Okanagan Valley Day Tour, July 21 & 22

July 21 – I met up with a couple from Santa Cruz, California this morning and guided them along Beaver Lake Road for much of the day, finishing off with a productive visit to Robert Lake. Beaver Lake Road was great this morning and in the grasslands we had many sparrows, a good number of which were immature type birds. Most abundant were Chipping Sparrows, followed up by Vesper Sparrows and a pair of Clay-colored Sparrows, one of which was a juvenile. Other birds noted in the grasslands included a pair of Mountain Bluebirds, several Western Bluebirds, Western Meadowlarks, American Kestrels and Bullock’s Oriole to name a few. Berry bushes all through the grassland areas of the road were alive with birds; Western Tanagers, House Wrens, Lazuli Buntings, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Catbird, Black-headed Grosbeak, Cassin’s Finch and Evening Grosbeak to name a few species. The aspen groves around km 4 were productive, offering us views of several juvenile Red-naped Sapsuckers, along with Western Wood-Pewees, Cedar Waxwings, Spotted Towhees, Hairy Woodpecker and Swainson’s Thrush. Once we entered

IMG_2657 Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture. Photo by Mike Jackson. July 2016.

the coniferous forest the new birds just kept coming; Cassin’s Vireo, Red-breasted Nuthatch, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Mountain Chickadee, Pine Siskin and more. Near the second cattleguard we walked along a trail catching glimpses of Golden-crowned Kinglet and Townsend’s Warbler. There was a carcass here that had attracted many Common Ravens and a few Turkey Vultures, while a Cooper’s Hawk soared overhead. Near Beaver Lake itself got several Gray Jays, along with Steller’s Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Northern Waterthrush, Dark-eyed Junco and a very nice little Pacific Wren. Several Common Loons were on the lake and one bird called a few times, while at least 4 Ospreys hunted over the water. After a nice lunch beside the lake we began our descent back to the rather hot valley bottom. Temperatures today reached 30 degrees celsius.

Our second and final destination for the day was Robert Lake in Kelowna’s Glenmore area. Here, we added some shorebirds to the tally; Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper,

IMG_2681 Greater Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs. Robert Lake, Kelowna, BC. July 2016. Photo by: Mike Jackson.

Greater Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Phalarope, Wilson’s Snipe and a pair of Black-necked Stilts. A great variety of ducks were counted here as well; Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Mallard and a Hooded Merganser were found. Both Eared and Pied-billed grebes were here, but perhaps the highlight was stunning views of a young Sora and even more stunning views of an adult Virginia Rail right beside us. In the vicinity were Yellow-headed, Red-winged and Brewer’s blackbirds, Savannah and Song sparrows, Eurasian Collared-Doves, Say’s Phoebe, N. Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow and American Goldfinches. The total for species seen and heard at the end of the day was 101!

IMG_2678 Virginia Rail
Virginia Rail. Robert Lake, Kelowna, BC. July 2016. Photo by: Mike Jackson.

July 22 -Dave and Julie picked me up this morning at 6:30 and we drove south across the Bennett Bridge to Peachland where we stopped in at Hardy Falls. Much of the day we were shaded from the blazing sun by a blanket of cloud. This was not only comfortable for us, but it also made sure the bird activity remained strong throughout the day. Along the trail

IMG_2715 Pygmy Nuthatch
Pygmy Nuthatch. Peachland, BC. July 2016. Mike Jackson.

at Hardy Falls we never did find an American Dipper, but that was OK because we did find several other interesting birds. There seemed to be Veery all over the place, many of which were feasting on dogwood berries. Yellow Warbler, Pacific-slope Flycatcher and a very tame Pygmy Nuthatch were found here as well.

Our next stop was at a coffee shop in Penticton where we paused briefly before visiting the Esplanade and yacht club on Okanagan Lake. Highlights here included an adult breeding plumage Bonaparte’s Gull, as well as a couple of Western Grebes. We visited Three Gates Farm near Kaleden and at feeders we were treated to views of several male and female Black-chinned Hummingbirds, along with a single immature male Rufous Hummingbird and a very brief sighting of a female type Calliope Hummingbird. Other birds noted here included Cassin’s and House finches, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Siskin, Spotted Towhee and a pair of Red Crossbills. At White Lake the sagebrush habitat was fairly quiet with nothing more than a few Western Meadowlarks, and several American Kestrels tallied, though we did also see a single Sage Thrasher carrying food for young. On White Lk itself were a few Greater Yellowlegs and a Wilson’s Phalarope. A surprise sighting at White Lake, a Rattlesnake slithered off the road, rattling briefly as it disappeared in to the sage. Mahoney Lake was very productive and new for our list here was Gray Flycatcher, Clark’s Nutcracker and Barrow’s Goldeneye.

We had lunch at the south end of Skaha Lake in OK Falls, where Red-necked Grebes and a group of mixed California and Ring-billed gulls kept us entertained. A breeding plumage Common Loon was a nice sighting here as well. After lunch we made our way to the Vaseux Lake area where we began on Irrigation Creek Road at the Vaseux Cliffs. Highlights here were many. Up to half a dozen Lewis’s Woodpeckers were a delight to see, alongside

IMG_2760 Canyon Wren
Canyon Wren. Vaseux Lake, BC. July 2016. Photo: Mike Jackson.

several Clark’s Nutcrackers. Elderberries in the area attracted a nice selection of birds as well with Black-headed Grosbeak, Lark Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Cedar Waxwings and Eastern Kingbirds putting on a nice show. After a bit of searching a Canyon Wren finally popped into view and it was only feet away from us, posing on a tree stump. Rock Wren was also seen very well, through the scope, and we were delighted to find a pair of noisy Chukar clambering around on the cliffs. A herd of 20 or more California Bighorn Sheep were grazing here, with females and a few  youngsters present. A walk through the riparian habitat at the Vaseux Lake Boardwalk was also worthwhile. The areas was bustling with birds; Bullock’s Orioles, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Gray Catbirds, Willow Flycatcher, Marsh Wren, Virginia Rail, Cinnamon Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Yellow Warbler and much more were found here. We watched at least 3 Eastern Kingbird chicks in their nest atop the snapped off top of a

IMG_2779 Eastern Kingbirds young on nest
Eastern Kingbirds about to leave the nest at Vaseux Lake, BC. July 2016. Photo: Mike Jackson.

dead tree. One of the three birds appeared to fledge as we watched, while the adult kingbird sat nearby calling frantically. Yellow-breasted Chat sang, but remained hidden in the brush. Our final stop was at Ok Falls where we searched again, without luck, for a dipper. We did have an exceptional view of an Osprey here as it watched for fish in the river below. A female California Quail with several recently hatched chicks scurried about in the brush alongside the road. We said goodbye this afternoon after having enjoyed two exceptional days of birding in the Okanagan Valley.

Chris Charlesworth, Avocet Tours

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