Hot on the heels of my previous trip (Apr 5-7), I met a new group this morning, of 15 keen birders. Before we left the parking lot at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna we racked up a few birds including the same flock of Cedar Waxwings that the first group had seen. We made our way to Mission Creek and
searched for the Western Screech-Owl which I found without too much trouble as it roosted in a cedar tree. On this this trip I was accompanied by Logan Lalonde and his eyes and ears were greatly appreciated by all. Other species noted here included Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler and American Goldfinch, to name a few.
Accompanied by gorgeous sunny weather for the full three days of the tour, we made our way to Beaver Lake Road where the grassland section produced much the same as the first
tour did; Western Bluebirds, Mountain Bluebirds, Western Meadowlarks, Say’s Phoebe and Tree Swallows. Raptors were quite evident today and we counted several Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, a Golden Eagle, Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures. I whistled for a Northern Pygmy-Owl at one its usual haunts and eventually got a response, though it never did show itself. Farther up the road we had lunch near the second cattleguard. We were entertained by Red-naped Sapsuckers, Downy Woodpecker and a noisy Pileated Woodpecker here. Some observers saw a Gray Jay, which was at a surprisingly low elevation. Black-capped and Mountain chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches were fairly numerous in the coniferous forest. A few lucky observers got
a quick view of a Varied Thrush before it disappeared into the
forest. The first few cars in the caravan missed a Ruffed Grouse that posed for the vehicles behind. We returned to have a look, but no grouse to be found. Up at Beaver Lake Lodge it was fairly quiet, though we did add Steller’s Jay to the list. We bumped our way back down the road towards Lake Country and headed for wetlands closer to Kelowna.
At Tutt Pond we had good numbers of Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the marsh, and several species of waterfowl on the pond including a hybrid American X Eurasian Wigeon. Robert Lake was quite
productive with a lovely male Cinnamon Teal feeding alongside Green-winged Teal right near the parking area. Many other ducks were in attendance as well; Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Ruddy Duck, Gadwall and Lesser Scaup to name a few. An early Lesser Yellowlegs was a nice surprise here.
We took a little break then some of us had dinner at White Spot before heading out owling. No luck again tonight on Boreal Owl unfortunately, but it was a gorgeous night to be out. On our way up Beaver Lake Road we saw a Great Horned Owl sitting atop a fir tree, so we weren’t skunked.
Our second morning again started off well with sighting of a
Great Horned Owl on a nest at Poplar Point in Kelowna, thanks to Gwynneth Wilson. The adult owl was tending to a very young, fluffy white chick in the skimpy nest. In the neighborhood we also saw a nice male Spotted Towhee before making our way down to Sutherland Bay where a quick scope of Okanagan Lake produced Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe and Red-necked Grebe, all species missed on the previous tour.
We walked along the creek up to Hardy Falls in Peachland, where the water was really rushing down due to the warm weather. Though I heard one briefly, we didn’t see the American Dipper here unfortunately. Otherwise, birding was pretty quiet here.
Continuing south, we paused for a refreshment in Penticton before making our way to White Lake Road. We explored the pine forest at Three Gates Farm where hummingbird feeders had attracted newly arrived Rufous and Calliope hummingbirds. Also at the feeders here were Cassin’s and House finches side by side for comparison, as well as Downy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskin. Try as we might we could not find a pygmy-owl here. The White Lake grasslands provided a nice spot for us to have lunch. We
were serenaded by Western Meadowlarks here, and both Western and Mountain bluebirds were noted. Logan saw a Northern Harrier here, but it was missed by the rest of us. White Lake itself had a few ducks with American Wigeon, Mallard, Green-winged Teal and Bufflehead tallied.
A short walk through the Ponderosa Pines at Mahoney Lake was worthwhile as it produced all three nuthatches,
including two very obliging White-breasted Nuthatches. On Mahoney Lake was a lovely male Eurasian Wigeon.
After a short comfort break in Okanagan Falls we headed for the Vaseux Lake Cliffs. We heard a Canyon Wren sing several times, but it would not show itself. White-throated Swifts were present, but hard to get in the bins due to their incredible speed. Best sighting of all, though not seen by everyone, was an immature Glaucous Gull that did a fly by of the cliffs just as we were
about to leave. A sizeable group of Bighorn Sheep greeted us at the cliffs as well, a nice mammal addition to the list.
We made it to Tucelnuit Lake where many of us stayed, just in time to relax for about an hour before a delicious dinner at Gecko’s Grill. After dinner we made our way out to Road 22 for some owling. An adult Great Horned Owl was seen, while an immature called from the woods nearby. Though we never did see it, we heard a Northern Saw-whet Owl call repeatedly along the oxbows. In the distance we could hear a calling Sora and we heard a winnowing Wilson’s Snipe as well as a noisy pack of Coyotes. With the aid of the spotlight, we watched a little mouse swim laps in one of the oxbows, a first for me. Again, the night stars were breathtaking.
Today turned out to be a fantastic day of birding, beginning at Road 22 where we racked up an impressive list of 50 species. Upon arrival we were greeted by a flock of perhaps as many
as 50 American White Pelicans, most of which were sailing by headed north. Several were also resting on the sand bar at the north end of Osoyoos Lake. Over a ridge to the west of Road 22, I pointed out several small groups of Sandhill Cranes as they migrated north. Briefly, a Golden Eagle joined them. Other raptors noted included Bald Eagle, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, a couple of Northern Harriers and several Osprey. Swallows were numerous, and among the Tree and Violet-greens we picked out Northern Rough-winged and Cliff swallows. A few Savannah Sparrows were seen in the grassy fields along the road, and near the end of the southeast dyke we had great views of Bewick’s
Wren. Also here, a pair of Hooded Mergansers sailed across the channel. Not a bad start to the day.
We turned our attention to the forests of Shuttleworth Rd near OK Falls. We headed straight up to Venner Meadows where we enjoyed
excellent views of a pair of Williamson’s Sapsuckers as they investigated a nest cavity. Also here, a pair of Pileated Woodpecker showed off nicely. Logan disappeared into the woods and got Wes to radio the rest of us to say they had found a pair of Barred Owls. We rushed over and quickly found one of the owls sitting above us in
larch. Good find Logan!
To finish off we made our way to the high elevation forest around Rabbit Lake where we made several stops which eventually paid off with great views of a pair of Boreal Chickadees. Not a bad way to finish off our tour, and we counted 107 species on the tour as a group. What a difference a couple of days can make during spring migration.
Chris Charlesworth, Avocet Tours