian Blue Tit; Great Tit; Eurasian Skylark; Bearded Reedling; Sedge Warbler; Eurasian Reed Warbler; Bank Swallow; Barn Swallow; Common House-Martin; Wood Warbler; Willow Warbler; Common Chiffchaff; Cetti’s Warbler; Long-tailed Tit; Eurasian Blackcap; Garden Warbler; Greater Whitethroat; Goldcrest; Eurasian Nuthatch; Eurasian Treecreeper; Eurasian Wren; White-throated Dipper; European Starling; Mistle Thrush; Song Thrush; Eurasian Blackbird; European Robin; European Pied Flycatcher; Common Redstart; Whinchat; European Stonechat; Northern Wheatear; Dunnock; House Sparrow; Eurasian Tree Sparrow; Gray Wagtail; Western Yellow Wagtail; White Wagtail; Meadow Pipit; Common Chaffinch; Eurasian Bullfinch; European Greenfinch; Eurasian Linnet; European Goldfinch; Corn Bunting; Yellowhammer; Reed Bunting.

Photos all by (c) Chris Charlesworth; Red-tailed Shrike; Corn Bunting; Razorbill; Northern Gannet; Atlantic Puffin; Eurasian Tree Sparrow; Gray Seals; Eurasian Spoonbill; Stilt Sandpiper; Greylag Goose; Little Ringed Plover; Pied Avocet; Common Swift; Eurasian Blackbird; Eurasian Blue Tit; European Stonechat; Mediterranean Gull; Great Egret; Muntjac; Red Kite; Common Wood-Pigeon; European Goldfinch; European Herring Gull; Black-headed Gull; Dunnock; European Robin; White-throated Dipper; Rhosilli Beach, Wales; Mistle Thrush; Eurasian Wren; Song Thrush; Common Redstart; Greater Whitethroat; Bonaparte’s Gull; Common Reed-Bunting.

Eastern Newfoundland – June 11 to 17, 2022.

Day 1, June 11

At 2pm myself and my co-guide Ilya Povalyaev picked up all 8 participants at the airport. Our full tour included guests from North Carolina, the Fraser Valley, Calgary and Kelowna. After a 2 hour rest at the Best Western Plus Hotel we went to see the Pink-footed Goose at Burton’s Pond. There we got to see their namesake feet!

After this, we went to Signal Hill where we enjoyed spectacular views of gorgeous sunny St. John’s. We watched  a Osprey, Northern Gannets, Black-legged Kittiwakes and several Great Black-backed Gulls fly by. We also saw a Black Guillemot and got to see a Red Fox. We also found  a rare Black-headed Gull that participant Casey Girard pointed out to us as it flew past. It was very exciting for the group! We went to celebrate by having dinner at Saltwater Restaurant, where we had a delicious Lobster dinner! A great end to our first day!

Day 2, June 12

On Day 2 we got up early and went to a 24 hour restaurant called Charlie Hearth. They served a delicious huge breakfast! The waitress was cracking us up because she couldn’t fathom why were up so early and not in bed! We drove out to Cape Race to look for Willow Ptarmigan and Common Eider. On the way out we decided to stop at a home in the town of Renews that had a fairly reliable Ruby-throated Hummingbird. They also had a female Indigo Bunting the day prior. We got there and were greeted by the owner. He was truly the friendliest man (like most Newfies). He had a camera set up and several seed and three hummingbird feeders. Sadly, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird never came in but we were left entertained by several White-winged and Red crossbills. The Red Crossbills here are Type 8 or the Percna Subspecies. They are near endemic to Newfoundland and Threatened. We also saw Blue Jays, Purple Finch, Pine Siskins, Barn Swallow, White-throated Sparrows (both morphs), Cedar Waxwings, a Mourning Dove and the like. We even had a Common Loon fly above us in circles! One thing the group enjoyed seeing in NFLD was their atypical garbage boxes. They are wooden and mostly octagon shaped. They make them fixed to the ground and drop in bags of garbage due to the heavy snow and strong winds they get. Some are super colourful and decorated too!

Next we were off to Cape Race. Cape Race is well known for receiving the last may day call from the Titanic. We drove the road between Long Beach and Cripple Cove. Before we could reach the lighthouse eagle-eyed Casey Girard spotted a male Willow Ptarmigan hunkered down in the ridge. The bird was distant so we got the scope on it. A lifer for quite a few on the tour. On the road I spotted a Taiga Merlin sitting down on the tundra. At Cape Race Lighthouse, we saw a female Common Eider! This was a lifer for many in the group. It was a Canada bird for me having seen them only in Nome. At the Cape there was also Black Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Northern Gannets. We also found 3 uncommon Surf Scoters and 20 White-winged Scoters. 

After leaving Cape Race we drove through Biscay Bay. Here Casey yet again spotted a male Willow Ptarmigan! This time it was much closer and allowed better photos. 

As we drove along the road that was littered with small ponds we noticed most were devoid of birds. However, some had Spotted Sandpipers and a Greater Yellowlegs or a pair of Canada Geese. On one lake we did spot a Common Loon but the landscape was beautiful but quite bleak. We were now en route for Cape Pine and St. Shott’s. We were hoping to find more Willow Ptarmigan and endangered Woodland Caribou.

While driving the road to St. Shott’s, Ilya spotted a Short-eared Owl. This was the highlight of many that day despite not being a lifer for anyone on the tour. The bird was close and gave great views and photos as it hunkered down from the wind.

On the road down to Cape Pine we did not find a single Willow Ptarmigan but we did see many Horned Larks and American Pipits and a Canada Goose family. At St. Shott’s itself we did end up finding 4 Horned Larks, 2 American Pipits, a small Black-legged Kittiwake colony and lucky for us 7 Common Eiders that were mostly immature males! We drove back to St. John’s and had a delicious seafood dinner at St. John’s Fish Exchange.

Day 3, June 13

This was the day most of the people came for. It was the reason they booked this tour. It was the day of our boat trip out to Gull Island in Witless Bay. Before we discuss the boat tour, I should say after a quick breakfast at Tim Horton’s we headed to Bidgood Park in Gould’s. Here the group got sensational views of a Black-and-white Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Boreal Chickadee and Swamp Sparrow just to name a few. We also heard several Blackpoll Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Warblers and a couple Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. I am neglecting to mention that as soon as we got out of the car Casey had spotted a female Pine Grosbeak singing from a bare snag! Casey also looked up spotted a hawk for the group that turned out to be a Sharp-shinned!

After this nice morning walk we were anxiously off to Bay Bulls to board our O’Brien’s boat tour! The crew sang traditional Newfie songs and were highly friendly and entertaining. The boat was very large and allowed great views from any angle. We went straight to the open air top after boarding. En route we had 5 Humpback Whales, including a mom and calf, who were constantly breaching and clapping their fins on the water.

After watching the whales, we went on to Gull Island in Witless Bay. Here we saw something none of us could ever have dreamed of. The sky suddenly appeared as if it were filled with insects. In actuality it was seabirds (mostly Puffins and Common Murres) flying to and from the colony! We estimated 20, 000 Common Murres and 25, 000 Atlantic Puffins. We also spotted 2 Thick-billed Murres in the colony! The Thick-billed Murres and the puffins were a lifer for many on board. We also had at least 10,000 Black-legged Kittiwakes who were nesting there and 100 Razorbills! The Razorbills were a lifer for almost everyone on the trip!

When a Bald Eagle or a Great Black-backed Gull would fly over huge numbers of Puffins and Murres would fly off the cliff towards the boat. It was incredible. We saw one Great Black-backed Gull eating a freshly dead puffin.

After the boat trip we were all in awe and couldn’t stop talking about how amazing the birds and whales were on the 2 hour boat ride. For lunch we went to a restaurant called “The Jigger” in Bay Bulls. Many of us ordered Fish and Chips and the portions were gigantic!! Portions in NFLD are akin to ones down in the Southern US. The food was delicious and service amazing. Here many in the group tried out the Newfie way of eating fries with stuffing and gravy! Waiters were calling us “My Love” and “My Darling” which was so nice to hear.

Happy and full after lunch we headed off to Arnold’s Cove. Here we saw Greater Yellowlegs, Great Black-backed Gulls, Belted Kingfishers, Spotted Sandpipers and American Black Ducks. We next headed towards our hotel in Clarenville and went to a place called “Come-by-Chance” and wouldn’t you now it, before we got there, a Ruffed Grouse strutted out into the road giving us all great views. At the beautiful cove and beach at Come-by-Chance, we watched a Common Raven chasing an eagle and listened to a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher singing. We got back to our hotel at The Quality Hotel in Clarenville and had a delicious dinner at Bella’s Restaurant inside our hotel.

Day 4, June 14

In the morning before we breakfast we got up early and drove to Elliston. Here we hoped to see thousands of Atlantic Puffins at the breeding colony viewing site. This spot is unique because you can sit beside the puffins if the puffins so choose. The viewing site is directly across from the puffin colony and the birds regularly fly across to sit beside calm and respectful humans. The birds fly over in order to gather nesting material and we got to watch this incredible feat! There was at least 2600 Puffins there! It was magical to have them collecting material and waddling around so close to us. We also enjoyed watching the Puffins kick up dirt as they dug out their burrows. There were also a few Razorbills, Northern Gannets, Common Murres and Black Guillemots at the site as well.

After a cold foggy but thrilling morning, we went to Bonavista to eat at Mifflin’s Tea Room. They served tea on candles. It was so quaint and we all had a delicious breakfast with Partridgeberry Jam that we all loved. Partridgeberry is a berry foraged in the wild that many in NFLD eat. The staff were so friendly at this café like everyone we encountered in NFLD.

Next we were off to Cape Bonavista Lighthouse to see the other nearby Puffin colony. It was a beautiful and impressive sight. Even though the Atlantic Puffins do not come to sit beside you at this site they flew right by your head. We also saw extremely large colonies of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Common Murres and about 500 puffins. There are also Northern Gannets, nesting Double-crested Cormorants, Great Black-backed Gulls, Black Guillemots and nesting Razorbills.

The rock the puffins nest on here is visually spectacular too. After leaving the lighthouse we stopped to scope a grassy island with nesting Double-crested Cormorants hoping for a Great Cormorant. We did not see a Great but got lucky though with a nice rare for this time of year Eurasian Wigeon that was hanging out with two American Wigeons.

After this, we drove to a place I dubbed Bonavista Woods. Here we had great views of Blackpoll Warblers. We also had our first Mourning Warbler of the trip. We also had Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Blue Jay, Red Fox Sparrow, Swamp and White-throated sparrow, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Waterthrush, American Redstart, Black-and-white, Wilson’s and Yellow warblers.

After lunch we drove to a small town called Open Hall. We did this because we wanted to see an Iceberg. We used the website Iceberg tracker to find one and bingo it was there waiting for us! It was such a fascinating treat to see. On the way to the iceberg we were blessed with a Ruffed Grouse hen crossing the road with her 10 tiny chicks behind her!

Day 5, June 15

This was the day we explored Terra Nova National Park. Here we started off with a nice, easy and flat 4km walk around Sandy Pond. We nabbed 2 uncommon Olive-sided Flycatchers. We also had our first Canada Jays of the trip and had several. We also saw Spotted Sandpipers, Black-and-white Warblers, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Waterthrush, Hermit Thrushes, Magnolia Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated and Lincoln’s sparrows and Golden and Ruby-crowned kinglets. However, the highlight was 2 beautiful Palm Warblers. Palm Warblers in the east are much brighter yellow than the duller ones seen out in the west and the group delighted in this.

Next we went to have our packed lunches at the visitor centre on the water. After a nice lunch we went on Goodwiddy Trail. Here we saw a stunning Magnolia Warbler, Golden and Ruby-crowned kinglets. Hermit Thrush and the like. Nimali Seneviratne even spotted a Rusty Blackbird in the parking lot.

After this hike we went to Louil Hill Trail. Here we obtained great views of a Black-throated Green Warbler and finally of a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher! The whole group saw both which was fabulous. We also had a Sharp-shinned Hawk and heard several warblers: Magnolia, American Redstart, Yellow-rumped, Black-and-white and Black-throated Green. Next we went to Ochre Hill to see the view from atop the whole park. It was truly stunning!

We finished off the day at Dunphy’s Pond Trail. Here we hoped for Spruce Grouse. We heard Hairy Woodpeckers tapping and calling and on this buggy trail I spotted a Blue-headed Vireo! We were quite surprised to see this beauty! It was a lifer for many of the participants. With that lovely end we headed back to Clarenville to have a lovely dinner at Stellar Kitchen at the Clarenville Inn.

Day 6, June 16

After a delicious breakfast at our hotel we went to White Hills Resource Rd. This forest service road produced a Ruffed Grouse nest with chicks that Casey pointed out to me as the adult was cooing. The road also had a singing Blue-headed Vireo, Black-throated Green Warblers, several American Redstarts, Wilson’s, Black-and-white warblers, Waterthrushes and the first of a few Mourning Warblers giving us all great views!

Here we also found a rare Tennessee Warbler that Ilya spotted. This great birding road was awesome as it also had Wilson’s Snipe, American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, boreal sparrows and several Yellow-bellied Flycatchers on it.

After this we were off to Dunphy’s Pond Trail. We wanted to go back to Terra Nova National Park to clean up some targets we had missed.  We walked the trail all the way up near to Juice’s Pond and there we found a male Black-backed Woodpecker. He flew in front of us calling their distinctive “chick” call. We also saw several Pine Grosbeaks which was very nice to see. Their sweet trills along with singing Magnolia Warblers and American Redstarts filled the air. A Yellow-bellied Flycatcher that perched on top of a conifer gave us all great views and photos. On our way out, three of us bumped into a male Spruce Grouse in the trail. Unfortunately he took off into the woods and we could not relocate him for the rest of the group.

We headed towards the town of Placentia and had a lovely lunch at Philip’s Café there. We got to eat some local Toutons and Partridgeberry scones and watch Common Terns flying by on the water in front of us. After lunch we kept driving towards our hotel in St. Bride’s. Here we stayed in the lovely Capeway Inn. The innkeeper was so lovely. They only have one restaurant there called “Da Bird’s Eye” and it was delicious with fresh caught cod and friendly people with their thick beautiful Newfie accents.

We drove the road from St. Bride’s to the town of Branch and we saw a male Northern Harrier and to our delight an endangered Woodland Caribou! This was a highlight and mammal lifer for many in the group. We continued on to Branch in search of a reported Snowy Egret but it apparently moved on as we could not find it. We took Common Grackles as a nice consolation prize.

Day 7, June 17

After breakfast we went to Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve and Gannet colony. This is the largest Northern Gannet colony in all of North America. The smell was quite pungent from all the guano from all the nesting seabirds. The fog was thick as pea soup but thankfully quickly burned off allowing us all to have great views of the colony of Gannets, Common and Thick-billed murres and Black-legged Kittiwakes. We got to see a small, cute Black-legged Kittiwake chick. We estimated at least 4000 kittiwakes, 10, 000 Common Murres and 15, 000 gannets.

There is a colony of 1200 Thick-billed Murres here but we could only pick out 8 birds. Sadly many of the Northern Gannets were using fishing rope and pieces of plastic in their nests. Luckily, these birds at the colony have not yet been impacted by Avian Flu as the other Gannet colonies in Nova Scotia and Quebec have.

We were fortunate to get great views of a Razorbill that perched up close in front of us all allowing for sensational photos and looks. At the colony we also saw 5 Atlantic Puffins but the biggest thrill for us was spotting three Great Cormorants. We had looked all over NFLD for this species and were thrilled when we finally spotted them on a rock below us when the fog had cleared. The adult had white hip patches and a white chin band. The juveniles were sunning themselves on a rock with their big wings outstretched exposing their white bellies. This was a lifer for quite a few on the tour. These Great Cormorants are not always easy this time of year in NFLD either. It was a spectacular end to a great tour.

After our lunch and shopping at the gift shop (which donates its profits to the upkeep of the ecological reserve) we drove back to St. John’s. Here we dropped everyone off at the airport or nearby hotel. We were all sad to say goodbye to one another after having such a memorable week birding together.

We ended the tour with a total of 92 species! Avocet Tours is offering this trip again in 2023. We have six people signed up and two spots open. Please sign up quickly if you want to join us next year as we would love to have you!

Written by Melissa Hafting

Photos: By Melissa Hafting (C) June 2022; Pink-footed Goose; ‘Percna‘ race Red Crossbill; Willow Ptarmigan; Boreal Chickadee; Razorbill; Atlantic Puffin; Black Guillemot; Iceberg; Canada Jay; Terra Nova Park at Sandy Trail; Yellow-bellied Flycatcher; Tennessee Warbler; ‘Bridled’ Common Murre; Northern Gannet. Group shot. By Justin Flint (C) June 2022; Red Fox; Short-eared Owl; Black-legged Kittiwakes; Atlantic Puffin; seabirds at Witless Bay. By Casey Girard (C) June 2022; Humpback Whale; Thick-billed Murres; Blackpoll Warbler.

Okanagan Valley Birding ~ May 17, 2022

I met up with my friend Larry from the coast, and his friend Tom from Finland this morning, shortly after sunrise in Oliver. We made our way into the coniferous forests east of Okanagan Falls, where we hoped to find a few of the targets for the day. Soon after arrival we were looking at a male Williamson’s Sapsucker as he poked his head into holes in one of the large larch trees in the area. Other birds noted in the larches included Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee, Brown Creeper and Red Crossbill, to name a few. At Venner Meadows we enjoyed hearing a lot of birds singing, with some popping up to the tops of the willows for views. There were Wilson’s, Orange-crowned and Orange-crowned warblers as well as Common Yellowthroat and a singing Northern Waterthrush that did a good job of staying hidden. Dusky Flycatcher, Lincoln’s and Savannah sparrows, Wilson’s Snipe and Hermit Thrush were also seen at the meadows. Down a little side road we had great views of a Barred Owl as it sat in the trees being harassed by a couple of Canada Jays. Pacific Wren, Varied Thrush and MacGillivray’s Warbler were all heard but not seen, though we did get a nice look at a Red-naped Sapsucker. On our way down the mountain we stopped to do some birding in the pine forests near Irrigation Creek. Highlights here included a singing, but distant Gray Flycatcher, as well as Cassin’s Finches, Pygmy Nuthatch and a lovely Northern Pygmy-Owl. Along the lower reaches of the road, we had a Lark Sparrow sitting motionless on top of a shrub.

Along Allendale Road we stopped at a cliff where we had excellent views of a Canyon Wren, while a second one called from the cliff nearby. Also here were both Mountain and Western bluebirds, as well as Vesper Sparrow, Bullock’s Orioles and a gorgeous male Lazuli Bunting. At the cliffs at Vaseux Lake, we hoped to see a Rock Wren, but instead we found a group of about 30 students at the spot. We had excellent views of many White-throated Swifts here though.

Inkaneep Provincial Park yielded close to 40 species, including our main target, a Yellow-breasted Chat. Other birds found here included a Black-chinned Hummingbird, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin, Bewick’s Wrens and Black-headed Grosbeak.

The grasslands around White Lake were alive with the usual birds, such as Western Meadowlarks, bluebirds and Vesper Sparrows, but it was rather quiet otherwise. Our big highlight here was a subadult Golden Eagle that put on a nice show. Other birds found in the general area included a singing, though distant Brewer’s Sparrow and a Burrowing Owl, the latter of which is part of a reintroduction program. We had both Western and first of year Eastern kingbirds along the fence lines along Twin Lakes Road.

A short drive along Old Kaleden Road yielded at least 5 Lewis’s Woodpeckers, another of the targets for the day. Also noted was an Olive-sided Flycatcher, as well as Western Tanagers and a flock of Chipping Sparrows. On Skaha Lake we could see several Red-necked Grebes and a Common Loon.

Next stop on the ‘birding train’ was in Kelowna at Robert Lake. A flooded field at the south end of the lake had some great birds including 8 or so Black-necked Stilts, 10 American Avocets, a Solitary Sandpiper and some lovely Wilson’s Phalaropes. The usual waterfowl such as Ruddy Ducks and Redheads, Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal were putting on a nice show here. Yellow-headed Blackbirds sang their harsh songs from all around us. Eared Grebes were nice to see out on the lake. Our last new bird of the day was an intermediate morph Swainson’s Hawk soaring over Glenmore Road, our 130th species of the day!

BIRD SPECIES: Canada Goose; Trumpeter Swan; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Canvasback; Redhead; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; White-throated Swift; Black-chinned Hummingbird; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; American Coot; Black-necked Stilt; American Avocet; Black-bellied Plover; Killdeer; Least Sandpiper; Wilson’s Snipe; Spotted Sandpiper; Solitary Sandpiper; Wilson’s Phalarope; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Golden Eagle; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Burrowing Owl (reintroduced); Barred Owl; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Olive-sided Flycatcher; Western Wood-Pewee; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Gray 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; N. Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Canyon Wren; House Wren; Pacific Wren; Bewick’s Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; Varied Thrush; Cedar Waxwing; European Starling; 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; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned 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.

South Colombia & Inirida with Avocet Tours

March 6 – Bogota, Parque La Florida and Chicaque Natural Park

As everyone had arrived at least one day early we tacked on a ¾ day of birding around Bogota. Diana Belcazar joined us as our local guide for the day and all enjoyed her company and knowledge of her home city in addition to her birding expertise. As some participants arrived late the night before we left the hotel at 8am, arriving at La Florida Park round 9am, which is not ideal for species like Bogota Rail. Still, near the hide overlooking the wetland we got brief looks for some at the endemic and skulky Silvery-throated Spinetail before settling down to scan the reedbeds and open water. A couple Spot-flanked Gallinues were scoped out on the water as were many Andean Ducks. Yellow-hooded Blackbirds were common in the reeds and walking back along the shore we managed several brief looks at Bogota Rail but unfortunately few of us got satisfactory views. Songbirds were surprisingly scarce though we did note an obliging Torrent Tyrannulet.

A one hour transfer had us at the misty parking lot at Chicaque Natural Park where we lunched and enjoyed a couple hummingbirds at the lone feeder they had up. Among the numerous Lesser Violetears we noted a couple Tourmaline Sunangels and the star of the show, a female Golden-bellied Sunangel. Walking the entrance road we started off with a small flock near the gate which held Blue-capped Tanagers, an Oleaginous Hemispingous and a brief Moustached Brushfinch (we would see another later on). Carrying on, we pulled out an obliging Gray-breasted Wood-wren and a Gray-browed Brushfinch before coming across another little flock. This had a Fawn-breasted Tanager and a couple Plushcaps though not everyone saw the latter.

March 7 – Flight to Pasto and transfer to Aves y Florez Lodge

Our first day of the tour proper was a travel day. We arrived nearly on time in Pasto and were leaving the airport around 10:00am. The drive to Junin and the Aves y Florez Lodge, our base for the next three nights, was a little longer than anticipated. This was mostly due to a landslide that kept us at bay for over an hour. After a late lunch in Ricaurte we did the final 45 minutes to the lodge, arriving in time to spend a couple hours enjoying the excellent feeders at the lodge. Here we met our local guide, Mauricio and reveled in Choco specialties like Empress Brilliant, White-whiskered Hermit and Rufous-throated Tanager alongside more widespread eye candy like Red-headed Barbet, Golden Tanager and Orange-billed Sparrow.

That night we enjoyed our first of several wonderful dinners.

March 8 – Rio Nambi Reserve, Bangsias Birdlodge and Barbacoas Road

We got an early start, arriving at the entrance to the nearby Rio Nambi Reserve in the half-dark. We wanted to get a little ways into the forest in the hopes of hearing Plumbeous Forest-Falcon which tend to call at first light. Alas, while we would enjoy the sounds of the forest waking up around us, the Forest-Falcon was not among the dawn chorus. Overall it was actually a slow couple hours of birding with little in the way of flocks. The new hummingbird feeders were sparsely attended but we did get some nice species like Brown Inca and Violet-tailed Sylph. Smoky-brown Woodpecker and Golden-bellied (Choco) Warbler were among the few birds we actually got looks. Meanwhile, species like Northern Schiffornis, Rufous-breasted Antthrush and Maroon-tailed Parakeet remained on our heard-only list. At the trailhead we encountered a bit of activity with our first Black-crowned Tityra and a Bran-colored Flycatcher of the “Mouse-colored” race.

For the latter part of the morning we drove a few minutes down the road to the Bangsias Birdlodge area (no actual bird lodge present). Here there is often quite good activity and we enjoyed several beautiful Moss-backed Tanagers, Tricolored (Choco) Brushfinch and Indigo Flowerpiercers. Fruiting mistletoe attracted a pair of Yellow-collared Chlorphonia which posed in the scope while we eventually connected with both of the stunning Scarlet-and-white and Glistening-green Tanagers. Hummingbirds were numerous with Velvet-purple Coronet, Green Thorntail and Purple-bibbed Whitetip new for our trip list. Overhead, we had a Barred Hawk circle low over us.

Back at the lodge we were delighted to have a Crimson-rumped Toucanet on the feeders over lunch. In the afternoon we drove a little further downslope, to a section of the Junin – Barbacoas road, a few km from Junin. Immediately upon getting out of the bus we noted a mixed flock at eye-level. One of the first birds we put our bins on was a Choco Vireo! This species is one that frequents tall canopies so getting eye-level looks is a privilege indeed! A short walk down the road provided us with excellent looks at two male Orange-breasted Fruiteaters, perched out on an open branch as well as a half dozen colourful Toucan Barbets! Black Solitaire was the next Choco specialty to make an appearance before we rounded out the birding with our first pair of Golden-collared Honeycreepers.

En route back to the lodge, a brief visit to the Bangsias Birdlodge was quiet but we did get nice looks at a perched Double-toothed Kite.

March 9 – Tumaco Area, Finca Maragricola and KM 42 (aka Pueblo Nuevo road)

After a just over two hour transfer (as opposed to the 1hr we were told by our local guide) we finally arrived at the entrance to the Finca Maragricola in the hot lowlands. Unfortunately, we had arranged for a sit down breakfast here which further delayed our birding so it wasn’t until 8:30 that we were walking the track through Cecropia-dominated secondary forest. The birding was already fairly slow as temperatures rise quickly here. A pair of White-necked Puffbirds excavating an old termite nest was a hit while common species like Red-rumped Woodpecker, Red-lored Parrots, Cinnamon Becard, White-browed Gnatcatcher, Blue-chested Hummingbird and Red-legged Honeycreeper were enjoyed. A skulky Chestnut-backed Antbird was seen by some.

Upon arriving at the shrimp ponds we noted several waterbirds. Among the abundant Black-bellied Whistling-ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Black-necked Stilts and assorted Herons and Egrets were a couple dozen Fulvous Whistling-ducks, several pairs of White-cheeked Pintail and single Cinnamon Teal and Glossy Ibis, the last two scarce species in this area. A pair of Pacific Parrotlets were expertly spotted by Mauricio roosting quietly in the middle of a small tree beside the track. Also here were a couple Chestnut-throated Seedeaters while later on we finally connected with a handsome Masked Water-tyrant. These latter three are all only to be found in Colombia in this southwestern most corner of the country. Unfortunately, the Rufous-headed Chachalacas and Pale-legged (Pacific) Horneros remained as heard only. A small detour down a side track gave us good views at a pair of Pacific Parrotlets.

After lunch we moved on to the nearby KM42 road (aka Pueblo Nuevo). Though the occasional dump trucks bringing sand from the river were an unwelcome disturbance the birding was surprisingly good given the time of day. The highlight was undoubtedly the four different Orange-fronted Barbets that we found, another regional specialty. The support cast included a confiding pair of Bay Wrens, piratic Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Golden-hooded Tanagers and Green Honeycreeper. A Plumbeous Kite perched over the road was not fussed by our presence while a Hook-billed kite was a little more skittish moving between perches but still seen in the scope by the group.

A late afternoon stop at the La Nutria Reserve in the foothills was unproductive due to the hour and we missed the hoped for Golden-chested Tanager here. A few Scarlet-rumped Caciques were seen in flight to round out the day.

March 10 – La Planada Reserve, Finca El Bosque and transfer to Las Lajas

A mostly rainy morning severely hampered birding which was a shame as this was our one morning at middle-upper elevations of the pacific slope. After arriving at the La Planada Reserve around 7am we spent most of our hour here huddled under the roofed shelter at the “Mirador”. A short sojourn along the road failed to turn up anything, least of all the hoped for Hoary Puffleg.

We had arranged for breakfast and lunch at the nearby Finca El Bosque (a normally 45 minute drive from La Planada) so we called it quits on our rainy stop at La Planada. Shortly before arriving at the Finca, we were surprised to see that the road was blocked by a significant landslide. The 20 minute walk up from there was, fortunately, quite birdy and we came across our first Slaty-backed Chat-tyrant, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Smoke-colored Pewee, Red-faced Spintetail and a large flock of Band-tailed Pigeons.

After a very late (though tasty) breakfast we staked out the feeders in the hope of getting the star bird here, Plate-billed Mountain-toucan. While waiting we enjoyed regular visits from a troupe of stunning Blue-winged Mountain-tanagers. A Rufous-gaped Hillstar showed well a couple times at a nearby flowering banana plant. Overhead, among the vultures were Barred Hawk, Hook-billed and Swallow-tailed Kite. After lunch we still had no whiff of the Mountain-toucan so we started walking back down to the trucks. A small flock held Golden, Metallic-green and Beryl-spangled tanagers. Once at the trucks we spotted our first White-capped Dippers in the river. Back at the van we made the two and a half hour transfer to Las Lajas. A pit stop at a roadside gas station provided us with our first Yellow-billed Pintails and a fine male Black-tailed Trainbearer.

With a little daylight left after arriving at Las Lajas we took a quick walk down to the Santuario de Las Lajas (a church built into the side of the gorge). In the scrub hanging off the precipitous slopes we noted our first Black-backed Grosbeak and a pair of Tufted Tit-tyrants settling down to roost.

March 11 – Las Lajas and Laguna de la Cocha

We were joined this morning by local guide Wilson, who arrived at dawn from Pasto. He suggested we start the morning by the Potosi Bridge, which crosses over the gorge a bit past Las Lajas. This apparently is the most reliable spot for Giant Hummingbird and really the only place in Colombia where it can be found with any sort of regularity. As we looked for our main target we were pleased to pick up other high elevation species like Cinereous Conebill, Spectacled Whitestart, Streak-necked Bush-tyrant, Yellow-breasted Brushfinch and a somewhat skulky Rufous-chested Tanager. A short walk up the road finally got us a Giant Hummingbird, perched atop a shrub about 100m from us. After watching it in the scope for a couple minutes we got to appreciate just how big this species is when it buzzed right over us.

With the main target in the bag we had breakfast and then returned to the Sanctuario. Alan spotted a Fawn-breasted Tanager across the gorge and we enjoyed our first Torrent Ducks of the trip as well as the architectural splendor of the church as the backdrop to our birding.

En route to Laguna de la Cocha we were again pleased to get a new bird for the trip at our customary gas station pit stop. This time, a couple Carunculated Caracaras were spotted chasing their Crested cousin over a nearby hill.

It was raining quite hard as we ate lunch at Laguna de la Cocha but between showers we noted another Black-tailed Trainbearer, a black-crowned Night-heron and several Yellow-billed Pintails flying around.

Once checked in to the nearby Chalet Guamez Hotel we birded the grounds as we waited for our local guide, Fernando, to arrive. In the grounds we noted our first Andean Guans while the lakeshore held several Slate-colored Coots. With Fernando, we arranged for a quick boat ride to try to access more reed beds to look for Virginia (Ecuadorian) Rail, Subtropical Doradito and Andean Gull. Alas, while we would eventually connect with a close Andean Gull, the other two were no shows as we boated along the shoreline for the final hour before dusk.

March 12 – Paramo Bordoncillo and upper Via Nueva (new road) Sibundoy-Mocoa

After breakfast at Chalet Guamez we drove up the main highway to the Paramo Bordoncillo. The stretch of track up to the towers is less than a km but at 3100-3200m elevation it took us a few hours to cover. Plus, we took our time trying for the Chestnut-bellied Cotinga at the better vantage points. Bird activity remained light throughout the nearly 6 hours we spent here. The weather mostly cooperated with just some light drizzle early on. Glowing Puffleg and Rainbow-bearded Thornbill were among the few birds we laid our binoculars on as we ascended. Near the towers we finally found a bit of activity with Golden-crowned Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain Tanager, Pale-naped Brushfinch and Glossy Flowerpiercer noted. A brief White-chinned Thistletail showed for some as well. As we made our way back to the van we ran into another small flock made up of Brown-backed Chat-tyrant, Agile Tit-tyrants and best of all a trio of ultra-rare Masked Mountain-tanagers! Connecting with this rare species made up for us ultimately dipping on the Cotinga.

After lunch we birded with Fernando along the under-construction “Via Nueva” that will connect Sibundoy and Mocoa. For now, there is almost no traffic along what is constructed and we birded a couple forest patches. There wasn’t much in the way of birds about but we spotted a couple Sierran Elaenias, our first Blue-and-black Tanagers and a flyover Carunculated Caracara. Some spotted a Green-and-black Fruiteater in the mist and we heard a distant Ocellated Tapaculo.

Back in Sibundoy Fernando showed us the city plaza with its several wooden statues representative of local indigenous culture and history.

March 13 – Birding along road to Mocoa, Trampolin de las Aves

Driving the road between Sibundoy and Mocoa it is hard to believe that one is on the principal/only route connecting the eastern foothills and lowlands with the highlands and Pacific. The majority of the road is not paved and there is little traffic. Needless to say, this is to the benefit of the birding. We were joined by our local guide for the next few days, Edilson and we made several stops along the way, mostly focusing on the higher elevation montane forests. One of our first stops held a nice mixed species flock that included a pair of stunning Red-hooded Tanager, a brief Collared Inca and a hybrid Golden-fronted x Spectacled Redstart, typical of this overlap zone between the two “species”. On a section of river we spotted a pair of Torrent Ducks that we eventually saw had a downy chick in tow! While admiring the ducks a little understory flock came into view across the stream. Eventually, these came closer and we noted a few Short-billed Chlorospinguses, one of the day’s targets. Our first Deep-blue Flowerpiercer delighted us with its demonic orange eyes while we also spotted a Green-backed Hillstar and our first Three-striped Warbler.

Further on we got stellar looks at a pair of Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers. While enjoying these, a Black-billed Mountain-toucan came into view atop a nearby broken topped palm. Our first Saffron-crowned Tanagers of the trip were also spotted here. Our last stop before lunch held a few more goodies in the form of a Geoffroy’s Daggerbill, Rufous-crested Tanager and a duo of male Golden-winged Manakins flashing their brilliant wings as they chased each other. Unfortunately, the Yellow-throated Tanager here made just a very brief appearance and only the guides got a proper look at it. A pair of nest-building Flame-faced Tanagers were more obliging though and gave great, close views.

After one of our only disappointing meals of the trip we arrived at Filo del Hambre, the starting point of the descent down to the foothills at Mocoa. This stretch of road is colloquially referred to as the “Trampolin de la Muerte” (Trampolin of Death) but in the birding world it has taken on the moniker “Trampolin de las Aves” for the excellent birding along the way as it descends from ~2000m to 600m elevation. We dipped on the White-rimmed Brushfinch at Filo del Hambre and after only hearing Dusky Piha we cut our losses and started our descent. While we didn’t have too much time for birding we did enjoy some Grass-green Tanagers and a Sickle-winged Guan before arriving at the area where a lek of Andean Cock-of-the-Rock is visible across the valley. One of these flaming orange beauties flew over to our side for close views and the fruiting Cecropia trees nearby attracted several beautiful birds like Red-headed Barbet and Orange-eared and Golden Tanagers.

Arriving in the fading light at our hotel for the evening, some in the group took the opportunity for a quick dip in the pool before dinner.

March 14 – Puerto Asis, Playa Rica Ecological Trail

Our original plan for the morning had been to go to Finca El Escondite but apparently they were not open for tourism so we decided to make the rather long (2.5hour) drive to a site called Playa Rica, a short boat ride down the Putumayo River from the city of Puerto Asis. A pit stop at a gas station provided us with our first Scarlet-crowned Barbets as we entered the lowlands.

When we arrived at Playa Rica we were welcomed by a beautiful Chestnut Woodpecker along with Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper and a pair of White-eared Jacamars. After a quick breakfast we enjoyed a troupe of White-tailed Titi monkeys as we set out to walk the trail east from our docking point. While we ultimately dipped on a couple of our more difficult targets (Plum-throated Cotinga and Rufous-headed Woodpecker) we enjoyed many species typical of the Amazonian lowlands. Black-fronted Nunbirds, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Turquoise Tanager, Lettered Aracari and White-banded Swallow were spotted along the way. Where we turned around we spied a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl that had a fledged young in tow. A few birds were attracted in by the soft calls of the adult and these included Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet and a female Yellow-bellied Dacnis. A Yellow-breasted Flycatcher calling in a patch of Guaduas was eventually tracked down and we were surprised to get split second views of an Undulated Tinamou rocketing overhead after being flushed by one of the local dogs!

After lunch we took a quick walk to the nearby school and here we got great looks at our first Amazonian Umbrellabird of the trip as well as a pair of Black-capped Donacobius!

Most of the afternoon was spent driving back to our hotel in Mocoa where the refreshing pool was enjoyed again.

March 15 – Vereda Campucana Trail and transfer to El Encanto Ecolodge

Our destination for this morning was just a half hour from the hotel. We arrived at the trailhead to Vereda Campucana around 6:30 and ate a quick field breakfast. There were a few birds about and we particularly enjoyed the Magpie Tanager and Speckled Chachalaca while an Ash-throated Crake called from the pasture nearby.

The first part of the trail passes through secondary habitats and plantations and here we enjoyed a group of Chestnut-eared Aracaris and a Lineated Woodpecker. Once in the forest proper the bird activity was pretty light. We played hide-and-seek with an uncooperative pair of Dusky Antbirds before we tracked down one of our top targets for the morning, a Black-streaked Puffbird. Around mid-morning we finally came across our first proper mixed flock which kept us entertained for a half hour or so. Red-headed and Gilded Barbets were enjoyed in all their finery while Speckled, Blue-headed and a couple Paradise Tanagers were not to be outshone. Neotropical migrants such as Canada Warbler and a beautiful male Cerulean Warbler were highlights for some as well. More subdued were species like Streaked Xenops, Russet Antshrike, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet and Scaled Piculet were also noted. A Green-fronted Lancebill was briefly seen by some as well.

The bird of the morning though was an iridescent Coppery-chested Jacamar that showed up during a hiatus in the flock activity! As we walked back to the van we came across a troupe of Humboldt’s Squirrel Monkeys and heard a distant Black Tinamou.

After lunch back at the hotel we drove north over the low pass that leads into the upper Magdalena Valley where we were lodged at the delightful El Encanto Ecolodge. A quick roadside stop for some construction produced our first Rufous-tailed Tyrant, an often tricky species to track down.

Arriving shortly after dark at the El Encanto Ecolodge we were welcomed by the Molina Cruz family, some of the friendliest and kindest folks one is likely to meet anywhere. Michael, the son, and Luisa were our local guides for the following day and helped ensure we had a wonderful time at El Encanto.

March 16 – El Encanto Ecolodge and La Drymophila Reserve

We spent this morning at the new Drymophila Reserve, about a 45 minute truck drive from the lodge. This property has been developed over the past couple years by the folks at El Encanto and is now truly outstanding. Feeding stations attract White-bellied Antpitta, Schwartz’s Antthrush (!) and banana feeders bring in various tanagers, endemic Red-bellied Grackles, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Red-headed Barbets and more. Meanwhile, we noted 12 species of hummingbirds on their feeders! These included regular visits from the Tolima Blossomcrown, a typically tricky endemic, as well as a lone female Gorgeted Woodstar. We started the morning with a ~300m walk down the trail to the feeders. En route we got superb views of the range-restricted endemic East Andean Antbird. At the fruit/hummingbird feeders we enjoyed a coffee and, in addition to the above mentioned species, had a pair of Magpie Tanagers, a migrant Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher and another endemic, the Dusky-headed Brushfinch.

After enjoying these we split up and went to the two feeding stations for the Antthrush/Antpitta. After a half hour a Schwartz’s Antthrush showed up, along the trail about 20m from us. While the other group had yet to see the Antpitta we decided that as it was more reliable we would quickly switch the groups in the hope that the Antthrush would return. Alas, as it turned out half the group saw both while the other saw neither…in the end it was evident we should not have split up but rather tried to squish everyone in each hide together (should have been just about manageable).  Endemic Tolima Doves were common at each feeding station so everyone got to enjoy them to their heart’s content!

A late morning walk further down the trail provided us with views of a very fine Golden-winged Manakin at a lek.

Back at the lodge, we ate a delicious lunch and had a bit of a siesta before birding the grounds. The hummingbird feeders here attracted further new species for the trip in the form of Red-billed and Short-tailed Emeralds, Shining-green (the last three all near-endemics) and Indigo-capped (endemic) Hummingbirds and a Pale-bellied Hermit. Meanwhile, the banana feeders here were a hit with the Colombian Chachalacas and several species of tanager. Around the property we spotted Spectacled Parrotlet, Bar-crested Antshrike, White-winged Becard, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Cerulean Warbler and Rusty Flowerpiercer.

March 17 – La Riviera Reserve and San Agustin

In contrast to the excellent El Encanto Reserve, our morning at the La Riviera Reserve was a difficult and unrewarding experience despite being guided by the very knowledgeable Jorge Peña. A 45 minute drive from El Encanto this reserve holds outstanding, mature forest and a wealth of sought after target species. Unfortunately, being an as yet not very developed reserve, the trails were very muddy and in poor condition with one quite dicey stream crossing involved.

We started off in a light drizzle to try for Hooded Antpitta, arriving at the spot after about a 20 minute walk. The rain had picked up a little and we had no luck. Pressing on, we did encounter a couple canopy flocks but they were so high as to make views very poor. Around mid-morning the drizzle stopped and we were able to call in a Schwartz’s Antthrush that gave brief views for some in the group. As we were returning down the trail towards the entrance Jorge heard a fruiteater and we were able to call a male Black-chested Fruiteater (one of the targets here) in though it tended to remain high in the canopy and almost directly overhead. Eventually it appeared on some cecropia fruits at a more agreeable viewing angle but the views were brief.

We had a nice lunch at a nearby farmhouse where we had a couple good birds such as Acorn Woodpeckers, another Rufous-tailed Tyrant and a male Black-and-white Seedeater.

After lunch we made the 1.5 hour transfer to San Agustin where were spent the night in the beautiful Finca El Maco hotel. The grounds were very productive and we spent an hour birding before dusk getting good looks at many species seen previously but also our first Ash-browed Spinetail. A group of White-collared and Chestnut-collared Swifts spent some time foraging overhead.

March 18 – San Agustin Archeological Park and drive to Florencia

The main reason for our stop in San Agustin was actually to visit the Archeological Park which encompasses some of the most impressive and extensive ruins and stone sculptures in the neotropics. Before indulging in a great breakfast we had about an hour to kill as the park opened at 8am. Birding the hotel grounds we saw mostly the same species as the previous evening but some of us did get quick looks at an endemic Apical Flycatcher as well as an Olivaceous Piculet and a pair of stunning Blue-necked Tanagers.

At the Archeological Park we were joined by an English speaking local cultural guide named Juliana who was very knowledgeable and good company. Among the many incredible sculptures and tombs we saw a smattering of birds though admittedly, most of the time we were fully captivated by this amazing place. Our only Acadian Flycatchers of the trip as well as Smoky-brown Woodpecker and Green Jay were enjoyed. In the end we were disappointed to have to leave after our three hours in the park. After lunch in Pitalito we spent most of the afternoon driving down to the city of Florencia, in the Amazonian foothills. A brief roadside stop at a known site produced the expected Cliff Flycatcher pair. Arriving at our destination with light fading we just made it to the roost of a pair of Black-banded Owls in time to enjoy them before they left for their night’s activities.

March 19 – Florencia, Mirador los Tucanes/Via Antigua and Vereda San Carlos

We were joined during our time in Florencia by the excellent Jorge Muñoz of Caqueta Birding. Our full day in the area started off with a 5am departure to drive up the Via Antigua (old road to the Magdalena Valley). This road is mostly unpaved but in quite good condition and has almost no traffic with excellent habitat along much of it.

As we made our way up the Via Antigua in the dawn light we flushed up a Fasciated Tiger-heron that posed nicely for us at a small creek. Once fully light we made a quick stop as Jorge heard Paradise Tanager which we duly saw in the trees above the road. Carrying on, we spent the next couple hours birding a section of road called Mirador Los Tucanes which has excellent foothill/lower slope habitat and is good for mixed flocks.

Our first stop provided us with nice views of a group of Maroon-tailed Parakeets of the souancei subspecies and a Wattled Guan in the canopy. Some quality hummingbirds were here as well including a scarce Black-throated Brilliant that regularly returned to perch atop one of the roadside trees as well as a Violet-headed Hummingbird that unfortunately only Michael and Jorge spotted. A skulking White-crowned Tapaculo was briefly seen by some though it evaded most of us.

At our next stop, it wasn’t long before we were watching a nice mixed flock that held some goodies like Rufous-rumped and Yellow-breasted Antwrens and Tawny-breasted Flycatcher. Another little flock contained some beautiful Flame-faced Tanagers that entertained us for several minutes, while Andrew picked out a male Blue-rumped Manakin. A calling Yellow-throated Toucan was eventually picked out far down the opposite slope by Jorge.

Carrying on up the road we got to somewhat higher elevations but the birding slowed down. A large bird flying across the road materialized into a Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and a Metallic-green Tanager was picked out of a small mixed flock while a couple Long-tailed Tapaculos remained heard only. After hearing them for a while we finally spotted a troupe of Humboldt’s Woolly Monkeys in the canopy of the trees about 50m from us.

We descended down to the Mirador Los Tucanes area again for lunch at a local finca. While waiting for the food to be prepared we continued birding, getting some nice species like Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Green-fronted Lancebill, Wire-crested Thorntail and a spiffy Barred Becard. This was topped however by the appearance of a small group of brilliant Golden-eared Tanagers at some roadside fruits!

After lunch, we drove down to the main highway and took it uphill for about 20 minutes to Vereda San Carlos, a dirt track that leads to several farms and passes through forest patches with a few sought after birds. Alas, we arrived to fog and rain and though we tried we didn’t find much in the half hour we spent here. A little further down, at Mirador Las Tangaras, we were below the clouds and here we got looks at our first Many-banded Aracari of the trip along with a little group of four iridescent Swallow Tanagers.

March 20 – Laguna el Vaticano and flight to Bogota

On the outskirts of Florencia there is a private ranch property referred to as Laguna el Vaticano that allows birders to enter for a small fee. The area is extremely productive and despite having our birding bookended by torrential rain we racked up 70 species is less than two hours. Horned Screamers were spotted a couple times atop bushes on the far side of the wetland and their bizarre braying was a regular part of the soundscape. Another fan favourite, and equally bizarre, was the Hoatzin that lurked in the waterside foliage. Among the first birds we saw were a mixed group of Red-bellied and Chestnut-fronted Macaws perched in some nearby trees. In the shrubbery and riparian habitat we encountered such species as Little Cuckoo, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher, Cinnamon Attila and Golden-bellied Euphonia. A certain patch of bamboo held a trio of roosting Tropical Screech-owls and while watching them, a Solitary Black Cacique made an appearance.

After a very pleasant breakfast prepared by the family at the ranch, we made a dash through the wall of rain to the van where we arrived quite sodden. Our flight back to Bogota was delayed somewhat but after arriving at our hotel we had a late lunch and paid a visit to the excellent Gold Museum.

END OF MAIN TOUR, BEGIN INIRIDA EXTENSION

March 21 – Bogota, Parque Simon Bolivar and Flight to Inirida, Caño Culebra

As we had to wait until mid-day for our flight out to Puerto Inirida we decided to spend a bit of time at the Parque Simon Bolivar, a 10 minute drive from our hotel. While this city park doesn’t offer much in the way of natural habitat a few species of interest can be found and we were pleased to find a little flock of Rufous-browed Conebills alongside commoner species like Yellow-backed Oriole and Vermilion Flycatcher. Some migrants were in attendance including little groups of Scarlet Tanager and Tennessee Warbler.

Once in Puerto Inirida, we were met by the excellent local guide Daniel Camilo of Orinoco Nature Tours and two vehicles; one to take our luggage to the hotel and the other to transfer us to the nearby Caño Culebra trail. We had about an hour and a half of daylight and as we set off we noted a handsome Savannah Hawk perched nearby while a couple pairs of both Scarlet and Red-and-green Macaws flew over, much to Michael’s delight.

It wasn’t long before Daniel had us on our first white sands specialty in the form of a confiding Black Manakin on its favoured perch. The birding remained pretty quiet but we enjoyed some common species such as Muscovy Duck, Swallow-winged Puffbird and Red-legged Honeycreeper. As dusk descended we were thrilled to watch several Least Nighthawks start flying around us. Interestingly, Daniel informed us that the white sands taxon may be a cryptic species new to science based on vocal differences from the other form!

As dark descended we checked into the Fuente del Guainia Hotel for our first of four nights.

March 22 – Puerto Inirida, Comunidad Sabanitas and Curva de los Pepes

Probably the best White Sands forest in the area is accessed at the Sabanitas indigenous community and this was the destination of our first morning. Alas, rain delayed our start though we made the best of birding around the community itself. A pair of Sunbitterns was a delight to behold in all their splendour while Bare-necked Fruitcrow and Cinnamon Attila showed well.

When the rain abated we struck out and quickly got our binoculars on a cooperative Golden-spangled Piculet. This was followed shortly thereafter by Cherrie’s Antwren, Amazonian Tyrannulet, Yellow-crowned Manakin and Scale-breasted Woodpecker. A Wedge-tailed Grassfinch singing its heart out provided nice scope views. Shortly before our next bout of rain we picked up another white sand specialty, a pair of Plumbeous Euphonias.

We had another hour or so without rain and during this time we entered the forest and started looking for our top target, the bizarre Capuchinbird. Alas, we had yet to find any before we were once again the victims of a heavier rain shower that persisted for about 45 minutes. As it was now fairly late in the morning we decided to turn back. Just before exiting the forest we encountered a small mixed flock which held Spot-backed Antwren, Striped Woodcreeper, Black-capped Becard and Purple Honeycreeper. Here we also saw our first troupe of Collared (aka Yellow-handed or Black) Titi monkeys, including a mother carrying a young one. This was our 5th, and final primate species of the trip!

Back in the community we enjoyed a tasty traditional meal of fish and pounded yucca before returning to the hotel for a short siesta.

In the afternoon we spent a couple hours along one of the quiet roads outside the community. The site is named Curva de los Pepes and is white sand savannah and scrub. The main target here is White-naped Seedeater and according to Daniel they only sing early in the morning and later afternoon. While we waited we picked up some other local specialties such as Plain-crested Elaenia, Campina Thrush and Red-shouldered Tanager. More widespread species that were new for the trip included Barred Antshrike and Black-faced Tanager while we heard a couple Russet-crowned Crakes. At last, shortly after 5pm Daniel picked up the song of the seedeater and soon enough it flew into the bushes right beside the road to serenade us! It repeated this as we were leaving giving us a second opportunity at photos of this scarce species!

March 23 – Puerto Inirida, Matraca Trail and La Rompida

Today our transport to the birding sites was by boat. We arrived at the dock and made the 10 minute ride up the Rio Inirida to an excellent trail in the seasonally flooded Igapo forest. From the boat we spotted some Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, Black Skimmers and both White-winged and White-banded Swallows.

Once on the trail Daniel immediately heard Orinoco Softtail, an extremely range-restricted species and one of the top targets in Inirida. We were able to get looks at a pair foraging several times over the course of a few minutes as they moved through the mid-story with a couple Black-chinned Antbirds and Blackish-grey Antshrikes below them. Some eye-candy followed in the form of a pair of Cream-colored Woodpeckers, Blue-crowned and Green-backed Trogons as well as an iridescent Green-tailed Jacamar. While watching an eye-popping Wire-tailed Manakin we heard a Black-spotted Bare-eye call. We were able to attract it in but unfortunately, I was the only one to get looks at it as it briefly perched nearby before flying away, not to be seen again.

A much more obliging Dot-backed Antbird soon followed as did a troupe of Velvet-fronted Grackles. Mid-morning saw us finally come across a nice little canopy flock in which we noted several gorgeous Gilded Barbets, a Slate-colored Grosbeak and Gray-headed Tanager. Daniel again came up trumps calling out a singing Rose-breasted Chat and we were soon all mouths agape as a beautiful male flitted about above us. As the flock passed we called in a Long-billed Woodcreeper, one of five species of Woodcreepers we encountered this morning; the others being Buff-throated, Striped, Cinnamon-throated and a heard-only Strong-billed.

A roosting Great Potoo was a surprise as there are only a couple records for the area on eBird. Shortly before we were overtaken by rain we heard a Varzea Schiffornis but we couldn’t track it down. Once the rain stopped (we were grateful for purchasing umbrellas the day before!) we headed back to the boat, spotting a singing Hauxwell’s Thrush as we neared the river.

In the afternoon we again took the river, downstream this time and turning up the Guiania River to a site called La Rompida. Along the way we spotted a variety of waterbirds and upon arrival we enjoyed a couple Amazonian River Dolphins surfacing not far offshore. The main target for this site is the recently discovered population of an Antshrike that is only known from this small area. Rumour has it that rather than a new species it is in fact a very disjunct population of Chestnut-backed Antshrike, typically found over 1000km to the south. We got several views of both males and females and enjoyed other wonderful birds like White-eared and Green-tailed Jacamars, another Amazonian Umbrellabird, Spot-breasted Woodpecker and Orange-headed Tanager. More subtle species that were new for us included the “Campina’ form of Fuscous Flycatcher and both Rusty-backed and Plain-crowned Spinetails. An active nest of a Common Tody-flycatcher pair kept us entertained as well.

After consuming a very refreshing watermelon we boated back to town, racing an extraordinary and ominous band of cloud that appeared on the horizon and rapidly overtook us, thankfully not breaking over us as we feared. Several Sand-colored Nighthawks were seen over the river as dusk approached.

March 24 – Puerto Inirida, Sendero Flor de Inirida and Cerro de Mavecure

We started the morning back in the White Sands at the Flor de Inirida Trail which is known now as the most reliable spot for yet another specialty of the region, the Yapacana Antbird. As we piled out of the van we were greeted by a fine Bronzy Jacamar and a Green-tailed Goldenthroat, both glittering in the early morning light.

After a brief run-around we got superb looks at a male Yapacana Antbird and some got looks at the female as well. A Coraya Wren put in an appearance here as well. Moving on to the reserve buildings we could hear a Spotted Puffbird calling and we eventually got it in the scope in one of the trees at the edge of the clearing. A bit of time in the forest was not particularly productive but we did get a couple fine birds in the form of pairs of Red-necked Woodpecker and Imeri Warbling Antbird while some also got on a rather elusive Rufous-tailed Flatbill. An Ocellated Woodcreeper provided a good ID challenge, though it thankfully called back in response to our playback, confirming our sits identification.

Mid-morning we headed back to the pier for our trip downriver to the Cerros de Mavecure. Unfortunately, Avery had a stomach bug and had to sit out this trip. Everyone else went with Daniel, having a fairly uneventful hour and a half boat ride upstream to these spectacular granite mountains. After a lunch in the local indigenous community some time was spent on the beach at the base of the cerros. From here an Orange-breasted Falcon was scoped while closer by a pair of Pied Lapwings and many Black-collared Swallows entertained.

On the way back we stopped in at one of the small tributaries, Caño Cunuben. A little ways up the channel is a nest tree used by various Icterids such as Red-rumped Cacique, and Crested and Olive Oropendolas. A Bat Falcon was spotted atop a snag at the mouth of the channel en route back to town.

March 25 – Puerto Inirida, Caño Vitina and flight to Bogota

We had saved one of the trip highlights for our last day. A few weeks before our arrival a nest of Crested Eagle had been found about a 45 minute walk from this community. While we had to rush somewhat due to our mid-day flight we had time to pick up some nice birds along our walk in to the nest site. These included a very distant male Purple-breasted Cotinga that we got in the scope as well as several Pompadour Cotingas, our only Epaulet Oriole and close White-browed Purpletufts.

At the Crested Eagle nest we enjoyed the nearly-fledged young but alas, with only about 15 minutes to spend there we did not, unsurprisingly, have an adult pay a visit. A trio of Black-headed Parrots showed well in the scope and we also had more looks at Pomapdour Cotingas, several males of which flew by and landed in the trees a few hundred metres away. A lone Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet rocketed high overhead a couple times as well. As we got back to the community we enjoyed nice looks at Opal-rumped Tanagers and we had a tense few minutes as we waited for a Green-and-rufous Kingfisher to come back into sight after it had flushed off the wires ahead of us. Thankfully, it returned to the pond beside the trail and we all got fantastic looks at what would prove to be our final new bird of the tour proper!

After our flight back to Bogota we had a late lunch and paid a visit to the fantastic Gold Museum.

March 26 – Bogota, BioAndina Reserve

With a full day in Bogota to account for time to get our covid tests we decided to do some birding so hired a vehicle to take us the 2.5 hours to the BioAndina Reserve, passing through the paramo of Chingaza National Park en route. After finally arriving at the mix of pasture and forest that is the reserve and environs, we soon encountered a flock of the endemic Brown-breasted Parakeets. About 15 flew into a tree beside the road but unfortunately, light mist made visibility rather poor and they quickly flew off though we were able to appreciate their colourful wing pattern in flight.

As we got to the better forest we encountered the best flock of the entire trip. Around 20 species were in attendance and many of them came in at eye-level right beside the road, within 5-15 metres of us! These included several Mountain Caciques as well as Pearled Treerunner, Montane Woodcreeper, White-banded Tyrannulet, Black-eared Hemispingus, Citrine Warbler, Golden-faced Redstart, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, and Bluish and Masked Flowerpiercers. A crimson-mantled Woodpecker briefly joined the fun while a Streaked Tuftedcheek buried itself in the epiphytic bromeliads. After following this group for close to an hour we had to turn around.

Other nice birds encountered included several Amethyst-throated Sunangels, Andean Guans, Andean Teal and a Black-billed Mountain-toucan.

WRITTEN BY: Avery Bartels

PHOTOS: All by guide Avery Bartels (c), in the order they appear on the blog; Golden Tanager; Plumbeous Kite; Masked Mountain-Tanager; Torrent Ducks; Black-billed Mountain-Toucan; White-tailed Titi monkey; Coppery-chested Jacamar; San Agustin Archaeological Park; Tropical Screech-Owls; White-naped Seedeater; Dot-backed Antbird; Amazonian Umbrellabird; Yapacana Antbird; Egrets coming to roost at the Guainia River; Crested Eagle nest; Green-and-rufous Kingfisher.

Interior Washington State ~ April 30 to May 4, 2022

April 30 – We left Kelowna early this morning and made our way down to Osoyoos and the US border. After crossing into Oroville we headed down to the south end of Osoyoos Lake at Osoyoos Lake State Park. Here, we observed close to 40 species, including our only Horned and Red-necked grebe of the tour. Yellow-headed Blackbirds were numerous in the cattail marsh here, and a Marsh Wren was chattering away as well. Waterfowl included Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, and Hooded Merganser. A Ring-necked Pheasant squawked loudly from the edge of the marsh and California Quail called nearby as well. Swallows were about in great numbers and we saw 5 species of them foraging low over the Okanogan River.

We headed east from Oroville up to the Molson area, where wetlands, marshes and open fields produced a nice variety of birds. It was cold, windy and a little bit rainy up here, making for difficult conditions, though we still saw quite a lot. A Swainson’s Hawk posed nicely on a fence post as we drove by. As we drove up to Molson, we were surprised to see a lone Sandhill Crane foraging right next to the road. This ended up being the only Sandhill Crane we saw on the trip! Ducks on Molson Lake included Redhead, Bufflehead, Common and Barrow’s goldeneyes, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, and best of all a male Eurasian Wigeon. Open country birds we saw included American Kestrel, Say’s Phoebe, Mountain Bluebirds, Vesper Sparrows and Western Meadowlarks.

At Havillah we explored higher elevation forests, looking especially for woodpeckers. We were rewarded with some lovely sightings of several Williamson’s Sapsuckers at the sno-park, with both males and females observed. Red-naped Sapsuckers were also seen, and Pileated Woodpecker called several times nearby. Try as we might to find a White-headed Woodpecker, we could not. We did, however, find a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers banging away on a large pine snag.

Other nice sightings included a couple of Canada Jays, as well as our only Steller’s Jay of the tour. We had two large groups of up to 50 White-winged Crossbills in this area as well. Red Crossbills, Pine Siskins and Evening Grosbeaks were also thrown into the mix. As we drove along Havillah Road, a flock of 100 Horned Larks lifted up off one of the farm fields. Along Siwash Creek Road, we continued our search for the elusive White-headed Woodpecker without luck. We did, however, find some other goodies such as a Wild Turkey that crossed the road, an immature Golden Eagle, Downy Woodpecker, Clark’s Nutcrackers, Mountain Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatch and Brown Creeper.

It had been a fantastic first day, and we carried onto our base for the night, at Omak.

May 1 – We left our hotel in Omak nice and early and headed out towards the Waterville Plateau near Leahy. It was a lovely morning with sunshine, though still cool temperatures. One of the first birds we encountered was a rather tardy Rough-legged Hawk sitting on a rock next to the road. We saw a second Rough-legged Hawk not too far away as well. The roadsides were littered with White-crowned Sparrows feasting up as they migrated northward. We also encountered a number of Vesper Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows and a few Brewer’s Sparrows up here. A Sage Thrasher sang from fence posts next the road, offering us excellent photographic opportunities, and our first of many Western Kingbirds on the tour was seen here as well.

After a quick stop at a nice little cafe in Coulee City, we headed for Dry Falls to see what we could see. The scenery and the geology of the area is quite fascinating in itself. Birds we saw included a Rock Wren, as well as several White-throated Swifts.

At Lake Lenore there were many ducks on the water, and we saw our first Eared Grebes of the trip. A flock of 30 or so American White Pelicans soared overhead and a steady stream of Double-crested Cormorants kept flying by.

A stop at Soap Lake provided excellent views of Black-necked Stilts along the shore, and a single American Avocet foraging a bit further away. On the beach there was an adult Dunlin feeding, and there were several Least Sandpipers and a Semipalmated Sandpiper present as well.

We met up with a local birder at Soap Lake named Matt, and he showed us a lovely Burrowing Owl not too far away from town. Also here, Long-billed Curlews were calling and occasionally seen in flight over the horizon in the distance.

Next on the agenda was a visit to Wilson Creek. We scanned through marshes full of Red-winged Blackbirds, hoping to see a Tricolored Blackbird, but no luck here. Raptors were the main attraction here, as we watched several Red-tailed Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Northern Harriers and a Peregrine Falcon sailing over the marsh. Best of all, we discovered a pair of Ferruginous Hawks at their nest on a cliff which we viewed from a distance through the scope.

We headed into Moses Lake, where we checked into our hotel and then ventured back out to do some more birding. We made our way to Othello to check out the Para/McCain Pond, an excellent birding spot indeed. Our main target species here was Tricolored Blackbird, a rare and endangered species, though they are thought to be slowly expanding their range in Washington State. We scanned through the flocks of Red-winged, Yellow-headed and Brewer’s blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and European Starlings looking for Tricolored Blackbirds. When a male Tricolored Blackbird flew past us, there was no mistaking this bird, with bright white borders to the red on the wing. Soon, we had discovered a flock of about 8 male Tricoloreds and we were very happy. The ponds were covered in ducks, mostly Northern Shovelers, and shorebirds were also present, such as Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Wilson’s Snipe. Several Great Egrets were noted here as well.

May 2 – We left Moses Lake and drove south towards Othello, making our first stop at Lind Coulee, where we hoped to find one of our target birds for the day, Clark’s Grebe. As soon as we had the scope out, Clark’s Grebes appeared, and after an hour or so of searching, we’d found about 8 of them. One or two grebes also appeared to be possible hybrids between Clark’s Grebe and Western Grebe. At one point a pair of Clark’s Grebes began displaying and reared up onto the water and ran, side by side, in display. In addition to the grebes, we saw our only Canvasbacks of the tour here, as well as a single Forster’s Tern. Up to three Great Egrets lurked in the reeds and along the shore as well. We paused to look at one of the most beautiful sparrows of the area, a Lark Sparrow, as it posed atop its perch on a sagebrush.

At Potholes State Park we tallied an impressive 51 species this morning! Migrants were abundant in the park, and we saw several trip firsts, such as Townsend’s Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Cassin’s Vireo, Bullock’s Oriole, Cedar Waxwing, House Wren, Chipping Sparrow and Western Tanager! Both Calliope and Rufous hummingbirds were encountered briefly as well. On the lake, there were a dozen or more Bonaparte’s Gulls, and our only Caspian Tern of the tour flew overhead.

Our next target species was Loggerhead Shrike. We headed for an area along Lower Crab Creek where I had seen the species before. Not long after arriving, we spotted our first shrike sitting on a fencepost. Soon, another arrived and it didn’t take us long to determine there must be a nest present. Sure enough, tucked into a sagebrush was a messy nest of a Loggerhead Shrike. We left and let the birds get on with their nesting as the weather had turned ugly; cool, windy and wet. Also seen along Lower Crab Creek Road were Say’s Phoebe, Great Egret, Western Kingbirds, Western Meadowlarks and a Lewis’s Woodpecker!

Our third, and final target species for today was Sagebrush Sparrow. We drove about an hour and a half through rainy conditions up into some sage covered hills, known as the Rattlesnake Hills, not too far from the Tri-Cities area. It was cold and breezy, but at least the rain had stopped. As we walked down the path, our boots got rather wet from the soaked grasses. I could hear the sweet song of a Sagebrush Sparrow ahead, and then another song from a different direction. We headed towards the song and soon found ourselves staring at a singing Sagebrush Sparrow. Success! We drove on to our accommodation for the night in Goldendale.

May 3 – A sunny sky greeted us this morning in Goldendale, and we could see Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood gleaming with snow against the the blue sky. Maryhill State Park was our first stop this morning, down along the Columbia River. This stretch of the Columbia River is home to a number of birds not found elsewhere along our route, so we had several target species on the menu for today. Our first one, California Scrub-Jay, appeared soon after we arrived. We ended up seeing many of them today. Our second target, Lesser Goldfinch, was also pretty easy to find, as a male sang incessantly from trees next to the road. Migrants littered the roadside bushes, and there were Dusky Flycatchers, Lincoln’s and Golden-crowned sparrows, many warblers, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Lazuli Bunting present. Canyon Wren sang from the cliffs above.

At the Lyle Campground and Klickitat County Park, we searched the forest of Oregon White Oaks for birds, and we found quite a few. Best of them included Warbling Vireos, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and Anna’s Hummingbird, all new for the trip. We watched a young buck Mule Deer swim across the river. He looked surprised when he arrived on the shore and saw us staring at him. Our first California Ground-Squirrels of the tour were seen here.

Hoping to find another target bird for the trip, Acorn Woodpecker, we visited the Klickitat Trail at Balfour Road where the species had been reported recently. Acorn Woodpeckers range just barely extends into Washington State here along the Columbia River near Lyle. The sky was full of Vaux’s Swifts. We estimated there were about 40 of them at this location. It was a lovely sunny day, though quite windy, so that made birds a little harder to find, though we still saw a lot. California Scrub-Jays popped up and called loudly at several spots along the trail. Suddenly the loud, nasal calls of Acorn Woodpeckers could be heard and we found ourselves watching 3 of them at a dead oak tree which they were using as their granary tree to stash acorns. Again, migrants were about in good numbers and variety. We had a selection of warblers, as well as Western Wood-Pewee, a Gray Flycatcher, some Dusky Flycatchers, Anna’s Hummingbird, and plenty of Western Tanagers. A Bewick’s Wren appeared and showed off quite nicely, the only one was actually saw on the trip, despite hearing several. Belted Kingfishers called as they flew up and down the river, and Ospreys chirped loudly from a nest nearby.

A little exploration around Balch Lake, near Lyle, produced a couple of very nice Lewis’s Woodpeckers, as well as a distant soaring Golden Eagle. White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees and Ruby-crowned Kinglets came in to check us out, and we enjoyed seeing another Golden-crowned Sparrow, this one hopping about at the edge of the road. California Scrub-Jays seemed to be all over, and we had another Lesser Goldfinch and another Black-throated Gray Warbler. All the bird activity attracted a Sharp-shinned Hawk, our only one for the tour.

Leaving the lower Columbia River behind, we headed north once again, over Satus Pass, and we stopped in at Toppenish to see what we could find. Wetlands were full of ducks, including our first Blue-winged Teal, as well as Canada Geese, and American Coots. Both Virginia Rails and Sora called from the marsh and we had glimpses of the latter. Wilson’s Snipe winnowed overhead and we watched them do this impressive aerial display. Marsh Wrens sang from the cattails and Bewick’s Wrens sang from riparian habitat. A single Common Yellowthroat, our only for the tour, sang from the marsh. Best sighting of all was when Joan spotted a family of two baby and one adult Great Horned Owls in a large tree beside the road! We carried on to Ellensburg, our last overnight stop of the trip.

May 4 – After breakfast we loaded up the vehicle and headed west on a dirt road, towards Wenas. On the way, we paused to see a Sage Thrasher singing from the top of a sage. Both Mountain and Western bluebirds were also noted this morning along the drive. We found a mixed flock of Cassin’s Finches and Red Crossbills gathered to pick up grit along the road at one point.

We spent the next couple of hours searching through the Ponderosa Pines for one of our most wanted target species, the White-headed Woodpecker. We found several Downy Woodpeckers, a Red-naped Sapsucker and we tracked down the over-enthusiastic tapping of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, but we couldn’t find any White-headed Woodpecker. There were Gray Flycatchers singing, though they didn’t want to show themselves either. An Olive-sided Flycatcher atop a snag was a nice early report of this species. Other birds found here included MacGillivray’s Warbler, Western Tanager, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Cassin’s Vireo and an overhead Cooper’s Hawk. We decided to drive a little further down a dirt road into some pine trees beyond the campground. I heard the distinctive call of a White-headed Woodpecker. Finally! Both male and female were seen well as they worked through the pine trees around us. We were happy, having seen nearly all of our target species on this trip. The drive back to the Canadian border took about 4-5 hours, during which time we stopped to refuel on coffee and on some lunch in Wenatchee. After we crossed the border, I was surprised to see two Long-billed Curlews flying north over Penticton! Our final trip total was an impressive 170 species of birds.

BIRD SPECIES: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; Eurasian Wigeon; American Wigeon; Mallard; 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; Wild Turkey; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Western Grebe; Clark’s Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Vaux’s Swift; White-throated Swift; Anna’s Hummingbird; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; Sora; American Coot; Sandhill Crane; Black-necked Stilt; American Avocet; Killdeer; Long-billed Curlew; Dunlin; Least Sandpiper; Semipalmated Sandpiper; Wilson’s Snipe; Lesser Yellowlegs; Wilson’s Phalarope; Bonaparte’s Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Caspian Tern; Forster’s Tern; Common Loon; Double-crested Cormorant; American White Pelican; Great Blue Heron; Great Egret; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Golden Eagle; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Rough-legged Hawk; Ferruginous Hawk; Great Horned Owl; Burrowing Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Acorn Woodpecker; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; White-headed Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Peregrine Falcon; Western Kingbird; Olive-sided Flycatcher; Western Wood-Pewee; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Gray Flycatcher; Dusky Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Loggerhead Shrike; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; California Scrub-Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Horned Lark; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; N. Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Rock Wren; Canyon Wren; House Wren; Marsh Wren; Bewick’s Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; Sage Thrasher; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Pipit; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; White-winged Crossbill; Pine Siskin; Lesser Goldfinch; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Brewer’s Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Golden-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Tricolored Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; MacGillivray’s Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Black-throated Gray Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Wilson’s Warbler; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.

MAMMALS: Yellow-bellied Marmot; Least Chipmunk; Eastern Fox Squirrel; Red Squirrel; Coyote; Elk; Mule Deer; White-tailed Deer; Mountain Goat; Bighorn Sheep.

Photos in order they appear: All by (c) Chris Charlesworth 2022. Sandhill Crane; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Swainson’s Hawk; Sage Thrasher; Dry Falls, WA; Black-necked Stilt; Burrowing Owl; Tricolored Blackbird; Clark’s Grebe; Western Tanager; Loggerhead Shrike; Sagebrush Sparrow; Lesser Goldfinch; Mt. Hood, Oregon; Acorn Woodpecker; California Scrub-Jay; fledgling Great Horned Owl; Red Crossbill; White-headed Woodpecker.

Chris Charlesworth

Central Okanagan Birding – April 23, 2022

I met up with a couple from Osoyoos this morning and we headed east of Kelowna towards the Joe Rich area, to see what kinds of birds we might find. It was a sunny day, and we were hoping to get one or two photographs of the birds, so the good lighting was a bonus. As we birded and looked for birds to photograph up in Joe Rich we bumped into many of the usual species. ‘Audubon’s’ Yellow-rumped Warblers were moving through, as were Ruby-crowned Kinglets. We enjoyed a close up encounter with a Golden-crowned Kinglet too. Ruffed Grouse drummed in the forest, but remained hidden. We spent some time watching a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers work away on a nest hole in a burned tree close to the road.

A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers called and flew across the road, while a Red-naped Sapsucker drummed from a nearby tree. Others we saw or heard included Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Brown Creeper, Pacific Wren, Canada Jay, Cassin’s Finch and Evening Grosbeak. Red-breasted Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadees were quite ubiquitous at many stops today, but we also enjoyed great views of a pair of Chestnut-backed Chickadees as well. This species is very hard to find at most times in the Okanagan Valley, except in the Joe Rich area, where they breed.

A walkabout along the Gopher Creek Trail in Black Mountain did not produce a Lesser Goldfinch that had been seen a couple of days earlier, but we did see plenty of American Goldfinches. We flushed a Wilson’s Snipe up from a marshy spot and it flew out of sight quite quickly. It was a nice morning to be out birding in the mountains.

Photos: Hairy Woodpecker by (c) Chris Charlesworth, April 2022; Chestnut-backed Chickadee by (c) Les Dewar, April 2022; Golden-crowned Kinglet by (c) Les Dewar, April 2022.

Chris Charlesworth

South Okanagan Birding – April 22, 2022

I met up with four very nice folks from the Pemberton and Vancouver area this morning. Our day began with a trip up to White Lake, however we made a stop at Mahoney Lake on the way up. It was a cool but sunny morning and there was a light mist on top of the lake, which burned off rather quickly, revealing several American Coots, Pied-billed Grebes and best of all a few Ruddy Ducks! In the pine trees we enjoyed views of Pygmy Nuthatches, ‘Audubon’s’ Yellow-rumped Warblers, Cassin’s Finch and Red Crossbill. A Townsend’s Solitaire sang from the top of a tall Douglas Fir. A male Evening Grosbeak, all by himself, was a nice find, as it sat in a pine close to the lake.

At White Lake we were thrilled to see there were many Sandhill Cranes on the shore. We estimated there were about 900 of them there. What a sight! Greater and Lesser yellowlegs fed along the muddy shoreline as well. We had nice looks at Western Meadowlarks, Mountain Bluebirds and oodles of White-crowned Sparrows. Mixed in with the White-crowned were a few Vesper Sparrows as well. Three Wilson’s Snipe were flushed from a little wet seep, our only snipe for the day. A stop in at my friend Doreen’s place at Three Gates Farm yielded some more birds including Calliope Hummingbird, and a nice male White-breasted Nuthatch.

At Okanagan Falls we saw the resident American Dipper and his mossy nest. Ospreys sailed overhead here as well. Some Yellow-bellied Marmots entertained us as they peeked out from their rocky hideouts along the shore of the river.

A Canyon Wren sang from cliffs near Okanagan Falls and we had great views. Overhead, a dark morph Swainson’s Hawk sailed by, quite a surprise for me. A White-throated Swift zipped above the cliffs alongside some Violet-green Swallows. Western and Mountain bluebirds were both tallied here.

On our way up Shuttleworth Creek Road, we stopped to view a Ruffed Grouse that had camped out in the middle of the road. Once we reached the larch forest it didn’t take us too long to find a male Williamson’s Sapsucker as he worked on a nest hole. Canada Jay, Mountain Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Pileated Woodpecker were all seen or heard here as well.

The cliffs at Vaseux Lake produced our target here, Golden Eagle. One adult was soaring above us with two Peregrine Falcons dive bombing it. An immature Golden Eagle later appeared and was harassed by a Red-tailed Hawk. White-throated Swifts zoomed by here as well, and a Canyon Wren sang its lovely cascading song from the cliffs here too. We saw one ewe Bighorn Sheep snoozing on the rocks.

Our final stop was along the Vaseux Boardwalk. We enjoyed seeing a pair of Cinnamon Teal here, and we felt quite lucky to catch glimpses of two Virginia Rails in the marsh. Chattering noisily from the reeds, Marsh Wrens occasionally sat still long enough for us to get a look at them. A Great Blue Heron, our only one for the day, was seen resting on a sandbar at the north end of the lake. Eliza picked out a nice adult Barn Swallow as it sailed past. It was another fantastic day out in nature in the Okanagan, and we tallied 84 species of birds.

BIRD SPECIES: Canada Goose; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Ruffed Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; White-throated Swift; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; American Coot; Sandhill Crane; Killdeer; Greater Yellowlegs; Lesser Yellowlegs; Wilson’s Snipe; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Golden Eagle; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Peregrine Falcon; Say’s Phoebe; Canada Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Canyon Wren; Marsh Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; American Pipit; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Chris Charlesworth

Exploring the Okanagan Falls area ~ April 20, 2022

I met up with a couple of ladies in Okanagan Falls and we headed off to look for and to hopefully photograph some birds. It was a glorious morning with calm winds and sunshine. Still, it was not exactly warm. Around White Lake we enjoyed watching the usual open country birds like Mountain and Western bluebirds, Western Meadowlarks, and American Kestrels. Sparrows were plentiful, and most numerous were White-crowned and Vesper sparrows. In a little grove of aspens along Twin Lakes Road we saw a pair of Red-naped Sapsuckers.



Passing by Mahoney Lake, we stopped to look at a pair of Pied-billed Grebes close in to shore. Off in the pine trees, Evening Grosbeaks called. A brushy swath at the base of a cliff of Green Lake Road was very active this morning. We had a nice Hermit Thrush here, as well as Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Spotted Towhees, Canyon Wren, Red-naped Sapsucker, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. A Calliope Hummingbird briefly made an appearance.

Next, we bumped our way up into the larch forests near Okanagan Falls to look for Williamson’s Sapsucker. Almost immediately we were greeted by a male, chipping away on a tall larch. The female, all decked out in brown and black, and quite different from the male, soon arrived as well. Pileated Woodpecker drummed in the distance and eventually flew across the road. We had a Ruffed Grouse on a little side road. Canada Jays came in to check us out as we explored the burned out forests. In some Ponderosa Pines at lower elevations we had nice views of Red Crossbills, Cassin’s Finches, Pygmy Nuthatches and more. In the sky overhead, 5 Sandhill Cranes made their way north.

We had lunch in the blind at Vaseux Lake, hiding from a strong southerly wind that had just popped up. Marsh Wrens chattered from the reeds outside of the hide. Two pairs of Cinnamon Teals were nice to see, as were several White-throated Swifts sailing overhead. I spotted a pair of American White Pelicans soaring high in the sky overhead.

At some nearby cliffs on Allendale Road, we tried for Canyon Wren, but the winds were too strong. We did, however, see more Western and Mountain bluebirds and a Say’s Phoebe. All in all it was a very enjoyable outing.

BIRD SPECIES: Canada Goose; Cinnamon Teal; Mallard; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; California Quail; Ruffed Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; White-throated Swift; Calliope Hummingbird; American Coot; Killdeer; American White Pelican; Turkey Vulture; Northern Harrier; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Red-naped Sapsucker; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Say’s Phoebe; Canada Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Marsh Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; European Starling; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Vesper Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Photos by Chris Charlesworth, in the order they appear on blog: Mountain Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Vesper Sparrow (c) April 2022.

Chris Charlesworth

Tales and photographs of the adventures of Avocet Tours