Okanagan Birding, May 23 & 24

May 23

I met up with Jon Carter and Stuart, who’s last name I cannot remember, at 8 PM in Kelowna this evening. Stuart and Jon were leading a group of 6 birders from the U.K. on a two week Canadian adventure, and they hired me to help them out for their Okanagan birding. We headed to Beaver Lake Road and did a little owling this evening. On the way up through the grasslands a few birds were still active in the twilight, including Western Meadowlark, Vesper Sparrow and Western Bluebird. We walked along a trail through the coniferous forest just as it was nearing dark and found an adult and a fledgling Barred Owl as they called to one another. This was our only ‘owly’ experience we had this evening. N. Saw-whet and Boreal owls did not want to cooperate this evening.

May 24

I met the group in Penticton this morning and we enjoyed a spectacular day of birding in the South Okanagan. Our first stop was at Three Gates Farm on White Lk Rd. We watched hummingbird feeders, tallying Rufous, Calliope and a nice male Black-chinned hummingbird here. We walked up a path through the Ponderosa Pines and found another of the many highlights of the day, a Black Bear! This bear was of the ‘blond’ variety and was probably only a year or two old. Birds up this track included Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, Townsend’s Solitaire and Pygmy Nuthatch.

At White Lake itself we were treated to views of three singing male Sage Thrashers. This species is quite rare and found at only one or two spots traditionally in the South Okanagan where they are extremely scarce breeders in sage habitats. Heard, but not seen, was another locally rare bird, Grasshopper Sparrow. We saw several Brewer’s Sparrows here, as well as a nice Lark Sparrow. Also on the heard list was Clay-colored Sparrow, rounding out a nice list of sparrows. On White Lk itself were Red-necked Phalaropes, Green-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler, along with the usual Mallards.

At Mahoney Lk we tried unsuccessfully for Gray Flycatcher, but we did see a few other species nonetheless, including an adult Peregrine Falcon soaring overhead. Red Crossbills, Cassin’s Finches and Pine Siskins were all seen here.

We had lunch in the pine forest at the top of Irrigation Ck Road in OK Falls, only about 300 meters from Shuttleworth Rd. Both Gray and Dusky flycatchers showed off nicely here for the group, as did White-breasted Nuthatch, Western Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Spotted Towhee. Up at Venner Meadows we searched for an eventually found a lovely male Williamson’s Sapsucker in the larches. Also here, a Red-naped Sapsucker, was new for the group’s list. We watched several Western Tanagers chase one another around here, while calling in the woods were Nashville Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet and noisy Red-breasted Nuthatches. At Venner Meadows the birding was very good and Jon picked out a male American Three-toed Woodpecker working on a Lodgepole Pine right out in the open. Nice score! Singing in the willow meadows were Wilson’s, Yellow and Yellow-rumped warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Waterthrush, Hermit Thrush, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and a single Willow Flycatcher. We watched an Olive-sided Flycatcher here as it called and foraged near the meadows. Before vacating the Shuttleworth area we tried briefly at Rabbit Lake for upper elevation species. Unfortunately as soon as we arrived a rainstorm hit and we had to retreat, but not before we saw an adult male Northern Goshawk!

In the evening I took the group up to Max Lk to look for nocturnal species. We had great views of a pair of Common Poorwills right on the dirt road, so this was great. A Veery called as we drove up past the riparian habitat in the canyon. After dark we heard a Flammulated Owl and several of us saw if fly overhead twice, so all in all, it was a pretty productive night. I really enjoyed taking Jon and Stuart and their group around and I think they were pretty happy with the superb birds we saw during our 24 hour period together.

Chris Charlesworth, Avocet Tours.

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