October 7, Okanagan Valley Day Tour

Oct 7 – I had the pleasure of guiding Ken Thorpe of Montreal around the Central and South Okanagan Valley today. In the morning the weather was threatening, but we managed to dodge the showers. We began at Robert Lake in Kelowna just as day broke. There was an assortment of waterfowl here including Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal and Hooded Merganser were noted here, and we heard Marsh Wren and a lingering Common Yellowthroat calling in the reeds.

We fought the morning traffic through Kelowna and crossed the Bennett Bridge, making our next stop at Antlers Beach in Peachland where I spotted an immature Sabine’s Gull flying along the shore, a short distance away. Farther out on the lake were half a dozen or so Bonaparte’s Gulls. Three female type Surf Scoters flew past, uncommon in the Okanagan in the Fall. As we arrived at the SS. Sicamous in Penticton we were surprised to see two American White Pelicans dropping in rest on a rocky breakwater. Gulls were numerous and we studied California, Herring, Ring-billed, Glaucous-winged, Bonaparte’s and a single adult Thayer’s Gull on the beach. Out on the lake was a group of 15 Surf Scoters, all female types.

At the cliffs at Vaseux Lake we searched for half an hour or so before I found a group of half a dozen Chukar clambering up the rocks. This was a lifer for Ken, so we were quite happy to ‘nail down’ the Chukar. We had scope views of a Canyon Wren here, and we found over 50 Bighorn Sheep in a field here. Overhead, two Golden Eagles appeared briefly and then disappeared over the ridge. Farther up Irrigation Creek Rd we encountered White-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Western and Mountain bluebirds, and White-crowned Sparrow. We had a scan on Vaseux Lake at the north end before leaving, and a good thing since there were two Peregrine Falcons and a Northern Harrier swooping about the sand bar here. Out on the water were thousands of birds, including an immature male Eurasian Wigeon. A lingering Ruddy Duck was rather tricky to see mixed in with the rest of the birds which were mostly American Coots and American Wigeon.

At White Lake, the scenery was spectacular, with sunlight bathing the sage covered hills where we found a couple dozen Western Meadowlarks. We encountered a migrating group of 15 or so Mountain Bluebirds, and we had no trouble finding our target bird for this location, Northern Shrike. We saw two adult Shrikes hanging around the Twin Lake Rd / White Lk Rd junction. Overhead another Golden Eagle soared by, offering fantastic views. We stopped at Three Gates Farm near Kaleden and heard a calling Northern Pygmy-Owl.

In Penticton we made one final stop, this time at the Esplanade Trails. Migrant passerines were numerous here with Yellow-rumped Warblers being the most numerous, followed up by Ruby-crowned Kinglet and American Robin. Sparrows were abundant with the majority being White-crowned and Song sparrows. We managed views of Lincoln’s, and a lovely adult White-throated Sparrow here too. Out on Okanagan Lake were four species of grebes; Red-necked, Western, Horned and Pied-billed. A Sharp-shinned Hawk sailed overhead just as we were about to make our way back to Kelowna. At the end of the day we had tallied 70 species, a respectable total.

Chris Charlesworth

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