Archive for July, 2017

It was only 4:30am and already I was behind schedule as I neared the upper part of Shuttleworth Creek Rd. outside of Okanagan Falls where I was hoping to catch dawn chorus. I had been planning to camp on the lower part of the road to give myself a shot at Common Poorwill on the way up but at the last minute the night before I had revised my plan to try for a few owls along White Lake Rd. about 20mins away.

My alarm went off at 3:15 and I got ready to depart my roadside campsite near White Lake. The Common Poorwill that had been singing from upslope at dusk was silent, a pattern that would be repeated at all but one of my stops as I tried for nocturnal birds. By a small pond a couple Barn Swallows were chattering and a Common Nighthawk made its booming display overhead, my first two species of the day!

Next stop was a quick one along the highway south of Okanagan Falls. From the riparian strip and wetlands below I heard what turned out to be my only Veery of the day along with a Pied-billed Grebe, Gray Catbird and Willow Flycatcher. Already the first hints of a lightening in the sky were evident as I sped up Shuttleworth Creek Rd., fortunately a couple Common Poorwill passed across the road ahead of me, hawking insects.

At high elevations at last, I didn’t make it as far up the road as I had hoped before I started hearing the ethereal strains of Hermit and Swainson’s Thrush songs. Working my way back down towards the junction of Venner Meadows Rd., I picked up a few other regular upper elevation birds such as White-crowned and Lincoln’s Sparrow, Mountain Chickadee and MacGillivray’s and Orange-crowned Warbler. Overall though, there was not a whole lot of bird song, to be expected I suppose this late in the season but not a good sign for someone trying to pick up as many species in as short a time as possible! Despite spending more time than I had planned at the larches where Williamson’s Sapsuckers traditionally nest, I caught nary a whiff of one, it would turn out to be a poor day for Woodpeckers overall with only Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker and Red-naped Sapsucker found before I dropped down to the valley.

After striking out on the Williamson’s I made tracks for Venner Meadows a few Km up the road. Here my fortune changed and I quickly picked up several species that I would not find again such as Wilson’s Snipe, Northern Harrier, Green-winged Teal, Olive-sided and Hammond’s Flycatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Northern Waterthrush along with my first Red Crossbills and Mountain Bluebird.

Lower down, in the Ponderosa Pine forests a White-breasted Nuthatch was foraging near a flock of vocal Pygmy Nuthatches, rounding off the Nuthatch sweep (I had already found several Red-breasted). Dusky Flycatcher, Lark Sparrow and Lazuli Bunting quickly followed but I had to race to my next stop at Vaseux Lake as my dilly-dallying was slowly putting me further and further behind schedule.

Vaseux Lake held a few waterfowl including my first Redheads, Red-necked Grebe and American Coots. From the cliffs I could hear the cascading bubble of a Canyon Wren and further up an obliging Rock Wren bobbed nervously at me from atop a rock at the roadside. As per usual there was no sign of the Chukar on the rocky slopes but more surprising was the absence of White-throated Swifts which are usually a gimme here as they nest on the cliffs. Luckily, I would pick up these latter over the cliffs south of White Lake, my next stop.

On the way to White Lake I paused at two lakes, the first had a Virginia Rail calling from a grassy ditch and the second held 3 Ruddy Ducks. Near White Lake I picked up a couple “farm” birds, Say’s Phoebe, Western Kingbird and House Wren. The pull-off south of the Lake had the usual couple pairs of Western Bluebird and north of the Lake I spotted a Sage Thrasher carrying food as it flew from bush to bush out in the sagebrush flats. A quick walk through the sage produced some fledgling Vesper Sparrows and a couple Brewer’s Sparrows, the latter a sagebrush specialist that I would not encounter again.

Near Oliver, I detoured along Horsetail and River Rds. At a small pond on Horsetail Rd. a juvenile Sora was foraging at the edge of the reeds and a few Northern Rough-winged Swallows loafed on nearby dry twigs. Unfortunately the Black-chinned Hummingbird that is often perched on the wires along River Rd. was not I attendance and I lacked the time to wait for it so on to Rd. 22 I went. Being about 45 minutes behind schedule I had opted to skip McKinney Rd. and my only chance at Gray Flycatcher.

At Rd. 22 I quickly found 2 singing Yellow-breasted Chats and a couple Bullocks Orioles that were chattering nearby. Along the canal were a handful of Cliff Swallows and while scanning for Bobolinks (unsuccessfully) in the fields I spied a few Yellow-headed Blackbirds in with the ubiquitous Red-winged. A bit to the South of Rd. 22 was a flooded field which held Ring-necked and Wood Duck, two species I had anticipated possibly missing, a Marsh Wren was singing from the ditch as well. Buoyed by this unplanned score I made my way out of the Okanagan Valley with just a quick stop at the fruit stands in Keremeos before gassing up in Princeton. En route I had picked up the planned for Eurasian Collared-doves and Lewis’ Woodpecker from the car along with a Common Merganser, loafing on a rock in the Similkameen River.

Arriving in Manning part in the heat of the early afternoon was unavoidable but meant that it was virtually devoid of bird life. My first Bald Eagle soared over but other than that I picked up nothing new in about 30 minutes of effort! I did do a quick tally at this point and was pleased to find that I was just over 100 species.

Then the bane of a Big Day happened: traffic. In this case an accident in Langley involving multiple vehicles, including a couple large transport trucks had apparently caused a build-up of traffic about 10kms long. When I pulled to a standstill at the back of the queue I checked my phone for the best route out of it. Ok, the Fraser Hwy seems ok, now where is that exit? Oh man, 100m…behind me. As bad as that news was, checking my map I realized that there were no more exits along the entire stretch between myself and the accident scene! There goes my Big Day.

Nearly 3hrs later I was through it but by the time I reached Sunnyside Acres in Surrey, where I had hoped to pick up the common coastal songbirds like Bushtit and Chestnut-backed Chickadee and perhaps a Black-throated Grey Warbler or a Hutton’s Vireo, it was 7:30pm, and all was quiet. After getting lost and spending 45 minutes here, about twice as long as I had planned, I had just 1 new species to show for my efforts, Purple Finch.

Next stop was Kwomais Point, where a friend had recently had some scoters and Rhinoceros Auklets. A 10 minute scan produced my first Double-crested Cormorants but not a single duck or Alcid. With nothing for it but to carry on, I made my way to Blackie Spit where I would spend the remaining daylight. There was no sign of the Long-billed Curlew that had been reported recently but a couple Greater Yellowlegs were present along with several Purple Martins, a Bewick’s Wren and the expected 3 species of Gull. My final new bird was a singing Savannah Sparrow, species number 116 for the day.

Exhausted, I grabbed a Pizza for a late dinner and rolled up to my friend’s house in Surry, where I would spend the night, around 10:20pm. Despite the misfortune of the latter part of the day I was pleased to have had an opportunity to do a bit of birding in the Okanagan Valley, where I have spent precious little time over the past few years. I have many fond memories of birding this especially diverse part of the province and I am very grateful that I had an excuse for an, albeit whirlwind, visit.

Please consider making a donation to my Birdathon at the link below. Donations can be made until July 31 and are tax deductible. 75% Of the funds raised will go towards TLBO, the other 25% to Bird Studies Canada.



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