At 8 AM I met a group of 11 intrepid birders who had signed on for my Okanagan Spring Birding Tour. Michael Force, a great birders and a good friend of mine, joined us for the day. Before we had left the parking lot we had a few species on our list including Ring-billed, Glaucous-winged and Herring gulls and some had Cedar Waxwings. Our first stop was along Mission Creek where we looked for, but could not find, a roosting Western Screech-Owl.
Next location we visited was Beaver Lake Road in Lake Country. We explored
the grasslands where we had great views of Western Bluebirds and we were treated to seeing a group of approximately 180 migrating Mountain Bluebirds! Western Meadowlarks sang loudly and showed off atop the fence posts, pleasing the crowd. One or two Say’s Phoebes also put in appearances for us, greatly appreciated by the coastal birders. As we gained elevation, the weather deteriorated and it became quite cool and cloudy. This did not stop us from
spotting a Red-naped Sapsucker in the aspens and from finding a Ruffed Grouse alongside the road. Once we reached the upper elevations around Beaver Lake Lodge we found
ourselves in a snow storm! Birding was quite difficult and we managed to hear some Mountain and Chestnut-backed chickadees, as well as Steller’s Jay, but not much else. Out of nowhere a police officer appeared in the snow and asked if we had seen a white van, apparently belonging to a missing person. Jim Tisdale chatted up the officer and we kept our eyes open for such a van, but we saw nothing of the sort.
Back in the valley bottom at Robert Lake we scoped through masses of ducks that included Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Ruddy Duck,
Green-winged Teal and a male Eurasian Wigeon was a nice addition to the list. Before we called it quits for the day we popped into Tutt’s Pond and this was quite productive, adding a long-staying Greater White-fronted Goose, as well as several Cackling Geese to the trip list. Yellow-headed Blackbirds also had arrived in numbers here today. We bumped into Ian Walker who pointed out a very interesting duck he had found earlier in the day, a hybrid Common Goldeneye X Bufflehead!
Some of us gathered for dinner at White Spot before heading out for some owling. The weather gods did not cooperate tonight, and we had very little luck with owls. All I was able to spot was a Great Horned Owl on a fence post along the lower reaches of Beaver Lake Road. Winds hampered our efforts to find a Boreal Owl unfortunately. Better luck next time.
Beautiful sunny weather this morning was a nice change from the snow showers of the previous day. The day began with a bang as I located the
roosting Western Screech-Owl along Mission Creek. The owl was a lifer for some, and was snoozing up in a cedar tree.
After a great start we began our journey south to Penticton where we had a short stop for coffee, treats and most importantly, to use the facilities. Along White Lake Road we stopped in at Three Gates Farm where the Ponderosa Pines had some birds including Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Red Crossbill. We then carried on to the White Lake basin, enjoying more views of Western and Mountain bluebirds and Western Meadowlarks along the way. We encountered a couple of nice Golden Eagles here, as well as a couple of Bald Eagles. White Lake itself had a few ducks including Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead and American Wigeon. As we carried on down Green Lake Road, we stopped at Mahoney Lake where we had great views of both Pygmy and White-breasted nuthatches in the pine trees.
OK Falls was fairly quiet today and we did not find any American Dipper here so we carried on to the Vaseux Cliffs. We had good luck here with nice views of a soaring Golden Eagle and a brief sighting of a lingering Rough-legged Hawk. A Canyon Wren sang repeatedly and paused long enough for several of us to see it through the scope. Living up to their names, White-throated Swifts screeched through the blue sky over the cliffs.
Before we checked in at our motel we made a brief stop at Road 22 where no curlews could be found. There were mixed Violet-green and Tree swallows catching bugs above the Okanagan River. Several Osprey were seen well, as were Red-tailed Hawk and Bald Eagles. Two Downy Woodpeckers showed themselves, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler added a dash of color to the scene.
After dinner we returned to Road 22 for a little owling. We had better luck tonight, finding a Norther Saw-whet Owl that called incessantly from the woods and was seen by Don Wilson. Great Horned Owl was also noted here. Perhaps the highlight tonight was the incredible night sky, and we were given a good lesson in amateur astronomy by Don Wilson. A great ending to the day.
Another beautiful sunny day greeted us, and we began back at Road 22. Savannah Sparrows singing from the fence posts were new to the trip list this morning, and some saw a Belted Kingfisher. We made our way to the
Richter Pass where we found a single Chukar scrambling up a sage covered slope. At Spotted Lake we saw several waterfowl species including a nice male Cinnamon Teal. A singing Vesper Sparrow posed for scope views here as well.
For the grand finale we made our way up Shuttleworth Ck Road near OK Falls,
exploring first the larches at Venner Meadows. A pair of Williamson’s Sapsuckers, one of my favorite woodpeckers, showed nicely for the group. Nigel got to see his first Brown Creeper here and we were treated to scope views of an immature Northern Goshawk. Back on the main Shuttleworth Rd we headed up to Rabbit Lake, finding two more soaring Northern Goshawks along the way! The
boreal forests around Rabbit Lake were fairly quiet, though we did run into a little group of Gray Jays, spotted by Glen Wood, and saw several mixed flocks of Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Golden-crowned Kinglets. A highlight for us just before we were about to wrap up the tour, a tiny Pacific Wren began singing its heart out in the
woods beside us. At the bottom of Shuttleworth Rd we wrapped up our tour, said our goodbyes and parted ways. We had found close to 90 species of birds on our early spring tour, not a bad list at all.
Chris Charlesworth, Avocet Tours