Aug 17 – Our International Ornithological Congress birding tour of the south Okanagan Valley began bright and early on Friday, August 17th, 2018. We met in downtown Vancouver at 6 a.m. and drove east up the Fraser Valley to find a good breakfast place and a quiet spot for some introductory birding. There were six participants, and four of them were from outside North America, so even the common species were exciting on the first day. A couple of stops in the eastern Fraser Valley got us started with Eurasian Collared Dove, Northern Flicker, Cedar Waxwing, Pine Siskin, and Orange-crowned Warbler.
At Hope we began the climb into the North Cascades; birds were quiet in the coastal rain forests on this western slope and the smoke from interior forest fires began to noticeably
thicken. At Manning Park we drove up into the subalpine meadows, where the air was clearer and birding was good. We saw Steller’s Jays, Canada Jays, Red-tailed Hawks, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets and Townsend’s Warblers in the spruce-fir forests.
After lunch we got back on the highway and continued east into the dry Interior forests around Princeton. At August Lake we had our first taste of waterbirds, adding Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe and American Coot, along with Western Wood-Pewee and Brewer’s Blackbird.
Driving east, the smoke became somewhat apocalyptic around Keremeos, so we just stopped to load up on peaches, nectarines, apricots and cherries (and California Quail) at a local fruit stand and continued on to the hotel in Osoyoos.
August 18 – The next morning, some of the group set out for some early morning birding west of Osoyoos, and the area was very birdy despite very thick smoke and dark conditions. We added Mourning Dove, Eastern Kingbird, Western Bluebird, Gray Catbird,
Cassin’s Finch, Spotted Towhee, Western Tanager, and Lazuli Bunting in a flurry of birding.
After breakfast we all travelled to the north end of Osoyoos Lake. A stop at the highway bridge over the lake netted Red-necked Grebe, Ring-billed and California Gulls and an Osprey. At the north end of the lake, the meadows were full of American Goldfinch and Red-winged Blackbirds, and the marshy ponds had Virginia Rail, Sora, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Snipe, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, an immature Bald Eagle and a Yellow-headed Blackbird. A Belted Kingfisher was a bonus along the Okanagan River.
Next was a stop at the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory, where bird numbers are monitored each fall through censuses and mist-netting. We were fortunate to find an Olive-sided Flycatcher in one of the nets, a species which breeds at higher elevations or further north.
We then drove west to the sagebrush grasslands of White Lake, where we had good views of Western Meadowlark and Vesper Sparrow. On the lake itself we added Baird’s Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper and Long-billed Dowitcher and an assortment of waterfowl.
After a short siesta at the hotel, we drove up Anarchist Mountain east of Osoyoos. The pine forests there had Mountain Chickadee and Pygmy Nuthatch, and the hummingbird feeders at our restaurant hosted Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds. After supper we spotted a Great Horned Owl silhouetted on a roadside powerline at dusk.
August 19 – Sunday morning dawned very smoky as well, so we headed back to the Kruger Mountain Road area after breakfast, where the birding was very good in the open, shrubby forest. A big flock of Violet-green Swallows lined the power lines, and in the shrubs we saw a good variety of species including Downy Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Cassin’s Vireo, House Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray Catbird, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskins, Northern Waterthrush, and Black-headed Grosbeak. At some local feeders
we added an Anna’s Hummingbird.
Then it was back on the highway for the return trip to Vancouver. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Lightning Lakes in Manning Park, attracting a flock of Canada Jays to our table and Chestnut-backed Chickadees in the forest close by. An afternoon walk at Strawberry Flats was quiet except for Dark-eyed Juncos, Golden-crowned Kinglets and a single White-winged Crossbill.
We arrived back in Vancouver tired and smoky, but we’d seen or heard 120 species of birds.
Great Blue Heron
Least Sandpiper (leader only)
Western Kingbird (leader only)
Nor. Rough-winged Swallow
Wilson’s Warbler (leader only)
Savannah Sparrow (leader only)