Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Okanagan Birding

To celebrate Audy's birthday we decided to make the best of the last long weekend of the summer and go on a birding trip.
My original plan was to maybe drive to Oregon to check out the birds down there (thanks Glenn for the info, I'll go there one day for sure) but the thought of long weekend borders and the fact that it was an American long weekend as well nixed that plan.
Our old friend the Okanagon was the destination again and this time I wanted to check out some info I had been given about a reliable spot for Lewis's Woodpecker in the Vaseux Lake area.
I was also hoping to check out some of the banding that was being done at the Vaseux lake bird observatory and boardwalk.
I also wanted to check out some of the spots Chris Charlesworth had talked about in his recent inspirational birding reports from the region on the BCIntbirds message board.

2:45am Saturday and i jump (stumble) out of bed as the alarm goes off.
It takes Audy a bit longer to get up but it's her day and she can take her time, to a certain extent.
Coffee is brewed and i'm content knowing (or hoping anyways) that the organic shade-grown beans i was using were helping birds in Latin America.

Ipod plugged in and Audy asleep we begin the trip a little after 3:45am.

I decided to take the #3 Crowsnest down and cut across to Vaseux Lake at Keremeos.
Highlights of the trip down include a small Black Bear along the side of the road in Manning and a family of Deer climbing up a hill just outside Priceton.
Audy woke up briefly in Princeton and saw what she thought was a Lewis's Woodpecker but as I was driving I couldn't confirm it. Still, it boded well for the trip.

We arrived at Vaseux Lake boardwalk some time after 8am I think and were amazed at the amount of birdy action in that small patch of trees.

among the highlights were numerous Gray Catbirds, a couple of flycatchers, numerous Cedar Waxwings with juveniles.
they were feasting on the berries and quite active.
A few warblers including Yellow and Yellow-rumped, Swainson's Thrush, juvenile Spotted Towhee, Song Sparrow, House Finch and Warbling Vireo.
Never saw any banding or mist-netting activity however.

After surviving the Mosquitoes that were quite hungry at the boardwalk we drove to Mctyner road (across from the campground) to search for Lewis's Woodpecker.
There was a pile of rocks near the entrance and i stopped the car to take a look for Canyon Wren. While searching for the wren at least 20 -30 grouse-like birds suddenly appeared from the rocks and scampered up the hill.
It was a great moment since we had been hoping to finally see Chukar, the quail-like introduced species that has established itself in the drier parts of the interior.

So, after the great success at the rock pile the main event and the bird we had come to see was all that remained to have a really good day.
Not long into our drive up the road we came across a pair of them in a tree.
I was never able to get close to the Lewis's woodpeckers however as they would fly off whenever you paid too much attention to them.
I only need one good shot to check it off my lists and i'm happy to say i got a couple but i know a trip back one day for a re-shoot is in order.

there were loads of other birds around like Northern Flicker, Clark's Nutcracker, Western Meadowlark, Say's Phoebe, Brewer's Blackbird, American Kestrel and Mourning Dove.

Well, after all that i wanted to check out some more spots.
We drove down the #97 and checked out Inakeep Park.
I got the feeling one wasn't encouraged to park their car and walk around as a large No Picnicking sign attested.
In the same vicinity was the River Road loop which we imagined would have been much birdier in the morning as opposed to just before noon.
It was decied to keep driving south past Oliver to check out Deadman's Lake (pond?) and the shorebirds we were hoping for just weren't there, wrong time of day perhaps.
Chris had mentioned another spot called Kilpoola Lake road outside of Osoyoos I think (I google-mapped the name and found what i believe was the road in question).
Anyways, we found this dirt road up a mountain and drove up to a little lake but the birds were quiet and we decided then to head back up to Penticton and the Sandman Hotel we would spend the night in.

It had been a long day and I had done a fair bit of driving.
We passed out in the Hotel and woke up for dinner at Denny's before watching Simpsons on TV and sleep....

The wake-up call came at 5:45am and we had more birding planned before making the long drive back down to the coast later.
Kelowna was decided on and we drove up and checked out a few familiar spots.
Robert lake produced a Coyote, California Quail, Black-billed Magpie, a bunch of Killdeer and not much in the actual dry lakebed.
A trip through the Landfill later produced not much as well unfortunately.

A drive up Beaver Lake road was in order next and while we didn't see the Western Bluebirds we did see a lot of others.
Numerous Western Meadowlarks, a friendly Yellow-rumped Warbler, numerous Northern Flickers, Western Tanager, Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbird, a Barn Swallow, numerous Swainson's Warblers, Mountain Bluebird (1), American Kestrel and a cool bonus bird in Red-naped Sapsucker.
The sapsucker is a BC Lifer for us although we saw one last year at Cerro San Juan, Tepic Mexico.

After all that it was around 11am and we figured it was time to head back.
Ride back was uneventful and thankfully no speeding tickets either Smile

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The Waiting Area

The Waiting Area