Day 1, May 29 – At YYC the group of 5 familiar faces and 2 more that classify as ‘new blood’ all from the U.K., this evening. We headed for our hotel in Calgary and went off pretty much straight to bed. The time change had them beaten tonight.
Day 2, May 30 – After breakfast we headed south from Calgary to High River where we had a short pit stop before making our way to Frank Lake. Along the way to Frank Lake we were side-tracked by several ponds and puddles, most of them teeming with shorebirds, waterfowl and the likes. Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Mallard, Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal and Lesser Scaup dabbled and dove for food
, while along the shore Willet, American Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper and lovely breeding plumage Wilson’s Phalaropes foraged. Our first Red-winged Blackbirds were seen, though soon thereafter we had all but forgotten their beauty before a steel, blue male Tree Swallows stole the show. A few less spectacular, but still charismatic birds followed, such as Clay-colored and Savannah Sparrows and overhead groups of calling Franklin’s Gulls. A walk along the shore of the lake was very enjoyable this morning, partly due to the lovely sunny and calm weather, and partly due to the sheer number of birds present. Waterfowl on the lake included Canvasback, Redhead, Bufflhead, Ring-necked Duck, and Ruddy Duck, the latter always a bird that folks from the U.K. like to see. Ruddy Ducks, are an introduced bird and species considered invasive in Europe. This is due to the fact that Ruddy Ducks interbreed with the rare White-headed Duck in Spain, so authorities have shot and killed all but a very few of them in the U.K. Grebes including dozens of Eared
Grebes and up to a dozen elegant Western Grebes provided us with entertainment. White-faced Ibis numbers increased through the morning, nearing 15 by the time we went for lunch. Several Black-crowned Night-Herons slowly flapped as they went by, and the sky was abuzz with noisy Franklin’s Gulls. Forster’s Terns foraged around the perimeter of the lake, while in the marshes ringing the water there was a cacophony of songs permeating the air as Yellow-headed and Red-winged blackbirds chattered and Marsh Wrens and Common Yellowthroats sang. A lonely American White Pelican floated out on the lake, and a couple of Great Blue Herons were nice to see this fine morning. Soras called, but remained, as usual, hidden in the reeds. We returned to High River for lunch and after that we had a look around the parking lot, finding our only Common Grackles for the tour. A female and brood of Common Mergansers, or Goosanders as the Brits call them, were on a small wastewater pond.
After lunch we returned to Frank Lake area, this time exploring a range road north of the lake itself. In the farm fields were Vesper Sparrows and a few singing Horned Larks. Gray Partridge scurried across the road in front of us, and by the end of the day we had seen quite a few of them. Swainson’s Hawks were numerous this afternoon and we saw several sitting on nests. Another bonus sighting was a fluffy young Great Horned Owl sitting in a nest in a hedge row. Lucky for ‘The Brits’ I had been through this area the previous week with my own tour group as we covered Southern Alberta, so I knew where a few things were hiding. Richardson’s Ground-Squirrels scampered about, keeping watchful eyes to the sky for raptors. We returned to the blind at the lake where we enjoyed lovely views of Marbled Godwits and a rather ungainly Black-necked Stilt. It had been a lovely day, we all agreed, as we made our way back to Calgary.
Day 3, May 31 – Again, a sunny morning greeted us for our morning drive, which today, took us through the western suburbs of Calgary to Cochrane. From here we explored a couple of roads, which I won’t name, but I’ll describe what we found. Along the first road we cruised into the forested habitat, interspersed with open fields, where Great Gray Owls could be found. I told the group to keep their eyes on the fence posts for potential owls, and not long after this advice, Jean shouted ‘there!’ It was a Great Gray Owl, and he
was hunting from a fence line in an open meadow. We watched him searching for prey and eventually he leapt from his perch into the grass, but seemed to come up empty handed. This, no doubt, will remain the bird of the tour for many, if not all, on the trip. After drinking in the magnificent sighting of the Great Gray we carried on searching for birds and we found some nice ones such as Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a nice Boreal Chickadee. We focused on finding ‘eastern’ species today and did quite well; Tennessee Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Blue Jays, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, White-throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Le Conte’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper to name a few. We heard several Yellow Rails, but did not see them. The same goes for Sora. Mammal of the day was a cow Moose with her calf, trotting, in an ungainly manner, up a wooded gully. We then drove on to Canmore,
nestled in amongst the Rocky Mountains.
Day 4, June 1 – At 6 AM we left our hotel and headed for Banff, spotting a herd of Elk along the way. We explored Vermilion Lakes this morning, and our first bird was perhaps our best bird, a lovely male Blackpoll Warbler. Warbling Vireos, White-crowned Sparrow, American Redstart and Willow Flycatcher all showed nicely, as did an obliging ‘Slate-colored’ Fox Sparrow. Paul D. spotted one of the best mammals of the day, a Beaver, as it slowly drifted about in the water. Throughout this tour over and over again, the participants commented on the sheer beauty of the locations I took them to. Vermilion Lakes, with its placid waters and stunning views of Mount Rundle, certainly did not disappoint.
The nagging feeling of hunger and the dull and steady shakes of coffee withdrawl drove us into a Melissa’s Missteak, a restaurant in Banff, where we had breakfast. The weather was very much off and on today and we experienced a bit of everything from cold rain
and wind, with temperatures just a few degrees above freezing, to warm and sunny periods. We slowly cruised down roads, hoping for wildlife to appear and it did. We saw Mule and White-tailed deer, the latter of which were wagging their stunning white tails in the air as they dashed away. Up on a grassy slope above us I put the scope on a herd of Bighorn Sheep as they grazed. We stopped to do some birding at various view points and picnic areas today, with our first such a stop yielding views of Bufflehead, Common Loon and Ring-necked Duck on a distant wetland. A lovely male Rufous Hummingbird sat atop a young Douglas Fir right next to the busy railway track as massive trains barreled past. We were plagued this day, by ‘looky loos’, people that just have to stop and ask what you are looking at. Perhaps they don’t speak English so they get themselves right into the
middle of the group to make sure they’re not missing anything. Whenever our van pulled over, there was immediately a mini traffic jam behind us, as people stopped to see what we had found. Most of the time it was a bird, and we found many today, with Wilson’s Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Townsend’s Warbler and Hammond’s Flycatcher to name just a few.
At Muleshoe Picnic Area we were entertained by a pair of American Three-toed Woodpeckers that were poking around in the aspens. A pair of Hairy Woodpeckers showed nicely here as well, and just as we were about to leave I spotted a Pileated Woodpecker peering out of a nest hole! Next, we had lunch and then hiked up into Johnston Canyon, where water levels were unexpectedly high. This is probably the reason we saw no dippers here today, and the rushing water also made it rather hard to pick out the calls of other birds nearby. The scenery in the canyon was spectacular, and this alone, if nothing else, made the walk very worthwhile.
At Lake Louise we joined the throngs of tourists as they admired one of Canada’s more
scenic lakes. It was cold up here today, and a light rain fell as we visited the area. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the entertaining tactics of the Clark’s Nutcrackers as they swooped about in the parking lot for scraps. Also lingering around the edges of the parking lot were Gray Jays and Black-billed Magpies. Before we got back into the van I located an American Porcupine as it munched on grasses on a roadside hill. After snapping as many photos as we wanted of the porcupine, a creature we all decided was rather un-photogenic to begin with, we made the return trip to Canmore.
Day 5, June 2 – To finish off our Rockies experience we set off for Moraine Lake, one of the region’s most beautiful lakes and certainly one of the best known scenic areas in the country. It was cold, with mixed overcast skies and there was a breeze. Much of the lake was still covered in ice, though we did see several Barrow’s Goldeneye about. There were a few birds about, including Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped (Audubon’s) Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Dark-eyed Juncos, Boreal Chickadee, and a couple of Pine Grosbeaks that disappeared before they could be officially tallied to the list. Along the way up here this morning we saw a lovely Snowshoe Hare, sporting nifty white ‘socks’.
The next portion of our journey took us along Hwy 1, through Golden, where we paused for lunch, and on to the Beaver Valley. We had some exceptional sightings at Beaver Valley, with the best for me being a male Magnolia Warbler, an eastern species that inhabits moist, wooded forests in the Rocky Mountains. Other nice warblers today included our first views of MacGillivray’s Warbler, which was a skulking little so and so, as is so often the case. We had nice looks at a showy male American Redstart as he pranced about through the trees. Three Chestnut-backed Chickadees came down to check us out, perhaps stealing ‘award’ for the most attractive North American chickadee species. We scoured the hillsides and forests for bears, but came only as close as several piles of bear dung. The wildflowers were lovely, and Penny
went to great effort to identify as many of them as possible. Some of the more prevalent flowers in the mountains included milk-vetch, lupines, Arrow-leaved Balsam Root, Heart-leaved Arnica and one of the more attractive varieties, an orchid known as a Fairyslipper.
Following the winding highway from the Kicking Horse pass, and back up into Rogers Pass, we eventually found ourselves on the outskirts of Revelstoke at the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk. The bird was exceptional as usual at this location, with birds in full song including American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroats, Northern Waterthrush, Varied Thrush, Gray Catbird, Veery, Warbling Vireo and Song Sparrow all adding to the cacophony. Rufous Hummingbirds put on a lovely show here, zipping too and fro, buzzing noisily as they sped by. Males were engaged in aerial displays, where they climbed high into the sky and then plummeted straight down
towards the ground, pulling up at the last moment with an emphatic buzzy call at the end. Giant Skunk Cabbage plants covered the ground beneath the boardwalk, which took us through a flooded forest of cedars, willow and alder. Fluff balls from cottonwood trees drifted through the air, giving the effect of snowfall drifting down on a warm, breezy spring day. Following the Eagle River down through Sicamous, we soon found ourselves driving along the south shore of Shuswap Lake, where we found our next port of call, Salmon Arm. We visited a local pub for dinner this evening, and we had a great time. In fact, this group meshed so well together, providing excellent company throughout the holiday. Paul C. is ridiculously funny and had us in stitches whenever there was a break in the birding.
Day 6, June 3 – Before breakfast we made our way down to the pier in Salmon Arm to check out the birds on Shuswap Lake. Before we even left the parking lot we had seen Cedar Waxwings, House Finches, Northern Rough-winged Swallow and American Goldfinch. Down at the pier it was a lovely morning. We scanned through dozens of elegant Western Grebes and I found a single Clark’s Grebe after a bit of searching. The Clark’s was paired up with a Western Grebe and the two swimming side by side together made for an excellent comparison. Other birds noted here included a locally rare Sanderling, spotting by Isabel, and a pair of Caspian Terns, also an uncommon species in the B.C. interior. From the pier we walked a short distance down a little boardwalk
towards a wetland where Pied-billed Grebes were nesting. Other waterfowl nestled away at this wetland included Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal, Hooded Merganser, Gadwall and American Wigeon. Yellow-headed Blackbirds were constantly within earshot, and we decided that this bird would not win the prize for the best songster of the local avifauna. We returned to our hotel on the hill for breakfast, then loaded up the van with our luggage, before returning to the waterfront of Salmon Arm to carry on with our explorations. A stop at Peter Jannink Nature Park provided us with a different perspective on the bay, and there were songbird tucked away in the shrubs such as Willow Flycatcher, House Finch, Common Yellowthroat, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing and American Goldfinch. We watched a Muskrat devour some vegetation, our only one for the entire tour, and at one point today a Water Vole dashed across the trail in front of us. Ospreys seemed to be everywhere
around Salmon Arm, and we saw a few Bald Eagles today as well. Our walk to Christmas Island got cut a little short by flooding, as this year proved over and over again to be the wettest on record. Luckily for us, however, we enjoyed mostly fantastic weather throughout our entire tour! A colony of Ring-billed Gulls had been displaced by the flooding and they were gathered on the busy railway and on the viewing platform that no person in their right mind would attempt to climb onto at this stage.
A pub patio on the lake shore provided the backdrop for our lunch today, and we were routinely interrupted by sightings of Osprey, Great Blue Heron and other species. After lunch we began the journey to Kamloops, which only took about 1.5 hours, and was very scenic as the Trans Canada Hwy took us along the Thompson River. The habitat changed quickly, from wet forest to sage covered grasslands around Kamloops, but many of the group may have missed this rather sudden change as a few appeared to be snoozing in
the back of the van. Once in Kamloops we made our way to an area of grasslands near town where we saw the usual residents of semi-arid desert habitat, such as Western Meadowlarks, Clay-colored and Vesper sparrows, American Kestrel, Mountain Bluebird and Black-billed Magpies. Farther along we found some patches of aspens where birds were numerous. Dusky Flycatchers sang and eventually perched long enough for everyone to get scope views. We had our first rather stunning Red-naped Sapsuckers here, as well as Western Tanager and a gorgeous male Lazuli Bunting. We finished off the day with tasty meal at Boston Pizza. As usual, nobody
starved on this trip and we enjoyed good meals at 99% of the places we went to eat.
Day 7, June 4 – Our luck with the weather continued as we enjoyed mostly sunny conditions today, once again. We made our way to Tranquille, an area along the N.E. corner of Kamloops Lake. Upon arrival the gate was locked so we parked and walked in along the dirt track. Just as we were pulling up to the gate, I spotted a Peregrine Falcon chasing pigeons near an old barn. Not a bad start! Though the mosquitoes were quite hungry here this morning, we still enjoyed the walk, along which we found birds including Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Downy Woodpecker, and our first Say’s Phoebes of the tour. Several chunky Yellow-bellied Marmots entertained us as well as they peeked at us from their hiding spots along the road. Next, we picked up lunch and took it with us up the Paul Lake Road. Our first stop, along the creekside habitat at the Paul Creek Trail, produced views of Veery, Red-eyed Vireo and a cheeky little Nashville Warbler. Farther along the road we found some ponds and lakes where we had Barrow’s
Goldeneye, Ruddy Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks and other wetland species. We had lunch at Louis Lake, where we watched loons diving in the placid waters.
After lunch we headed up to Harper Mountain Ski area. It was the middle of the day and birds were not overly active, however I did pique the interest of Mountain Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Dark-eyed Juncos and our first Cassin’s Vireo of the tour. I had planned on heading to the ski slopes to look for bears but when we arrived we found hundreds of people had gathered there for mountain bike races. Abandoning Harper Mountain we found ourselves next at Paul
Lake Campground, where a stroll through the mixed forest produced some nice birds. We had great looks at warblers here including Nashville, Orange-crowned, and the usually quite elusive MacGillivray’s Warbler. This particular MacGillivay’s had obviously not read the manual on being a member of that species and staying hidden in the thick bushes. We returned to Kamloops and enjoyed Indian food at a buffet restaurant with an incredible view over the city.
Day 8, June 5 – From Kamloops we climbed up and out of the Thompson River Valley and made our way onto the plateau of grasslands, dotted with lakes and wetlands. Our first stop was at Separation Lake, where we found it to be rather cool and breezy this morning. There were a few ducks around; Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck and Redhead, as
well as Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer. On a distant fence post we found our 4th species of owl, a Short-eared Owl, and another new addition to our growing list was a singing male Horned Lark. Our next stop was along Planet Mine Road, where towering Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir dot the grassland landscape, making for perfect habitat for Lewis’s Woodpeckers. We found a pair of nesting Lewis’s in an old pine snag, and watched for 20 minutes or so, as the adults came in to feed young. Also nesting in the same tree was a Pygmy Nuthatch and each time the nuthatch approached, the woodpecker swiftly saw it off. Gliding over the hills, I spotted our only Black Swifts of the tour, and though they were a bit distant, they counted nonetheless. A Common Nighthawk, surprisingly the only one seen by our group on this tour, flapped by over the horizon. At Beaver Ranch Flats, always a great stop, we watched a M
arsh Wren build a nest at close range to us, every now and again nipping up to the top of the reeds to let out some noisy chatter. Common Yellowthroat, a bird we saw over and over again on this trip, showed nicely. Numbers of waterbirds seemed to be down from what I remember in recent years, perhaps due to the high water levels. Nonetheless, there were dozens of Eared Grebes, several Pied-billed Grebes, American Coot, Redhead, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Shoveler and Lesser Scaup to name a few species present. A stop at Quilchena for Vaux’s Swift was successful, but ended abruptly as we noticed the mosquitoes were extremely thirsty here, so we carried on a little farther along the shore of Nicola Lake and had lunch. As we ate, up to 4 Common Loons played in the calm waters, while a Pileated Woodpecker whacked away at the trunk of a large cottonwood, before flying off up the
hillside, calling all the way. We left Hwy 5A at Merritt and followed the Okanagan Connector back towards Kelowna, our destination for the next two nights. Along the way, we popped in to say hi to my better half Cindy, and our one year old boy Carsen. Always on point, Cindy had coffee and cookies out for us to snack on while we checked out what was visiting our feeders. Black-chinned and Rufous hummingbirds jostled for position at the hummingbird feeders, while Pine Siskins nibbled thistles. At the seed feeder were Cassin’s Finches and best of all several Evening Grosbeaks, the only ones we saw on the entire tour it turns out. Carrying on into Kelowna, we crossed Okanagan Lake via the Bennett Bridge and headed for our hotel via a rather roundabout and scenic route that took us into the downtown and along the waterfront, up and over Dilworth Mtn. We had dinner, along with Cindy and Carsen, at Montana’s, where the ribs were scrumptious.
Day 9, June 6 – Before breakfast we headed out to Sutherland Hills Park, a pine-clad forest along the edge of Mission Creek in Kelowna. This is the area I grew up in and these hills I have visited many times before, so I knew exactly where to look for a roosting Western Screech-Owl, though the bird wasn’t in the tree I thought it might be. After a little searching, and we could hear two birds calling, a male and a female, and we saw the female of the pair. Everyone had lovely scope views and we let them be in peace. Up into Sutherland Hills, I led the group to a tree where a male Calliope Hummingbird has
sat every June in the last 15 years, and there he was again today, glowing in the morning sunlight. Not a bad start to the day.
We returned to the hotel, had breakfast, and then began exploring the Joe Rich Valley and Big White area, east of Kelowna. Our first stop was a bit of grassland along Hwy 33 where we had Western Kingbirds, Western Meadowlark, Brewer’s Blackbirds and Red-tailed Hawk. Along Goudie Road we saw a gorgeous male Western Bluebird, potentially nesting in one of the next boxes along the fence line. Quite a few other open country bird species appeared here as well such as Lazuli Bunting, Vesper Sparrow and Tree Swallows. In the coniferous forests along Sun Valley Road we encountered our first Steller’s Jays of the tour, along with a mob of other passerines such as Townsend’s Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Western Tanager and Dark-eyed Juncos. A Pileated
Woodpecker showed nicely at the top of a dead cedar tree, calling loudly before flying off. We took a detour down Philpott Road, hoping for Ruffed Grouse or N. Pygmy Owl, but we didn’t find either of them. We did find a lovely nest of Townsend’s Solitaire with 4 eggs in it however. Also, we had a Hairy Woodpecker coming and going from a nest hole in an aspen.
We had lunch where Mission Creek and Belgo Creek converge on Three Forks Road. Isabel and Peter perched themselves right on the edge of the rushing creek, which proved to be a smart move since they spotted the American Dipper first. There were two adults and they appeared to be foraging for food for young. As soon as they caught some larva or other insects the adults would fly upstream towards the bridge under which they nest. With the dipper ‘in the bag’, so to speak, we carried on towards Big White, the local ski hill. A little exploration of the spruce / fir forest near the ski village, turned up some goodies such as Boreal Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Wilson’s Warbler and Fox Sparrow, but best of all a singing male Varied Thrush, a target bird for several people on the tour. Once at the ski village of Big White, everyone was shocked to find a city up in
the middle of nowhere. We had a look at some feeders where Steller’s Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos, Mountain Chickadees and the likes were coming in to gather any leftovers. On the ground beneath the feeders were Red Squirrels, Columbian Ground-Squirrels and several cute little Yellow Pine Chipmunks. We had a much needed cup of coffee before making the descent of the mountain. Dinner in Kelowna at an Asian buffet was excellent, and we were joined again by Cindy and Carsen, as well as my two brothers, Connor and Cory.
Day 10, June 7 – This morning we left Kelowna and after stopping to pick up lunch in West Kelowna, we carried on south to White Lake Road. Our first stop was at Three Gates
Farm where my friend Doreen let us watch feeders that had Black-chinned, Calliope and Rufous hummingbirds, Cassin’s Finches, Spotted Towhees, Pine Siskins and our first looks at the rather attractive Black-headed Grosbeak. All three nuthatches, White-breasted, Pygmy and the omnipresent Red-breasted Nuthatch, were tallied in the pine trees at Doreen’s place.
We then took in the sagebrush habitat around White Lake itself. It didn’t take us long to find a couple of uncommon and local target species including Brewer’s Sparrows and the nationally endangered Sage Thrasher. The thrashers (we saw two of them), were singing from the tops of the sage and from fence posts, and posing nicely for scope views. After White Lake we stopped at Mahoney Lake where a short walk produced another of the day’s target bird species, a Gray Flycatcher. After a short stop in Okanagan Falls we ventured up a bumpy logging road that climbs into the mountains east of town. We found a quiet, cool and shady spot along Dutton Creek to have lunch. I imitated a Northern Pygmy-Owl, since the habitat looked promising, and it didn’t take long for the tiny owl to respond and come in to check me out. As if that weren’t already enough, a Barred Owl started calling
and we tracked him down in his roosting spot. Owls number 6 and 7 for the tour! Vying for our attention, our first Pacific Wren, a tiny buffy colored wren that inhabits the west coast of North America, bobbed up and down on fallen branches along the little creek.
A brief stop along Road 22 to scan through the hay fields turned up a couple of distant male Bobolinks, as well as all the other usual suspects. We headed to Osoyoos, checked in to our hotel, and then went for a delicious dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Campo Marina.
Our day wasn’t finished yet, as several of us made our way back out to Road 22 at dusk to do some owling. We saw an adult Great Horned Owl twice along the telephone wires, but we decided it was probably two sightings of the same bird. Water was everywhere, with all the usual fields and meadows covered in feet of it. As a result, mosquito populations had exploded at Road 22. The bugs chased us off and we headed for Kilpoola Lake Road, on the west side of town. Scanning the road for Common Poorwills as we bumped up the dirt road, produced no sightings, but whenever we got out of the vehicle we could hear poorwills calling. We heard the soft ‘boot’ calls of a Flammulated Owl high in the trees and after about 30 minutes of trying to see the bird, we were finally rewarded as the tiny, cryptically colored owl, perched on bare branches and flew from tree to tree as we watched in the moonlight. Our 8th species of owl for the tour was special indeed!
Day 11, June 8 – We returned to Road 22 this morning, and found it to be quite pleasant as cool morning temperatures and a breeze kept the mozzies away, for the most part. A
walk to the arid cliffs of ‘The Throne’ was very enjoyable. We had excellent luck with the cliff dwelling birds this morning, as Canyon and Rock wren both appeared and let us enjoy scope views. A Chukar perched on a boulder, also cooperating enough so we could scope him. A nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons gave us plenty of entertainment, and high above the cliffs we found White-throated Swifts sailing by. Not only were the birds fantastic, but the flowers and plants were also stunning.
Back at the hay field on Road 22 we had even better looks this morning at Bobolink, as several males engaged in flight songs over the swaying grasses. We were treated to great views of a Yellow-breasted Chat, the odd man out, when it comes to North American warblers. In a little corner of marsh we finally got the views of Sora that we had been hoping for. As if that wasn’t already enough, we had views of a Virginia Rail as it skulked about in the reeds.
Leaving Road 22, we stopped to pick up lunch in Osoyoos before climbing up to Anarchist Mountain. The weather began to change as we arrived at our destination, and a light rain, accompanied by strong winds kept us on our toes. Several big branches began falling off trees so we decided to get out of the forest before anything else started to come down. From the road we could hear our target species, a Williamson’s Sapsucker, calling in the larch trees. Eventually the male Williamson’s, an attractive study in black, white, yellow and red, appeared on an open trunk next to us. OOohhs and ahhhhs ensued. As if we weren’t already feeling lucky enough, Paul and Sue D shouted, ‘Stop!’, as we drove back towards Osoyoos. I backed up the van and in the side of a large dirt mound there were 3
American Badgers peering out of a den. Wow, my first sighting in B.C. We enjoyed dinner so much the previous night at Campo Marina, we returned again tonight.
Day 12, June 9 – It was not easy leaving the Okanagan Valley this morning, as the lovely sunshine bathed the lakes and vineyards, but that’s exactly what we did. We stopped at the Nighthawk Border Crossing for just one last taste of sagebrush birding. Vesper, Lark and Brewer’s sparrows were all of note, and we saw our last Western Meadowlark and Mountain bluebirds of the tour. As we neared Princeton, along the Similkameen River, a few of us caught a glimpse of a female Harlequin Duck as she raced towards shore in the rapids. The Beaver Pond in Manning Park kept us occupied for about half an hour, and we really enjoyed the excellent views
of several species of swallow feeding low over the water. Violet-green Swallows were particularly stunning, with some lovely colors, as the name implies. A Song Sparrow fed a baby Brown-headed Cowbird chick, the latter species, of course, being parasitic. In the trees overhead were Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s and Townsend’s warblers, Warbling Vireos, Chipping Sparrows and more. An Olive-sided Flycatcher put on a nice show as it returned several times to the same perch after sallying out for insects. At the Manning Park Lodge we had lunch with, while the Clark’s Nutcackers, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Ravens and Columbian Ground-Squirrels all try and steal your attention, or even try to steal your lunch if you’re not careful. We
took a drive down to Strawberry Flats, finding a large pile of bear poop, but unfortunately, no bear. A little exploration of the trails at Strawberry Flats proved to be exciting. There was still snow on the trails, and I decided to wear my sandals today. Sightings of note included a gorgeous Red-breasted Sapsucker as well as a Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Hermit Thrush, and some very tame Gray Jays. This species, now widely regarded as Canada’s national bird, often comes in to beg for scraps and that is exactly what they did to us. Wrapping things up in Manning Park, we carried on to Hope, where we had a short coffee break, before completing the final leg of the journey to our hotel in Richmond. Dinner tonight, at the hockey arena, was very Canadian (it’s called Stanley’s Grill).
Day 13, June 10 – From Richmond we took advantage of a weekend morning and drove right smack dab through the middle of downtown Vancouver. It was yet another sunny morning and we enjoyed the scenery as we crossed English Bay on the impressive Lions Gate Bridge. The drive out to West Vancouver’s Lighthouse Park was very nice, with good views of the ocean and some impressive houses to daydream about. Not long after we had left the van and started walking the trail a young man asked, ‘Would you like to see a big owl?’. ‘Yes, of course’, we replied, and he pointed out a Barred Owl perched atop a stump not far from the edge of the path. We soon found that there was a fledged chick
sitting nearby as well, explaining the adults daytime hunting behavior. Typical west coast temperate rainforest species were present this morning; Pacific Wrens, Brown Creeper, Townsend’s Warbler, Hutton’s Vireo, Spotted Towhee, Swainson’s Thrush, etc. By the lighthouse itself we were treated to excellent views of both Rufous and Anna’s hummingbirds, the latter, our fourth species of hummingbird for the tour. New for the mammal list was a Douglas’s Squirrel, the coastal equivalent to the Red Squirrel.
We picked up lunch at Safeway and took it down with us to Ambleside Park where we sat on the driftwood on the beach and ate. Glaucous-winged Gulls and Northwestern Crows eyed up our lunches. Jean made a scientific discovery, that Northwestern Crows don’t like salt and vinegar chips. Out on the ocean we had our first good views of Pelagic Cormorant, a slighter bird than the nearby Double-crested Cormorants. Five Harlequin Ducks were seen at Ambleside Park, as were our first Bushtits, as a little group of them foraged in trees next to a little pond. Harbor Seals poked their heads out from the water, investigating all the happenings on the shore. The view from Ambleside was also rather nice, with the city in the background, and large tankers entering the bay underneath the Lions Gate Bridge.
After lunch we visited Maplewood Flats, a Wild Bird Trust property, in North Vancouver. Some feeders at the park entrance had our first Purple Finch of the trip, as well as Black-capped Chickadee, America Goldfinch and Bushtit. We scanned the poles out in the water for Purple Martins, but didn’t find any. There was, however, an Osprey and its mate sitting on a nest. I found our one and only Pigeon Guillemot for the tour, here, and we got even better looks at the ‘shag-like’ Pelagic Cormorant. Continuing on our loop walk of the property, we ran into a few little groups of Black-capped Chickadees, Bushtits and Song Sparrows, and eventually I found our one and only Black-throated Gray Warbler of the tour here. Tonight marked the final dinner of the tour, and we celebrated an excellent trip over good foods, good drinks and good company at Boston Pizza. Sounds a bit like an advertisement doesn’t it?
Day 14, June 11 – Our final day of birding in Canada, and we set out with an ambitious goal, to find 7 new species for the trip and bring the list to 220 birds. We began at Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty where several Black Oystercatchers showed very nicely, one pair
with a couple of cute, little, fuzzy and black chicks. Scanning through the Glaucous-winged, California and Ring-billed gulls I was able to pick out a single immature Mew Gull, and out on the water we scoped both Surf and White-winged scoters. With just three more birds to go, and most of the day to find them, we headed the Reifel Refuge with confidence. On the way we stopped in to look for a Barn Owl that was not home. However, we were rewarded with our 5th new bird of the day, a Bewick’s Wren. Once at Reifel we hoped for some lingering shorebirds, and we succeeded, finding a couple of Greater Yellowlegs, new bird number 6. The final bird of the tour, and a lovely one at that, was Purple Martin. Several were at nestboxes in the marshes of Reifel, and we later enjoyed up close and personal views of martins at Iona in Richmond before I took the group to the airport and we said our goodbyes. 220 species of birds is a new high count for me on the Rockies tour. We saw over 20 species of mammals as well. Thanks to everyone for coming along and making this a really enjoyable trip.