60th Birthday Birding – March 18, 2021

I had the pleasure of guiding several members of a family today, in celebration of one’s 60th birthday! The weather was nice, with a lot of sun and a little breeze. Temperatures soared up to 14 degrees Celsius. We surprised the birthday boy at Frind Winery in West Kelowna where he was enjoying morning coffee when he looked outside and saw several family members and myself looking through binoculars. It was then that he learned that he would be going birding for the day. Our first stop was at Gellatly Bay in West Kelowna, where just a half hour earlier some of us had seen a couple of female Red-breasted Mergansers. Unfortunately, they were not present when we returned. There was, however, a female Downy Woodpecker pecking away in some small elm trees.

We headed down to Penticton where we scanned the beach along Okanagan Lake for gulls and other birds. We were not disappointed. There was a flock of perhaps 500 gulls present, most of which were California, Herring, Ring-billed and Glaucous-winged gulls. There were, however, a couple of interesting gulls mixed in as well, including half a dozen ‘Thayer’s’ Iceland Gulls and a big brute, an immature Glaucous Gull. Out on the lake were Horned and Red-necked grebes.

At White Lake, near Okanagan Falls, we explored the sagebrush, enjoying great views of Mountain and Western bluebirds, and Western Meadowlarks. Raptors were a highlight here as well, and we saw several Red-tailed Hawks and at least a couple of Rough-legged Hawks, involving one light morph and a dark morph bird. A Northern Shrike was a good catch here, as well.

A little patch of riparian habitat off Green Lake Road near Vaseux Lake’s Northwest Marsh, provided us with our only Bewick’s Wren of the day, a rather skulky singing bird. At Okanagan Falls, we paused to look for an American Dipper and we were found one building a nest!

Deciding to change up the habitat a bit, we headed up into the forests east of Okanagan Falls along Venner Meadows Road. It was fairly quiet up in the larch forests where we had hoped to find owls and woodpeckers. Instead, we had Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Dark-eyed Juncos and a couple of Canada Jays.

The cliffs at Vaseux Lake provided a stunning backdrop to our birding. We could hear Canyon Wrens singing and calling up on the cliffs, but they didn’t show themselves easily. Finally, at our last stop, we had great views of one as it sang from the top of a boulder near the road’s edge. Overhead, we enjoyed watching an adult Golden Eagle sailing by. On our way back to Kelowna, we spotted several Mountain Goats on some cliffs near Summerland, and I saw two Black Bears near Peachland. It was a pleasure to spend a day of Spring birding in one of my favorite locations with good company.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Trumpeter Swan; Northern Shoveler; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Ring-necked Duck; Bufflehead; Common Goldeneye; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; Red-breasted Merganser; California Quail; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; American Coot; Killdeer; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Iceland Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Glaucous Gull; Golden Eagle; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Rough-legged Hawk; Belted Kingfisher; Downy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Say’s Phoebe; Northern Shrike; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Canyon Wren; Bewick’s Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Mountain Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; House Sparrow; Spotted Towhee; Song Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird.

Chris Charlesworth

PHOTOS taken by James Jansen.

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Okanagan Birding – February 16 & 17, 2021

February 16 – I met my client this morning in Kelowna and we headed out to do some birding. Prior to the tour, my client had supplied me with a list of birds he wanted to see and photograph, and I replied and informed him which ones would be possible. Owls were at the top of his ‘most wanted’ list, so we tracked down a couple of lovely owl species this morning. I won’t mention locations, but we were treated to lovely views of a roosting Western Screech-Owl. Later, we had a fantastic encounter with a Northern Pygmy-Owl. The tiny owl was hunting as he moved from perch to perch, and stared intently at the ground. A light snow fell as we watched the owl. We also had a Great Horned Owl that hooted several times before flying off to another perch where we could not see him.

We headed up Beaver Lake Road this morning as well. As expected, it was pretty quiet up here, but still, we did manage to knock a few of my client’s target birds off the list. We had brief encounters with feeding Common Redpolls, and we had several groups of Red Crossbills up in the pine forest. The usual Red-breasted Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadees were also seen. In the mammal department, we were quite lucky to see a Moose before it disappeared into the forest.

On Westside Road, we found a flock of 30 or more Pine Grosbeaks. They were feeding on the seed heads in an elm tree. I saw a Townsend’s Solitaire as we drove along Westside Road, and we paused to look at and photograph a group of a dozen or so Bighorn Sheep.

We cruised around neighborhoods in Kelowna where I thought we might find some Bohemian Waxwings. This species, often very common in the valley in winter, has been somewhat scarce as of late, so we were happy to find a flock of 30 or so along Sarsons Road in the Mission. At Sarsons Beach we watched a little group of Pygmy Nuthatches flitting about, along with Red-breasted Nuthatches.

A stop at the Maude Roxby Bird Sanctuary provided us with some nice sightings of gulls, as a flock of 100 or so were roosting out on the ice in Mud Bay. Most of them were Herring Gulls, though there were quite a few Ring-billed Gulls as well. Lesser numbers of Glaucous-winged Gulls and various hybrids of their kind were peppered in amongst the Herrings. At least 5 adult ‘Thayer’s’ Iceland Gulls were in the flock, as well as two first year Glaucous Gulls.

We stopped in at the foot of Cedar Avenue, where we scanned through some swans that were actively feeding in the chilly waters of Okanagan Lake. Most were Trumpeter Swans, about ten of them, but there were also three Tundra Swans, another bird we wanted to see. Also present were Gadwall and Common Merganser.

After it was dark we headed for a patch of forest to look for more owls. We heard a Northern Saw-whet Owl quite well, and a Great Horned Owl hooted in the distance.

February 17 – Our first stop was in Kelowna along a creek where we again saw the roosting Western Screech-Owl we had seen the previous day. Since a saw-whet had been reported in the area as well, we thought we’d take a look before heading to the South Okanagan. No saw-whet could be found, however.

In Penticton, we stopped in at the beach on Okanagan Lake where some interesting gulls had been present in recent weeks. It didn’t take us too long to spot the rarest one of the batch, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. The black-backed stood out nicely amongst the paler backed California, Herring, Ring-billed, Iceland and Glaucous-winged gulls.

We spent some time up Shuttleworth Road, east of Okanagan Falls, where we looked for some of the hard to find species on our ‘wish list’. It was chilly and there was plenty of snow up above 5000 feet elevation. We saw a couple of Canada Jays sitting in larches next to the road. A little group of 10 or so Common Redpolls did not hang about long, nor did a group of a dozen Pine Siskins. We enjoyed views of a Northern Pygmy-Owl and we heard, but could not see, a calling Black-backed Woodpecker. Other species encountered were few and far between, but we did see a nice Clark’s Nutcracker up near Rabbit Lake.

Down in the valley, we headed for Osoyoos and Road 22. We spent some time looking for birds in the riparian habitat along the oxbows. We found a Great Horned Owl that was eating prey. It appeared it was eating a drake Gadwall! We interrupted an adult Northern Shrike as it tried to catch a singing Bewick’s Wren! The wren got away unscathed, but the shrike appeared to be a little cross at us. A group of Western Bluebirds were foraging along the river channel, and added some much needed color to the mostly overcast day. An immature dark Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk posed nicely for us. In the weedy fields we saw a dozen or so American Tree Sparrows, as well as plenty of Song Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows.

Up in the Richter Pass, we stopped at the Elkink Ranch where we were treated to views of about 30 Chukar on a hillside above the road. Two Northern Harriers were patrolling the hillside as well, and flushed some of the Chukars down across the highway to a sagebrush covered slope below us.

After a quick bite for dinner we headed back out into the field to try and find a Northern Saw-whet Owl. We heard two of them, one giving whining alarm notes and the other ‘tooting’ incessantly. All in all, it was a very successful two days.

Bird species: Canada Goose; Trumpeter Swan; Tundra Swan; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Common Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; California Quail; Chukar; Pied-billed Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; American Coot; Mew Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Iceland Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Glaucous Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Northern Harrier; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Barn Owl; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Northern Saw-whet Owl; Downy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Northern Shrike; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Marsh Wren; Bewick’s Wren; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; Bohemian Waxwing; House Sparrow; Pine Grosbeak; House Finch; Common Redpoll; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; American Tree Sparrow; Song Sparrow; White-throated Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Red-winged Blackbird.

Okanagan Winter Birding – February 12 – 14, 2021

February 12 – Today, a small, socially distanced group of us spent the day exploring the Central Okanagan Valley, in British Columbia. We began along Mission Creek at Sutherland Hills Park. It was chilly today, with temperatures nearing -20 degrees Celsius at times. We saw little at Sutherland Hills Park this morning, other than some Pygmy Nuthatches, American Robins and a male Downy Woodpecker.

We tried another location along a creek, though I will withhold the location, and we were rewarded with a roosting Western Screech-Owl. It was quite cold out and the screech owl had himself a roost right in the sun.

We then headed up Beaver Lake Road in Lake Country. The grassland section of the road was deathly quiet for birds. As soon as we entered some trees the activity picked up. We had great views of Red-breasted and White-breasted nuthatches, as well as Mountain Chickadees and a Brown Creeper. As we climbed higher into thicker forests, we began to encounter some nice finches, including a flock of flighty Common Redpolls and several groups of feeding Pine Grosbeaks. We also enjoyed viewing 20 or so Red Crossbills in the top of a fir tree. Sitting in our cars, we enjoyed lunch, with the sun streaming in through the window, before we made our way back to Kelowna.

Our final stops of the day were in Kelowna’s Mission area. En route, we saw a tree full of 50 or more Bohemian Waxwings. We were searching for Northern Pygmy-Owls, though so we carried on. We tried this road and that road, all spots where I had found pygmy-owls in the past. None would show themselves. We continued along Lakeshore Road to its end, but still no pygmy-owls. There were Bald Eagles, however, and several Hairy Woodpeckers. On the lake we saw Horned Grebes. Daylight was dwindling so we decided to cut our losses and head back to town. Along the way, I spotted a Northern Pygmy-Owl sitting on the wires above the road, so we parked, hopped out, and had great views of the little owl as it actively hunted. A nice ending to a fine day, despite the cold.

Feb 13 – At 8 AM we met at Munson Pond. There were maybe two dozen American Robins playing in the bushes and trees near where we were parked. We headed towards a little bird feeder, hoping to see some interesting sparrows. Upon arrival, there were ten or so White-crowned Sparrows hopping about under the feeder, along with a couple of Song Sparrows and several Dark-eyed Juncos. We didn’t have to wait too long until our target, an immature Harris’s Sparrow popped into view as well. In addition to the sparrows, we also saw a couple of dark adult Red-tailed Hawks here, and an adult Northern Shrike.

At the Maude Roxby Bird Sanctuary, we’d hoped to see gulls on the ice, however, instead we got to see several people skating on the ice. There were very few gulls there, but we did see some Trumpeter Swans and a lovely pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye.

In West Kelowna, at Gellatly Bay, we scanned through a large flock of Redheads and Greater Scaup, eventually finding just a single female Canvasback amongst them. Two Belted Kingfishers chased one another around, giving their rattling calls all the while. Horned and Red-necked grebes were noted far offshore, through the scope.

We made our way to Penticton, where we scanned the beach along Okanagan Lake for gulls. There were quite a few present, including California, Herring, Ring-billed, Glaucous-winged and Iceland gulls. Near the S.S. Sicamous, there were several Trumpeter Swans feeding, as well as an adult and immature Tundra Swan. Our first, and only, American Coots of the tour, were noted here.

A short stop at Okanagan Falls produced the anticipated American Dipper without much effort. There were also several Barrow’s and Common goldeneye here.

A light snow was falling as we explored the cliffs at Vaseux Lake. We heard the buzzy call notes of Canyon Wren up on the cliffs, but the bird remained hidden. Robin pointed out a Great Horned Owl roosting in a Ponderosa Pine.

Before we made our way to our motel in Oliver, we stopped at one more location, Inkaneep Provincial Park. A female Spotted Towhee nibbled on some Chokecherries near the entrance to the park. Further along the path, I spotted another roosting Great Horned Owl.

Later on in the evening we headed back out to look for some nocturnal species near Osoyoos. We were rewarded with views of a Northern Saw-whet Owl, while another one called nearby. A Great Horned Owl hooted in the distance, and perhaps the bird of the day, a Barn Owl was watched as it hunted over a weedy field.

Feb 14 – After a quick stop to pick up our morning coffee, we headed for Road 22 near Osoyoos. The temperatures had warmed up slightly overnight, though there was a soft breeze this morning that kept things a little brisk. Some of the first birds we saw here this morning included a flock of White-crowned Sparrows foraging along the side of the road, and a nice immature ‘Harlan’s’ race Red-tailed Hawk sitting on the power lines. We saw other raptors as well, such as Northern Harrier and Bald Eagle. Along the river channel were Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Greater Scaup, Common Merganser and the ubiquitous Mallard. In a weedy field, we were surprised when a Lincoln’s Sparrow popped up amongst the Song Sparrows. This species, while a fairly common summer resident in the region, is rare in the winter months. Another highlight at Road 22 was the sight of perhaps two dozen Western Bluebirds, some of which were coming down to the edge of the ice along the river to have a drink.

West of Osoyoos, we explored the lower reaches of Kruger Mountain Road in the Richter Pass area. We hoped for a Lesser Goldfinch, but our wishes were not granted. All was not lost, however, as we were entertained by a Northern Pygmy-Owl here. We had lunch perched on a hillside at the Nighthawk Border Crossing, where the bird activity was extremely low. A little covey of California Quail illegally crossed the border in to the US as we watched in suspense. The border guards did not even come outside to investigate. Near Richter Lake we scanned through several soaring Bald Eagles and picked out an adult Golden Eagle in with them. The side by side looks at both eagle species made for an excellent comparison of their key identification differences. Kathy mentioned she was hearing Chukar call. Sure enough, we spotted perhaps 10 of these introduced chickens running alongside some feeding cattle.

Our final stop of the tour was back at the beach in Penticton, where this time we were successful in finding a continuing rarity, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. This was the 86th, and final species, we tallied on the trip.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Trumpeter Swan; Tundra Swan; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Canvasback; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Greater Scaup; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Common Goldeneye; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; California Quail; Chukar; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; American Coot; Mew Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Iceland Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Golden Eagle; Northern Harrier; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Barn Owl; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Northern Saw-whet Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Northern Shrike; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Chestnut-backed Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Canyon Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; Bohemian Waxwing; House Sparrow; Evening Grosbeak; Pine Grosbeak; House Finch; Common Redpoll; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Sandpiper; American Tree Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Harris’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Red-winged Blackbird.

PHOTOS: Western Screech-Owl, Kelowna, B.C. Feb 12, 2021 (C) Chris Charlesworth; Pine Grosbeak, Kelowna, B.C. Feb 12, 2021 (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer; Northern Pygmy-Owl, Kelowna, B.C. Feb 12, 2021 (C) Chris Charlesworth; Harris’s Sparrow, Kelowna, B.C. Feb 13, 2021 (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer; American Coots, Penticton, B.C. Feb 13, 2021 (C) Kathy Nuszdorfer; ‘Harlan’s’ Red-tailed Hawk. Osoyoos, B.C. Feb 14, 2021 (C) Chris Charlesworth; Northern Pygmy-Owl, Osoyoos, B.C. Feb 14, 2021 (C) Chris Charlesworth; Lesser Black-backed Gull, Penticton, B.C. Feb 14, 2021 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Okanagan Winter birding – January 13-15, 2021

Jan 13 – I led a small, socially distanced tour in the Okanagan during these dates. On our first morning, we met in West Kelowna and it was still dark. On our way south, we stopped at the Okanagan Lake Beach in Penticton to check through the gulls. We were rewarded with a continuing adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, as well as an immature Glaucous Gull amongst the hordes of California Gulls. Also present were Herring, Ring-billed and Glaucous-winged gulls.

From Penticton, we continued south, stopping next at Road 22 in Osoyoos. We spent some time searching the riparian habitat along the oxbows and were rewarded with a few goodies, including a roosting Great Horned Owl and several Bewick’s Wrens. We flushed some Ring-necked Pheasants as we walked through the brush, as well some California Quail. As we explored along the dyke, Northern Harriers sailed by, as did Red-tailed Hawk and a Rough-legged Hawk. In a weedy field we scanned through a good number of Song and White-crowned sparrows, and we found one American Tree Sparrow. In the fields along Road 22, there were plenty of Mallards feeding in flooded areas, and in with them, we spotted several Green-winged Teal. Along the river channel and at the north end of Osoyoos Lake, we added a Cackling Goose, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser and Gadwall to the trip list.

Next, we took a walk through Canada’s ‘pocket-desert’ at The Throne. Throughout the day it was exceedingly windy and the gusts really picked up as we walked through the sage and antelope brush here. We rounded the cliffs and finally found some nice shelter from the wind. A flock of a dozen or so Chukar were also there, enjoying the shelter, and we heard a singing Canyon Wren.

We then headed west of Osoyoos, into the Richter Pass, where we stopped near Elkink Ranch. The area was alive with Bald Eagles. We counted about 20 of them, and we decided they were in the area to feed on cattle afterbirth. Try as we might, we couldn’t turn any of them into Golden Eagles, though we did see a nice Rough-legged Hawk here. Chukar were about in numbers as well, and we saw close to the 30 of them at this location. A drive down the Nighthawk Road didn’t produce anything of note, other than two Northern Harriers hunting over a field on the Washington State side of the border.

To finish off the day we returned to Road 22 and enjoyed the view, but not so much the wind, at the north end of Osoyoos Lake as it got dark. We walked along the dyke, and using my spotlight, tried to see owls as the light faded. Coyotes were howling from all around us. We interrupted the sleep of a Red-tailed Hawk when I put the light on him. Finally, we heard an owl, and it was a Northern Saw-whet Owl. After a moment of searching we caught a glimpse of it as well. This was a fine ending to the day.

Jan 14 – Just after daybreak we headed to Scenic Canyon in Kelowna. It was a lovely morning, with bits of sun here and there and temperatures just below freezing. Best of all, there was no wind. We spotted an American Dipper foraging along Mission Creek, which is always a highlight. At a little spring, we had glimpses of a Pacific Wren as it hopped frenetically from one spot to another, while a second bird called from the hillside above. At a location further west along Mission Creek, we located a roosting Western Screech-Owl, one of the highlights today for sure. Pygmy Nuthatches were also calling loudly from the pine trees near where we parked.

A drive up Beaver Lake Road in Lake Country produced a few nice birds as well. A group of 7 female type Pine Grosbeaks were spotted in a copse of aspens in the grassland section, and just below them was a Downy Woodpecker. Further up the road, we had a flock of Pine Siskins, along with a few Common Redpolls, that were coming down to pick up grit off the road. The usual Black-capped and Mountain chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches were found in the coniferous forests as well. We made our way up towards the lodge, though the driving was a bit tricky with some fresh snow and fallen trees across the road. It was very quiet near Beaver Lake Lodge, but it was a beautiful, sunny, winter wonderland. We retreated down to the snow line on the grasslands and had our lunch overlooking the valley.

A drive across Kelowna came next, as we made our way to Okanagan Mountain Park, where we hoped we might find a Northern Pygmy-Owl. Out on the lake, we scoped a Common Loon, as well as Red-necked, Horned and Pied-billed grebes. There were several Bald Eagles perched in trees along the route as well. We enjoyed a nice view of our first Townsend’s Solitaire for the trip, as it perched atop a Douglas Fir. Surprisingly, my brother Connor pulled up next to me and said he was looking for pygmy-owls as well. I told him to call me if he had any luck. Well, about 20 minutes later the phone rang and were on our way to Rimrock Road. We had great views of the pygmy-owl before it flew off and out of sight. Also, we added Hairy Woodpecker to the trip list.

Our final stop of the day was at Robert Lake, where we watched fields as it got dark. Finally, directly overhead, a Short-eared Owl sailed by, and proceeded to hunt over the fields. It was soon joined by a second Short-eared Owl. All in all, it was a lovely day to be out birding.

Jan 15 – At 8 AM we met at Rotary Marshes in downtown Kelowna. Before we left the parking area, we had already added Belted Kingfisher to our trip list. The lack of a rusty belly band confirmed the bird to be a male. An adult Great Blue Heron hunted motionlessly, waiting for small fish to come within striking range. Perhaps two Yellow-rumped Warblers, both of the ‘Audubon’s’ race, flitted about in the Russian Olives. Out on the lake, we spotted Pied-billed, Horned and Red-necked grebes, as well as a Common Loon.

We headed for Munson Pond next, in order to search for the continuing immature Harris’s Sparrow that has been frequenting a feeder. I added a little dash of seed to the mix in the feeder and it didn’t take long for the birds to arrive. There were Red-winged Blackbirds, Mourning Doves, California Quail, and soon the sparrows arrived. There were House, Song and White-crowned sparrows, and then the Harris’s Sparrow arrived. A small flock of American Goldfinches fed low down amongst the weeds, and we enjoyed scope views of an adult Northern Shrike as well. Other additions to the trip list were Cedar Waxwing and American Robin.

At Green Bay, we viewed the water from Osprey Park. Waterfowl included Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon and over half a dozen Tundra Swans. Nearby, at Gellatly Bay, we scanned through a large flock of diving ducks. There were hundreds of Redhead present, with lesser numbers of Greater Scaup and at least one Lesser Scaup.

Continuing south, we met again at the Esplanade Trails in Penticton. An adult Cooper’s Hawk was here and that undoubtedly kept the passerine activity at a minimum. Still, we tallied a nice female type Spotted Towhee and several other regular species. Today was truly a beautiful day, with temperatures around 5 degrees Celsius and sunny skies, so it was just a great day to be outside.

At Vaseux Lake we had lunch overlooking the north end of the lake. There were around 30 swans on the water, and several, at least, were Trumpeter Swans. Up to 20 Canvasbacks were diving along the eastern shore of the lake, along with Ring-necked Ducks and Greater Scaup. As we explored the cliffs, I spotted a dark brown blob atop a distant power pole. With the scope, I could see it was a Golden Eagle. We then spotted a second Golden Eagle sailing nearby, and we were able to watch the two birds at length. Canyon Wrens called from the cliffs, but remained unseen. In one lone Ponderosa Pine tree we had a Northern Flicker, several Black-billed Magpies and our one and only Clark’s Nutcracker of the tour.

Our final official stop of the trip was at the Okanagan River in OK Falls. In the rapids we spotted a couple of American Dippers, as well as both Common and Barrow’s goldeneye. A Townsend’s Solitaire sat atop a bush across the river. Our final tally for species on the trip was 86.

Bird List: Canada Goose; Cackling Goose; Trumpeter Swan; Tundra Swan; Gadwall; 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; California Quail; Chukar; Ring-necked Pheasant; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; American Coot; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Glaucous Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Golden Eagle; Northern Harrier; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Rough-legged Hawk; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Short-eared Owl; Northern Saw-whet Owl; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Northern Shrike; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Canyon Wren; Pacific Wren; Bewick’s Wren; American Dipper; Western Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; Bohemian Waxwing; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; Pine Grosbeak; House Finch; Common Redpoll; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; American Tree Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Harris’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Red-winged Blackbird; Yellow-rumped Warbler.

B.C.’s Okanagan Valley. October 6-7, 2020.

October 6

I met my friends Lin and Josh in Penticton this morning at 7 AM and we began birding at White Lake just as the sun came up and bathed the sagebrush covered hills in sunlight. One of the first birds we noticed was a Rough-legged Hawk, the first for the Fall, for me, atop a fir tree on a ridge. It took flight and was joined by a male and a female Northern Harrier. On White Lake were a few ducks, including Barrow’s Goldeneye, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, and some Ruddy Ducks. A single Horned Grebe was there as well, and is not a bird one would expect to find at White Lake. A few Western Meadowlarks were singing away and we saw a couple of the them perched atop the sage.

At Willowbrook, a short stop in the pine forest produced all three Western North American species of nuthatch, Pygmy, Red-breasted and White-breasted. Also here were our first Western Bluebirds, as well as a Cassin’s Finch.

A little strip of riparian habitat near the N.W. Marsh at Vaseux Lake was quite good. Upon arrival, we heard a Canyon Wren calling on the cliffs above the road, but we never did see the bird. We did, however, see a Bewick’s Wren as it skulked away in the vegetation. There were also Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Townsend’s Solitaire. Raptors were well represented as we saw singles of Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk, as well as two Bald Eagles. Perhaps the best bird here, a Great Horned Owl sat quietly in a cottonwood, looking almost as surprised to see us as we were to see it. As we were about to leave, I spotted a group of 41 Sandhill Cranes heading south, high overhead.

At Okanagan Falls Provincial Park, a short walk produced our target species, an American Dipper, as it sang and bobbed on rocks near the dam. Otherwise, we just had the usual Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglet here.

A scan of the north end of Vaseux Lake with our scopes produced large numbers of several species, the most abundant of which was American Coot. We estimated there to be a minimum of 5500 of them covering the lake. Mixed in with the coots were American Wigeon, Gadwall, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks and Ruddy Ducks.

Up at the cliffs we spent some time trying to get views of Canyon Wren, and eventually we succeeded. An adult Golden Eagle sailed over the top of the cliffs, our only one for this tour. Feeding on cones in a large Ponderosa Pine was our first Clark’s Nutcracker of the trip.

A short stop at Inkaneep Provincial Park proved to be very quiet, though we heard a Belted Kingfisher ‘rattling’ along the Okanagan River, and we saw a covey of California Quail in the campground. Another short stop nearby at River Road yielded some species new for our trip list such as White-crowned Sparrow, Ring-necked Pheasant and a Virginia Rail.

We had lunch in Oliver before carrying on south to Osoyoos and Haynes Point Park. It was fairly active in here, and we found our first American Robins here, as well as our first Spotted Towhee. At least two White-throated Sparrows were noted in the marshy areas along the trail here, as well as a Bewick’s Wren and many Yellow-rumped Warbler.

In the Richter Pass, we explored Kruger Mountain Road, hoping to find a Lesser Goldfinch, though we did not. However, we did find some nice birds such as Western Bluebirds, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbills, Steller’s Jay and a Red-tailed Hawk. Josh and I watched a pair of Northern Pygmy-Owls lock talons and tumble down through a fir tree, towards the ground, which was a bit of excitement.

Our last stop of the day was at the north end of Osoyoos Lake. We saw our first Western Grebe of the trip here, as well as Common Loons out on the lake. A Northern Harrier was seen gliding over the grasslands, and I saw a late Barn Swallow, though it swiftly disappeared. We had enjoyed a great day of birding in the South Okanagan, so we began to travel north to Kelowna.

October 7

This morning we again began at 7 AM. I met Josh and Lin with some unfortunate news this morning. They had asked me to recommend a restaurant for dinner the night before and I suggested one of my favorite local places, Olympia Greek Taverna, which is where they went. They were rather surprised when I told them that the restaurant had burned down shortly after they finished dinner! Once we put that news behind us, we headed out and started birding at Sutherland Hills Park in Kelowna. I tried to find a Western Screech-Owl here for them, but we came up empty handed. The birding was rather slow in the park this morning all around, with very few migrants present. We had to make due to Pygmy Nuthatches, a calling Pileated Woodpecker and a couple of White-throated Sparrows.

Next stop was at Scenic Canyon. Here, I finally located a Western Screech-Owl, but there was a hitch. The bird was calling right in front of us, but despite a long search, we never did see it. We did, however, hear a Swamp Sparrow, and we saw a Pacific Wren at a little spring that cascades down a hillside.

At the Mouth of Mission Creek, we finally added our first shorebird to the trip list, Killdeer. There were about ten of them on the sandbar. Gulls were feasting away on Kokanee, and we saw Ring-billed, Herring, California and Glaucous-winged gulls, and a couple of ‘Thayer’s’ Iceland Gulls. Out on the lake were Western and Red-necked grebes, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Gadwall and Common Mergansers, as well as several Common Loons. Our only Osprey for the trip sailed overhead here.

We took a drive out towards Okanagan Mountain Park, stopping first at a picnic table to have lunch, overlooking the glassy calm waters of Okanagan Lake. Once we were in the park, we scanned the lake for loons, eventually finding about 15 Common Loons feeding offshore. We scanned through some noisy groups of Pygmy Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees, finally seeing our first Mountain Chickadees of the trip.

At Sutherland Bay, in Kelowna’s North End, gulls were loafing on the log booms by the hundreds. We couldn’t find anything unusual mixed in with the regular gull species however. We finally saw our first Great Blue Heron of the trip, as there were two of them perched on the logs. Even if the birding was a tad on the slow side today, it was a joy to be out in October in the sunshine, in 24 degree Celsius weather.

Our final stop was at Robert Lake, where we added a few last birds to the trip list. There were several Eared Grebes out on the lake, as well as some distant Long-billed Dowitchers feeding on the far shore of the lake. Amongst the flocks of Canada Geese we picked out a single Cackling Goose, my first of the fall. Two male Wood Ducks sat on a log next to a Gadwall. Wood Duck is not common at Robert Lake. Other ducks included Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck and Ruddy Ducks. Just before we were about to leave, I spotted a lingering Cinnamon Teal nearby on the shore. It had been a fantastic couple of days with Josh and Lin, with nice birds and excellent company. The trip list finished up at 91 species.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard: Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Bufflehead; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Western Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Virginia Rail; American Coot; Sandhill Crane; Killdeer; Long-billed Dowitcher; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Iceland Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Osprey; Golden Eagle; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Rough-legged Hawk; Western Screech-Owl; Great Horned Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Downy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Barn Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Canyon Wren; Pacific Wren; Bewick’s Wren; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Pipit; House Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; Swamp Sparrow; White-throated Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Yellow-rumped Warbler.

*All photos by Chris Charlesworth – Rough-legged Hawk; Great Horned Owl; White Lake, B.C.; White-throated Sparrow; Killdeer; Cinnamon Teal.

Bird Photography in the Central Okanagan Valley. Oct 3, 2020.

Today, I had the pleasure of guiding a couple of local photographers around British Columbia’s Central Okanagan Valley. The ladies met me at Mission Creek Park at 7 AM and we spent the next couple of hours exploring Sutherland Hills Park, a local migrant trap. Our objective today was to get some photo opportunities of local birds, focusing on migrant species. Though there were a number of migrants about in the park, such as Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Robins, White-crowned Sparrows, they didn’t all pose nicely for photographs. We were treated to some lovely views of a White-throated Sparrow, however. There were at least two of them skulking in the bushes, and one adult popped into view nicely. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet flitted about in front of us, and frustratingly, as kinglets do, it moved about too quickly and proved difficult to photograph. We spent some time watching a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets chase one another about as well. At the Turtle Pond, we snapped a few shots of the resident Wood Ducks.

At the mouth of Mission Creek we were happy to see that a Dunlin was in attendance, as well as 18 Killdeer. Dunlin are usually found along the coast in B.C., though a few, like this young bird, end up at interior locations. There were also many gulls here, feasting on dead kokanee as they accumulate at the mouth of the creek. There were Ring-billed, Herring, California, Glaucous-winged and 3 ‘Thayer’s’ Iceland gulls.

We then headed towards Lake Country and we explored Beaver Lake Road where the species I hoped to find was a Northern Pygmy-Owl. We stopped for a walk through the forest at one location, and we could hear a pygmy-owl tooting in the distance. This one remained in the distance however. There were plenty of Red-breasted Nuthatches and Mountain Chickadees to see. At our second stop, I could hear the tooting of another pygmy-owl and this one was not far away. After a short search we were eye to eye with a Northern Pygmy-Owl. We watched the little owl for close to an hour as he sat on a branch and surveyed some brushy edge habitat. While the ladies were photographing the owl, I heard a Fox Sparrow calling in the brush, which is an uncommon fall migrant in the Okanagan Valley.

Once we were fully satiated with pygmy-owl views, we carried on up towards Dee Lake, where a walk through the boreal forest produced some surprises. As we walked along the narrow gravel road, I spotted a female Spruce Grouse at the edge. Soon, we were surrounded by Spruce Grouse, as 5 of them emerged and began feeding along the edge of the road. There was a glorious male and 4 female type birds. The grouse approached us, to less that 5 feet away, as they fed. It would be hard to beat this sighting, though we did find up to three Boreal Chickadees, though they wouldn’t descend from the treetops. We’d had a fantastic day of birding and photography and we couldn’t have asked for nicer weather.

PHOTO CREDITS: White-throated Sparrow by Chris Charlesworth; Northern Pygmy-Owl by Chris Charlesworth; Spruce Grouse by Chris Charlesworth.

Chris Charlesworth

B.C.’s Central Okanagan Valley ~ September 30, 2020

7 AM, I met up with three ladies at Mission Creek in Kelowna. We began with a walk through the woods at Sutherland Hills Park, where we hoped to find some migrant birds. The weather today was glorious, with sunny skies and warm temperatures. The ridge of high pressure we’re experiencing right now is not particularly great for migrant birds, as the conditions are favorable and many of them simply fly right over. That said, we still had a good time in Sutherland Hills, where the most abundant migrant species were American Robins and Yellow-rumped Warblers. There was a mix of western ‘Audubon’s’ type Yellow-rumps and eastern ‘Myrtle’ race birds. Other goodies included a White-throated Sparrow, though it didn’t cooperate for good views, a male Varied Thrush, and a Merlin that was feasting on a Yellow-rumped Warbler. We had Downy and Pileated woodpeckers, as well as many Northern Flickers. Overhead were flocks of calling Evening Grosbeaks and Red Crossbills. At the Turtle Pond we watched about 9 Wood Ducks, several of which were leaping out of the water to grab berries from dogwood bushes. There was a lot of bear scat in the park, but we didn’t have any encounters this morning.

Next on the agenda, we visited Munson Pond. Along Munson Road, the ladies spotted a Great Blue Heron hanging out in a tree and I pointed out a Red-tailed Hawk. On the pond, there was a variety of waterfowl. I estimated there were about 250 Canada Geese here and more kept flying in as we were there. In addition, there were Gadwall, American Wigeon, Wood Ducks, a Ruddy Duck, Mallard and a flock of Common Mergansers. As we checked the weedy fields, we found many sparrows, most of which were White-crowned Sparrows. There were a few others mixed in with them as well, however, such as Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and a nice White-throated Sparrow. A male Spotted Towhee, our only one today, made a brief appearance as well. A couple of Ospreys chased one another over the pond, and an adult Bald Eagle was seen soaring in the distance. A Merlin sat in a tree next to the pond, and at one point an American Kestrel sailed over. We also had a single American Pipit calling as it flew overhead, as well as a little group of Cedar Waxwings and at least two Common Yellowthroats.

We then made the trek out to the mouth of Mission Creek with high hopes for something exciting. There were a few gulls present, feasting on the bounty of dead salmon that are floating down the creek into the lake. There were 5 Bonaparte’s Gulls, including 4 adults and an immature bird, and we were happy to see a first year ‘Thayer’s’ Iceland Gull. Otherwise, the usual gulls, Ring-billed, California, Herring and Glaucous-winged, were tallied. Ducks were not numerous, though a flock of about a dozen Northern Shovelers flew past, and far out on the water were Gadwall, American Wigeon and half a dozen Ruddy Ducks. A group of 5 Greater Scaup winged their way past the sandbar as well. Again, we had Ospreys, Bald Eagle and a Merlin here. The eagle, an immature bird, swooped down right in front of us and plucked a fish from the lake’s surface. There were at least 18 Killdeer present, and Kathy pointed out a different bird, a non-breeding plumage Dunlin, and one of our highlights for the day.

Continuing south along the lakeshore, we headed for Okanagan Mountain Park, an area where Kokanee spawn along the shore of the lake, and the fish attract flocks of loons at this time of the year. Once we finally located the loons, there were perhaps 40 present out on the water. 39 of them were Common Loons and one was a Pacific Loon, another of our highlights today. We studied the Pacific Loon at length, since it had fairly white flanks, and we tried to turn it into an Arctic Loon, but after noting a ‘chinstrap’ we defaulted to Pacific. Far out on the lake there were some grebes too, including Horned, Red-necked and Western grebes. We saw our only accipiter for today, a Cooper’s Hawk. A few woodland species were tallied amongst the mostly burned conifers, such as Mountain Chickadee, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker and Red-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches. A slightly out of place American Dipper called as it flew along the shoreline of the lake. Typically, we see dippers along streams, and not along the lakeshore, though occasionally, they can be found there. Overhead, three Mountain Bluebirds called as they flew past.

Our last stops were in Kelowna’s North End. Along Brandt’s Creek at Sunset Park, we enjoyed watching a White-throated Sparrow snatch berries from an ornamental tree, alongside White-crowned and Song sparrows. There were a few warblers, including singles of Orange-crowned, Common Yellowthroat and Yellow-rumped. A Great Blue Heron let out a loud call as we passed by and a pair of Belted Kingfishers chased one another over the creek. Finally, at Sutherland Bay, we scanned the log booms for gulls and there were many, though none of them unusual, just the regular Ring-billed, California, Herring, Iceland and Glaucous-winged gulls. Pied-billed, Horned and Red-necked grebes were here, along with an abundance of American Coots and Canada Geese.

The days are getting shorter and by 6 PM the light was starting to fade so we called it a day. We’d tallied close to 80 species, a respectable total for the last day of September.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Greater Scaup; Common Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Western Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Mourning Dove; American Coot; Killdeer; Dunlin; Bonaparte’s Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Iceland Gull; Glaucous-winged Gull; Pacific Loon; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Osprey; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Belted Kingfisher; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Pileated Woodpecker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Black-billed Magpie; Common Raven; American Crow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; American Dipper; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Mountain Bluebird; American Robin; Varied Thrush; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Pipit; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-throated Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Western Tanager.

All photos by Kathy Nuszdorfer. In order: Merlin; Wood Duck; Bonaparte’s Gulls; Dunlin; ‘Thayer’s’ Iceland Gull; Bald Eagle.

Chris Charlesworth ~ Avocet Tours

Central Okanagan Valley Day Tour ~ September 21, 2020

At 7 AM I met up with Erik, from Ottawa, and his uncle Mike, from Kelowna. We began at Sutherland Hills Park, where we paused as we crossed Mission Creek to watch some spawning Kokanee below the bridge. We scanned up and down for a dipper, with no luck. One of the first birds we saw was a Western Screech-Owl. This was a great start to our day. From there on, the birding just kept getting better and better. Sutherland Hills Park was hopping with migrant birds this morning. Also, there was plenty of large piles of bear scat on the trails, so we were sure to make some noise and keep alert for these furry, berry eaters. Most numerous migrants this morning included American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers, Western Tanager, Warbling Vireo, White-crowned Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Cedar Waxwing.

We had great views of a single Hammond’s Flycatcher that called, confirming its identification. Evening Grosbeaks and Red Crossbills were fairly prominent, both of which were flying around in flocks and calling loudly. In the vegetation we got views of a Lincoln’s Sparrow, and to Erik’s delight, some California Quail scurrying along through the underbrush. A male Red-naped Sapsucker landed on a pine next to the path, and there was also a female Downy Woodpecker in the area. Red-shafted race Northern Flickers were everywhere. Pygmy Nuthatches showed quite well, posing for photos in the morning sunlight and we encountered a few attractive Spotted Towhees in the park as well. Best bird though, for me, was a singing male Purple Finch,, sitting atop a Douglas Fir.

We then headed north to Lake Country and spent the next several hours exploring the variety of habitats along Beaver Lake Road. In the grasslands, we stopped for a bit and watched the skies for migrating raptors. There were a few about, including Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, Merlin and several Red-tailed Hawks, one of which was a nice dark morph adult. We heard quite a few Western Meadowlarks singing out in the grasslands, and eventually some perched up nicely for scope view. Savannah, White-crowned and a Vesper sparrow were all noted along the road, and Mike pointed out a Say’s Phoebe sitting on a wooden post. American Pipits and a few Lapland Longspurs called as they flew overhead. Two Clark’s Nutcrackers flew overhead, and were the only nutcrackers we saw today. Higher up in the forest along Beaver Lake Road, several stops produced some nice highlights including a lovely male Dusky Grouse along the roadside, and a group of Canada and Steller’s jays, the latter of which was on Erik’s target list. We saw plenty of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, Mountain Chickadees, and Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned kinglets as we made our way up through the forest. A Hermit Thrush flew across the road in front of us, showing off its rusty tail. A single Cassin’s Finch was the only one we had today as well.

Up at Beaver Lake itself, we had lunch and then took a stroll through the forest in search of some elusive woodland birds. A quick scan of the lake produced two slightly out of place Bonaparte’s Gulls, and an adult and large juvenile Common Loon. A Belted Kingfisher called several times, but we never did see it. A male Spotted Towhee was unusual to see at this high elevation, looking slightly out place in amongst the spruce trees. A Brown Creeper was seen, and we had lovely views of a Pacific Wren on a pile of logs. Heard, but not seen, was a Northern Pygmy-Owl.

We tried one more location, this time near Crooked Lake, for higher elevation species, but we just encountered more of the same; Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Canada Jay, Dark-eyed Junco and Golden-crowned Kinglet.

We left the forest and headed back down into the valley bottom, checking out the south end of Wood Lake. There were some Red-necked and Western grebes out on the lake, as well as Common Loons and some gulls, including Ring-billed, California and Herring. A female Redhead swam alongside a flotilla of American Coots. A little covey of California Quail were seen in a yard nearby, along with they day’s only House Finch at a feeder.

At Robert Lake, our list grew substantially. There were birds everywhere. Mixed flocks of European Starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brewer’s Blackbirds and some Yellow-headed Blackbirds were seen. Masses of Violet-green Swallows (I estimated 500), were flying over the lake, along with at least one Barn Swallow. Waterfowl were well represented, and we saw Ruddy Duck, Hooded Merganser, Greater Scaup, Redhead, Bufflehead, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall and best of all, a lifer for Erik, a Cinnamon Teal. Several Eared Grebes, two Horned Grebes and a single Pied-billed Grebe, gave us a cool 5 species of grebes for the day. Shorebirds, including Pectoral Sandpipers, a Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitchers, Killdeer and a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope were seen. Also, a juvenile American Golden-Plover was seen through the scope on the opposite shore.

Mike had to go at this point, so I said goodbye to him, but Erik and I continued on to one last spot, Scenic Canyon. We hoped to seen a dipper here, but we dipped out on it unfortunately. As a consolation prize we had a gorgeous Barred Owl sitting only a few feet off the ground. As we got back closer to the parking area, a Gray Catbird popped up out of a dogwood, and this was the last bird we added to our tally, which was a whopping 106 species.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Cinnamon Teal; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Green-winged Teal; Redhead; Ring-necked Duck; Greater Scaup; Bufflehead; Barrow’s Goldeneye; Hooded Merganser; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Dusky Grouse; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Western Grebe; Mourning Dove; American Coot; American Golden-Plover; Killdeer; Pectoral Sandpiper; Long-billed Dowitcher; Spotted Sandpiper; Red-necked Phalarope; Bonaparte’s Gull; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Herring Gull; Common Loon; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Sharp-shinned Hawk; Cooper’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Western Screech-Owl; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Barred Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Red-naped Sapsucker; Downy Woodpecker; Hairy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Merlin; Peregrine Falcon; Hammond’s Flycatcher; Say’s Phoebe; Warbling Vireo; Canada Jay; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; Black-billed Magpie; American Crow; Common Raven; Barn Swallow; Violet-green Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Brown Creeper; Pacific Wren; Marsh Wren; Golden-crowned Kinglet; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Mountain Bluebird; Hermit Thrush; American Robin; Gray Catbird; European Starling; Cedar Waxwing; House Sparrow; American Pipit; Evening Grosbeak; House Finch; Purple Finch; Cassin’s Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Lapland Longspur; Spotted Towhee; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Dark-eyed Junco; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Nashville Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Wilson’s Warbler; Western Tanager.

Photo Credits: Western Tanager by Chris Charlesworth; Red-naped Sapsucker by Chris Charlesworth; Dusky Grouse by Erik Pohanka; Barred Owl by Erik Pohanka.

Kamloops Grasslands Day Tour ~ September 17, 2020.

I met up with two ladies, Joan and Pat, and we headed off to enjoy some birding in the Thompson and Nicola valleys. It was smoky, due to the wildfires in the Western USA, but the smoke was not as bad as it had been over previous days. Our first stop was to view an Osprey that was sitting on a small wooden fence near Quilchena, on Hwy 5A. A quick stop at Nicola Lake, at the mouth of the Nicola River, produced a flock of Common Mergansers, as well as some Ring-billed and California gulls, a Belted Kingfisher and a few Common Loons. Best of all though, an American White Pelican was resting on the sandbar at the river mouth. At our next stop Guichon Flats, there was a load of waterfowl, and we estimated 2500 American Coots! As for ducks, there were Lesser Scaup, Redheads, Ruddy Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail and a few others. We had several Pied-billed Grebes and a few Eared Grebes as well. A Merlin sat on a distant telephone pole, and Western Meadowlarks sang from the grasslands but remained hidden. Marsh Wrens were chattering away in the reeds, alongside Common Yellowthroats. Along with several Red-winged Blackbirds, we had a nice male Yellow-headed Blackbird sitting on a fence post. We heard, but couldn’t see, a Virginia Rail as well.

At Planet Mine Road, we finally saw a Western Meadowlark, though it was a bit distant, through the scope, sitting on a rock. We also had a Clark’s Nutcracker here, as well as some singing Townsend’s Solitaires and calling Pygmy Nuthatches. An immature Red-tailed Hawk perched in a dead pine and made for a nice study as well. Atop a tall Ponderosa Pine, there was an immature Peregrine Falcon.

We scanned the south end of Stump Lake, finding it overrun with Horned and Pied-billed grebes, and a few Red-necked Grebes as well. Ducks, including Hooded Mergansers, were here. Shorebirds included a group of about 11 Lesser Yellowlegs, a couple of Greater Yellowlegs and a couple of Killdeer. In a pine on the far side of the lake were two adult Bald Eagles.

We had lunch at Separation Lake, where we were entertained by an American Pipit that was foraging on the road in front of us. We had good looks at several American Pipits here, as well as Savannah and Vesper sparrows. Two or three Northern Harriers patrolled low over the grasslands, and we saw a couple of Swainson’s Hawks soaring over a ridge. A Wilson’s Snipe flushed from a muddy area next to the road and disappeared into the long, marshy grass. New for our waterfowl list was a Barrow’s Goldeneye. We tallied 5 Sandhill Cranes, with a group of three and a group of two, sailing south against the smoky sky.

Next, we headed through Kamloops over to the North Shore and we explored Tranquille for an hour or so. There were 11 Sandhill Cranes in the fields around the marsh, as well as several Great Blue Herons. A basic plumage American Avocet was a nice surprise at the marsh as well. We searched for migrants in the lakeside vegetation, but it was rather quiet, other than the usual Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Our final destination today was Lac du Bois Road and the Lac du Bois Grasslands. Birding was a bit slow here, though as we left the grasslands and entered some mixed forest, we had a group of Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Yellow-rumped Warblers making some noise. We soon discovered what they were upset about, a Northern Pygmy-Owl! We decided this must be our bird of the day. We made one final stop at an aspen grove where there were a few more migrants about, including a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and more Yellow-rumps. There was a male Downy Woodpecker here as well. By the end of the day, we’d tallied nearly 80 species.

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Blue-winged 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; Pied-billed Grebe; Horned Grebe; Red-necked Grebe; Eared Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove; Virginia Rail; American Coot; Sandhill Crane; American Avocet; Killdeer; Wilson’s Snipe; Greater Yellowlegs; Ring-billed Gull; California Gull; Common Loon; American White Pelican; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Bald Eagle; Swainson’s Hawk; Red-tailed Hawk; Northern Pygmy-Owl; Belted Kingfisher; Downy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; Black-billed Magpie; Clark’s Nutcracker; American Crow; Common Raven; Black-capped Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Marsh Wren; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Townsend’s Solitaire; American Robin; European Starling; House Sparrow; American Pipit; House Finch; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Vesper Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Yellow-headed Blackbird; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Western Tanager.

Chris Charlesworth

PHOTO CREDITS

Osprey: Photo by Chris Charlesworth; Red-tailed Hawk: Photo by Joan Moore; American Pipit: Chris Charlesworth; Sandhill Crane: Chris Charlesworth; Northern Pygmy-Owl: Joan Moore.

South Okanagan Valley Birding – September 12, 2020

At 7 AM, I met up with Al and Deborah from North Vancouver. It was good to see these two again, as I hadn’t seen them for ten years or more. I met them at the campground at Okanagan Falls, where there were many Yellow-rumped Warblers about. Our first stop was along Green Lake Road, near the Vaseux Lake NW Marsh. A little strip of riparian habitat contained a couple of migrants including Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped warblers and two immature White-throated Sparrows. The highlight here was watching a pair of Bewick’s Wrens at rather close range.

Bewick’s Wren. Oliver, B.C. Sep 12, 2020 (C) Chris Charlesworth

We continued on up the winding Green Lake Road, stopping next in the Ponderosa Pine forest at Mahoney Lake. We enjoyed views of all three local species of nuthatch here, Red-breasted, Pygmy and White-breasted. Also of note were Clark’s Nutcrackers, some Chipping Sparrows and a Spotted Towhee. At the lake itself there were a few birds like American Coot, Ruddy Duck, Gadwall and Bufflehead. There were also one or two Pied-billed Grebes here. Red-winged Blackbirds sang from the marsh, while a Marsh Wren chattered away, though stayed hidden in the reeds. On a distant hillside, I pointed out an adult Peregrine Falcon sitting on a snag. We could hear, but not see, a group of Sandhill Cranes. On our way through Willowbrook, a short stop yielded a Great Blue Heron flying through the pine trees, and a group of immature Western Bluebirds on a fence.

Spotted Towhee. Mahoney Lake, Okanagan Falls, B.C. Sep 12, 2020 (C) Chris Charlesworth.

Next, we visited White Lake, where we walked in to the south end of the lake. We had hoped for some shorebirds, though all we got were a couple of Killdeer and a Least Sandpiper. There were several species of ducks here though, including Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal and Barrow’s Goldeneye. We enjoyed watching a group of up to 50 Horned Larks swirling around at the south end of the lake this morning, and occasionally the birds paused long enough to be viewed through the scope. Grassland birds noted include Savannah and White-crowned sparrows and singing Western Meadowlarks. A young Osprey perched on a fence post at the S.W. corner of the lake and we had a quick glimpse of a Golden Eagle as it sailed off over a ridge.

Mahoney Lake, OK Falls, B.C. Sept 12, 2020 (C) Chris Charlesworth

We visited some cliffs near Okanagan Falls on Allendale Road, where we hoped to find a Canyon Wren. Though the Canyon Wren didn’t cooperate, we had views of a pair of Rock Wrens chasing one another about against the cliff face. A group of California Quail scurried about on the rocks at the base of the cliffs and a Red-tailed Hawk sailed above against the blue sky. The weather was nice today, though we did have a bit of smoke in the valley, due to wildfires in the Western USA. We then tried the cliffs near Vaseux Lake, where we heard a Canyon Wren, but didn’t see it. Our first of three Say’s Phoebes were noted here, and we saw Golden Eagle again, this time two adults sailing over the cliffs. Several Bighorn Sheep were found as well.

Down at Vaseux Lake we strolled along the boardwalk to the viewing tower. A few migrants called from the bushes, but most remained hidden. There were Yellow-rumped Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers and again at least one White-throated Sparrow. Scanning the lake at the north end finally added Canada Goose to our day list, as well as Ring-billed and California gulls. There were hundreds, if not thousands of birds, further south on the lake, but the light was horrible. The majority of these birds may have been American Coots. Our final stop of the day was at Inkaneep Provincial Park. It was pretty hot by now and many of the birds seemed to be having their afternoon siesta. We did find some though, including another obliging Bewick’s Wren, our fourth for the day. Also, we had our first Downy Woodpecker of the day, a male, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. A Western Tanager briefly appeared and then all went quiet. We soon found out why. There was an adult Cooper’s Hawk sitting nearby in the dead top of a cottonwood. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day and we tallied around 70 species!

Bird Species: Canada Goose; Wood Duck; Northern Shoveler; Gadwall; American Wigeon; Mallard; Northern Pintail; Green-winged Teal; Bufflehead, Barrow’s Goldeneye; Ruddy Duck; California Quail; Pied-billed Grebe; Rock Pigeon; Mourning Dove; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Virginia Rail; American Coot; Sandhill Crane; Killdeer; Least Sandpiper; California Gull; Ring-billed Gull; Great Blue Heron; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Golden Eagle; Northern Harrier; Cooper’s Hawk; Bald Eagle; Red-tailed Hawk; Belted Kingfisher; Downy Woodpecker; Northern Flicker; American Kestrel; Peregrine Falcon; Say’s Phoebe; Steller’s Jay; Clark’s Nutcracker; American Crow; Common Raven; Violet-green Swallow; Black-capped Chickadee; Mountain Chickadee; Red-breasted Nuthatch; White-breasted Nuthatch; Pygmy Nuthatch; Rock Wren; Canyon Wren; Marsh Wren; Bewick’s Wren; Ruby-crowned Kinglet; Western Bluebird; Swainson’s Thrush; American Robin; Gray Catbird; European Starling; House Sparrow; House Finch; Pine Siskin; American Goldfinch; Spotted Towhee; Chipping Sparrow; Savannah Sparrow; Song Sparrow; Lincoln’s Sparrow; White-throated Sparrow; White-crowned Sparrow; Western Meadowlark; Red-winged Blackbird; Brewer’s Blackbird; Orange-crowned Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Western Tanager.

Chris Charlesworth

Tales and photographs of the adventures of Avocet Tours