Apr 7 – An intrepid group of 15 birders met up with myself and Michael Force at the Apple Bowl in Kelowna this morning. Weather was not perfect as we encountered showers and even snow today at high elevations, but that said, we had a great day of birding nonetheless. Before we even left the parking area Gwynneth Wilson pointed out
an Osprey sailing overhead, a first of the year for many present. Our first official stop was along Mission Creek in Kelowna where it didn’t take us too long to find our target species, a Western Screech-Owl roosting happily in a cedar tree. This was an excellent start to the trip indeed! A pair of Wood Ducks flew overhead which was a little bit of a surprise here.
Our next stop was at Robert Lake where we quickly added a bundle of birds to our trip list with many ducks present; Ruddy Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Canvasback, Redhead, Northern Shoveler,
Green-winged Teal and several others. Yellow-headed Blackbirds were about in numbers here and somebody pointed out an adult Peregrine Falcon sitting in a snag to the north. Over the lake a Northern Harrier sailed by, and on a fence post on the far side of the lake I put a male Mountain Bluebird in the scope. Fran Pattison pointed out several Killdeer in a grassy field near the lake, our first for the trip while others noted Violet-green and Tree swallows. We were off to a roaring start.
After a coffee stop at Timmy’s in Lake Country we headed up Beaver Lake Road. Near the bottom of the road we encountered a flock of nearly 200 Mountain Bluebirds which was quite a sight to see. These, along with scores of American Robins, were most likely knocked down by the rains. Western Meadowlarks were numerous as we toddled up the road and Monica Nugent pointed out one of the better birds of the morning, a Vesper Sparrow hopping about in the grass. On a distant hillside I spotted a Golden Eagle on a snag so I put the scope on it and everyone enjoyed the rather distant view. In
between rain storms we had a little raptor movement with Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier and Sharp-shinned Hawk counted. We entered the forest habitat at about km 6 and the rain began to fall once again, so we had a lunch break and hid out in the vehicles. After lunch the rain stopped and the birding continued with sightings of our first Mountain Chickadee and Red-breasted Nuthatch of the trip. Near the km 11 cattleguard the birding really picked up as we noted a migrant group of American Robins with at least one Varied Thrush embedded within. A Red-naped Sapsucker showed nicely while another called in the distance. A male Hairy Woodpecker
whacked away on a tree stump at point blank and Monica scored again, this time by spotting an adult Northern Goshawk perched in a fir tree. Down a little side path I tried my best Barred Owl imitation and just as we were about to leave, the bird answered, calling several times. To top it off, two Ruffed Grouse were seen in the area as well. Farther up the road the weather conditions deteriorated and at Beaver Lk Lodge we were involved in a full on snow storm. We didn’t add anything different up there, so we turned around and began our descent. Along the way down, Pam Laing came on the radio and said she had found a Western Bluebird, a first for the day. Our third Ruffed Grouse was also tallied on the descent as well. At dinner we tallied up our list for the day; 61 species.
Apr 8 – This morning as we gathered at the Apple Bowl, all eyes were turned to the skies as we assessed the weather, which was considerably better than the previous day. There was a lot of blue sky as we drove south through Kelowna towards Peachland, where our first stop was Hardy Falls. Before we had left the parking area we saw several good birds including a pair of Say’s Phoebes, Spotted Towhee, and several Cassin’s Finches. As we
walked up along the creek we watched intently for American Dippers, our target species here. Lou Davidson and Mary-Jean Payeur had been here two days before and said they had no trouble finding dippers, and neither did we. Paul Malkinson spotted the dipper as it foraged, and we all enjoyed lengthy looks. A male Downy Woodpecker showed nicely as he pecked away at the trunk of an alder.
In Summerland we stopped in at Trout Ck Point to look for Long-eared Owls. We didn’t find any owls, but we did see an adult Northern Shrike as a consolation prize. Our next stop was in Penticton along Okanagan Lake where we hoped we could see some gulls. As it was a nice sunny morning there were many people out and about walking on the beach, and alas no gulls. OK, there were three Ring-billed Gulls, but we had hoped for a little more variety. Out on the water we added Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Lesser and Greater scaup, and Common Merganser. Next, we stopped in downtown Penticton where
Great Horned Owls are nesting. Two large, fluffy chicks were preening and jostling with each other in the nest while the adult sat nearby with her eyes shut. Once we’d had our fill of owls we carried on south to White Lake Road where our first stop was at Three Gates Farm. Here, we had views of all three species of nuthatches, with the White-breasted Nuthatch being the only one we saw on the tour. It was here, at Three Gates Farm, that we encountered our first of many Sandhill Cranes today, as about 150 sailed over, calling wildly as they drifted north. We stopped next at White Lake where the parade of Sandhill Cranes continued as flocks of hundreds went overhead. After a couple of hours we estimated we had seen about 2000 cranes. Raptors were also moving through at White Lake with Red-tailed, Rough-legged, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s hawks, Northern Harrier,
Bald Eagle, American Kestrel and several Golden Eagles were noted. Western Meadowlarks sang from all directions, but perhaps the best sighting of all at this location was a Long-billed Curlew in flight over the lake. Vying for top bird at White Lake, up to three Gray Partridge were found not far west of the observatory. At Park Rill we stopped at the cattleguard and had a few passerines moving through the roadside vegetation with Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, a singing Pacific Wren and a calling Fox Sparrow of note.
At Vaseux Lake we visited the cliffs where we heard, but did not see, a Canyon Wren. Another Golden Eagle soared over the top of the cliffs and a ewe Bighorn Sheep was scoped from a distance as she looked down on us. We drove on to Oliver, where we spent
the night, and after a delicious dinner at Gecko’s Grill, we headed to Road 22 at dusk. Owls played hard to get tonight, though we did hear a Great Horned Owl hooting. Several Wilson’s Snipe were heard winnowing, and a pack of Coyotes howled away at the moon.
April 9 – Before we left out motel at Tucelnuit Lake we tallied a group of Wood Ducks grazing in the grass. At Road 22 we met up with Al and Paul and explored the fields near the bridge. Monica Nugent spotted a pair of Long-billed Curlews in the fields to the south
of the road. Flocks of Violet-green and Tree swallows had a few Northern Rough-winged Swallows mixed in. Mike Force picked out the buzzy call of a Lincoln’s Sparrow in a weedy patch and the bird was eventually heard by most of us as it burst into song. Two or more Savannah Sparrows appeared at the same time, along with Song and White-crowned sparrows. Along the southeast dyke at Road 22 the good birding continued with sightings of Northern Harriers coursing over a wetland and several Downy Woodpeckers foraged in trees along the dyke. Two Hooded Mergansers were spotted as they drifted down the river, the only seen on the tour. A Marsh Wren sang in the distance from a patch of
reeds, though the bird remained unseen. One of the highlights was the appearance of a flock of about 30 American White Pelicans that were flying north up the valley. Before leaving Road 22, on a small pond on the south side of the road, I picked out three Cinnamon Teal, two males and a female.
After a short coffee stop in Osoyoos we climbed up Anarchist Mountain where we stopped in a larch stand along Wagon Wheel Road. We got out of the cars, looked up in the sky, and realized were in the midst of a raptor migration once again. Rough-legged Hawks were everywhere, with 16 estimated in various kettles. Mixed in were Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawk,
Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle and an immature Golden Eagle. After the raptor-fest was over we turned our attention to Williamson’s Sapsuckers and after a few minutes of looking we had a pair of these rare and beautiful woodpeckers fly in an give us excellent views. A stroll through the larch trees here produced several day birds; Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and a few new birds for the tour as well such as Brown Creeper and Red Crossbill.
Our last stop of the tour was at The Throne, near Road 22. We walked in to an area where Paul and Al had seen a few interesting species the previous afternoon. At the cliffs we flushed a couple of Chukar and had a great view of a Rock Wren, as one more sang from nearby. The Rock Wren poked its head into a little crack and startled a Bushy-tailed Woodrat that hopped out and chased the wren briefly. Canyon Wrens were also singing
and calling, but remained unseen. Mike Force spotted a Peregrine Falcon sitting on a ledge and we enjoyed scope views. Eventually another Peregrine, this one a larger female, arrived and the two called as they sailed by, landing once again. We watched the white flowers of a currant bush for a Calliope Hummingbird and we were rewarded eventually the sighting of a male. There was quite a stunning show of Yellow Bells, with both shades of red and yellow dotting the arid landscape. Two more American White Pelicans drifted north overhead, and the sounds of Sandhill Cranes trickled down from the sky above. We said our goodbyes and parted ways. The grand total of birds for the trip was 106 species, a respectable total. Thanks to all who came along and made for a fun and enjoyable trip with excellent company.
Chris Charlesworth, Avocet Tours
American White Pelican
Great Horned Owl
N. Rough-winged Swallow
Columbian Ground Squirrel
E. Fox Squirrel