June 25 – I met up with my three clients, and friends, at their hotel in Kelowna this morning. It was sunny and hot, and during our upcoming four day birding adventure, we would endure the hottest temperatures on record in Canadian history. We spent the first part of our morning looking for Western Screech-Owls at a couple of their roosting sites, and after a little searching, we found both birds. Both of them were snuggled up to the trunk of their trees, snoozing away the afternoon. In the process of looking for the owls, we encountered some other nice birds like Downy Woodpecker, a singing Yellow-breasted Chat and a couple of Bullock’s Orioles, as well as a female Calliope Hummingbird and a Pileated Woodpecker.
We then headed into the mountains east of Kelowna to look for Northern Pygmy-Owls. We found two of them, presumably a pair, in an area of forest where I have been seeing them regularly this year. In addition to the owls, there were other birds including Townsend’s Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Near Big White Ski Resort, we explored a nice patch of boreal forest. The big highlight was encountering a pair of Boreal Chickadees, but a close runner up was a lovely male Pine Grosbeak. We heard, but could not see, an American Three-toed Woodpecker. An Olive-sided Flycatcher belted out his ‘Quick three beers’ song from the top of a snag. A number of Steller’s Jays were calling as they moved through the forest, and Hermit Thrushes were singing their ethereal songs from the thick vegetation. In a regenerating clearcut, a White-crowned Sparrow sang.
From Kelowna, we made our way towards Merritt on the Connector. Once in Merritt, we followed Hwy 5A to Kamloops, stopping in at a number of spots along the way. Near Quilchena, we stopped to view an adult Swainson’s Hawk on a telephone pole. The hawk flew down into a hay field, and then returned to a closer telephone pole, for excellent scope views. At Guichon Flats we scanned the marshes and wetlands, finding a variety of birds such as Eared Grebe, Ruddy Duck, Redhead, Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal, Northern Pintail, Wilson’s Phalarope and Yellow-headed Blackbirds to name a few. At Planet Mine Road, we watched a pair of Lewis’s Woodpeckers, who appeared to be taking it easy in the sweltering heat. Also along here we had Clark’s Nutcracker, Western Kingbirds, Western Meadowlark and American Kestrel. Driving past lakes as we headed north, we spotted several Red-necked Grebes and an adult Herring Gull at Stump Lake, and a gorgeous Black Tern at Napier Lake.
After checking in at our hotel, we headed back out into the field, this time hoping for some owls. As it was still daylight, we continued to bird until dusk. We found Red-naped Sapsuckers tending to a nest, as well as a nesting House Wren. Clark’s Nutcrackers were flying overhead, and a Common Nighthawk called. Then, our patience paid off, as I spotted a Great Gray Owl sitting nearby in a fir tree, looking this way and that, as he began his evening of hunting.
June 26 – It was to be another sunny and hot day, as we began at Rose Hill near Kamloops. We had excellent views of Horned Larks as they sang from the hilltop and from fence posts. A Clay-colored Sparrow caught our attention, so we were looking for that, when suddenly a Brewer’s Sparrow appeared on the scene and began singing. The Clay-colored and Brewer’s were side by side, showing an excellent comparison of their distinguishing features. The Clay-colored had a much more noticeable face pattern than did the comparatively drab Brewer’s.
From Kamloops we followed the Trans Canada Highway east to Salmon Arm. Here, we began at the pier, where we were somewhat surprised by the lack of birds. The usual numbers of nesting Western Grebes appear to be down, and we didn’t see a Clark’s Grebe today. Ospreys that usually nest here in numbers, appear to be at only one or two nests this year. One highlight was seeing an American White Pelican resting in the bay to the west of the pier, and a bunch of Common Mergansers were resting on a log. We headed for the trail to Christmas Island, where we found the usual songbirds, including Red-eyed Vireo, Gray Catbird, Lazuli Bunting, Willow Flycatcher, Song Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat. At Christmas Island, there was a brood of nearly grown Hooded Mergansers, as well as a Wood Duck and several American Wigeon. Soras called from the marsh, and we viewed a Bald Eagle’s nest in a towering cottonwood tree. There were at least 2 large, brown eaglets. We heard, but couldn’t see a Yellow-breasted Chat, as it sang from a brushy hillside. With close to 50 species tallied at Salmon Arm, it was a good stop. We had lunch on a patio before making our way down to Kelowna.
This evening we again headed out, once the temperatures had cooled ever so slightly. The sun sank below the hillside as we visited Robert Lake. Here, we had a dozen Black-necked Stilts! There were two broods of four young stilts, and two pairs of adults. Also here, we had nice views of Wilson’s Phalaropes, and we got the usual Eared Grebes, teal and Ruddy Ducks. A Mule Deer strolled past us, while we scanned the lake.
This evening we hoped to see a Flammulated Owl, and we did. In fact, we saw two of them together. We heard, but didn’t see Common Poorwills, and there were Common Nighthawks continually buzzing and booming overhead. A Western Screech-Owl let out a few barking calls, but remained hidden as well. Before it was dark, though, we were able to get a number of species, such as Black-headed Grosbeak, Townsend’s Solitaire, Veery and Western Tanager.
June 27 – Leaving Kelowna, we made our first stop of the day, on what was to be the hottest day in Canadian history, at Hardy Falls near Peachland. It was a pleasant stroll up the shady canyon this morning, and we were rewarded at the waterfall, with great views of an American Dipper. Other birds encountered along the walk included Veery, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, a nesting Western Wood-Pewee, Nashville Warbler, American Goldfinch and Spotted Towhee.
At White Lake, it was already nearing 30 degrees Celsius and the birds were not terribly active. The regular species, Mountain Bluebirds, Western and Eastern kingbirds and Western Meadowlarks, were all in attendance, but we couldn’t find any Sage Thrashers unfortunately. We scoped a distant Burrowing Owl, part of a re-introduction program, which was nice to see. Finally, after hearing loads of them, we saw a Vesper Sparrow on a fence post this morning.
In the Ponderosa Pines near Mahoney Lake, we took a stroll, and we encountered both Pygmy and White-breasted nuthatches. The White-breasted was clinging to the trunk of a pine right in front of us! A Gray Flycatcher, the only of our trip, and perhaps the rarest empidonax flycatcher in Canada, popped up and put on a nice show for us. My pygmy owl call brought out a whole bunch of birds such as Western Tanager, Cassin’s Finches, Red Crossbill and Mountain Chickadee.
As the day was really heating up now, and the temperature was close to 40 degrees, we popped into Tickleberry’s for a little ice cream. We then made our way up into the forests east of Okanagan Falls, where we hoped to find some new birds. We watched a pair of Williamson’s Sapsuckers tend to their vociferous nestlings in a cavity high up in a larch. We also had a nest of Red-naped Sapsuckers, with similarly noisy nestlings. A Mountain Chickadee fed a tiny fledgling on its perch near the ground, and Hermit Thrushes were singing once again. A Cassin’s Vireo flitted in the conifers but eventually came out to give us a view. We tried to see a MacGillivray’s Warbler, and in fact there were about 4 of them at one location, but none would sit still, out in the open, for long enough, for a decent view. We heard a singing Orange-crowned Warbler however. At Venner Meadows a few new birds were added to our trip list such as Lincoln’s Sparrow, Dusky Flycatcher and a rather uncooperative Northern Waterthrush. It was a ‘pleasant’ 32 degrees up at the higher elevations we explored this afternoon, but once we returned to the valley bottom, we were hit with temperatures nearing 42 degrees Celsius. We had to take a ‘siesta’ for a while at our hotel.
After dinner, we headed for Road 22, north of Osoyoos, where we had an enjoyable couple of hours of birding. There were Bobolinks singing in the hay fields, and swallows of all sorts were foraging over the fields and over the river as well. Yellow-breasted Chats were singing from all around us, and we saw a couple of them through the scope. Monica pointed out a Vaux’s Swift overhead, our only encounter with this species on the tour. I spotted a Northern Harrier on a fence post, our first bird of this variety as well, and a Cooper’s Hawk also made its debut onto our list. House Wrens sang from the riparian woods. Marsh Wrens chattered from the marsh, and a Bewick’s Wren sang briefly as well. Gray Catbirds, Bullock’s Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeak and Yellow Warbler all joined in to the ‘dusk chorus’. As it got darker, Common Nighthawks began to grow in numbers. At one point, over a dozen were coming down to drink water and catch insects low over the oxbows. It was quite a magical sight. A quick look at the north end of Osoyoos Lake produced some Red-necked Grebes and a very nice view. We made our way back to Oliver via Black Sage Road. I heard the begging call of fledgling Great Horned Owls as I was driving along, so we stopped, and sure enough, there were two fledged owlets calling before flying off into the night.
June 28 – After a quick stop to grab coffee and provisions, we were on our way to the cliffs at ‘The Throne’, a prominent rocky mountain near the north end of Osoyoos Lake, that, if you use your imagination, looks like a throne. We walked through the antelope-brush towards the cliffs, and the songs of Canyon and Rock wrens grew louder as we approached. The chattering of White-throated Swifts soon began to fill the air, but the screams of a pair of Peregrine Falcons soon penetrated the air as well, distracting us from everything else. We eventually had good looks at both the Canyon and Rock wrens as they sang and hopped about on prominent rocky perches. On our way back towards the car, we had great views of a male Western Bluebird, as well as our only Lark Sparrow of the tour.
Back down at Road 22, we explored the southeast dyke, where we had good views of our only Least Flycatcher for the tour. A male Black-chinned Hummingbird was viewed through the scope, on his perch upon a telephone wire. At the north end of Osoyoos Lake there were several Ring-billed Gulls, a California Gull and a large, fairly dark-backed gull that was just too far away for proper identification, unfortunately. A Common Loon was diving towards the northwest corner of the lake, and we had a Pied-billed Grebe in the marsh nearby.
In the Richter Pass, we explored Kruger Mountain Road, hoping for Lesser Goldfinches. This species has only recently been ‘discovered’ to be breeding in Canada, in the hills around Osoyoos. On our first pass through the suitable habitat, we didn’t get any Lesser Goldfinches. On our way back to our cars, I could hear them calling. After a few minutes, a male was sitting on the telephone wire in front of us, while a second bird continued to call in the trees nearby. In general, the birds were very active here this morning, and we even had a nice Northern Pygmy-Owl give us a show. The owl was being mobbed by an entourage of birds, including Black-chinned and Rufous hummingbirds, Red-naped Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-breasted and White-breasted nuthatches, Western Bluebirds, Cassin’s Finches, Nashville Warbler and more! Our last two stops of the day were rather quiet. We looked for Chukar, but could find none, at Elkink Ranch. A Lewis’s Woodpecker flew past, however. At the Nighthawk Border Crossing it was hot and very quiet, so we decided it was time to call it quits. We had seen 162 species during our four days of birding.
Bird Species: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Blue-winged Teal; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Ring-necked Pheasant; Pied-billed Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Western Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; Common Nighthawk; Common Poorwill; Vaux’s Swift; White-throated Swift; Black-chinned Hummingbird; Rufous Hummingbird; Calliope Hummingbird; Virginia Rail; Sora; American Coot; Black-necked Stilt; American Avocet; Killdeer; Spotted Sandpiper; Wilson’s Phalarope; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Common Loon; American White Pelican; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Flammulated Owl; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Burrowing Owl; Great Gray Owl; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Williamson’s Sapsucker; Red-naped Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Peregrine Falcon; Western Kingbird; Eastern Kingbird; Olive-sided Flycatcher; Western Wood-Pewee; Willow Flycatcher; Least Flycatcher; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Gray Flycatcher; Dusky Flycatcher; Pacific-slope Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Cassin’s Vireo; Warbling Vireo; Red-eyed Vireo; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Horned Lark; Tree Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Northern Rough-winged Swallow; Bank Swallow; Cliff Swallow; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Boreal Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Rock Wren; Canyon Wren; House Wren; Pacific Wren; Marsh Wren; Bewick’s Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; Veery; Swainson’s Thrush; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; Gray Catbird; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; Pine Grosbeak; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; Lesser Goldfinch; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Clay-colored Sparrow; Brewer’s Sparrow; Vesper Sparrow; Lark Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-breasted Chat; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Bobolink; Western Meadowlark; Bullock’s Oriole; Red-winged Blackbird; Brown-headed Cowbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Northern Waterthrush; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; MacGillivray’s Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Townsend’s Warbler; Wilson’s Warbler; Western Tanager; Black-headed Grosbeak; Lazuli Bunting.
Photos: All by Chris Charlesworth (C). In the order they appear on the blog: Western Screech-Owl; Lewis’s Woodpecker; Great Gray Owl; Black-necked Stilt; American Dipper; Rock Wren; Western Bluebird; Mule Deer. All June 2021.