Friday, 25 May 2012

Springtime in the Okanagan

May 24 – Today had a familiar feel as we birded the wine country of the southern Okanagan Valley with Dick Cannings, a reprise of our itinerary in March. But two months on, there was no longer any snow on our route, and spring was in the air. A quick visit to the Vaseux cliffs found us our first Lewis’s Woodpecker and Lazuli Bunting, both very handsome birds, as well as some White-throated Swifts. We also heard the first of several Rock Wrens, but none would show themselves.

Lazuli Bunting
 A pleasant stroll in a riparian area was very productive, with views of a young Long-eared Owl with parents nearby, and a sighting of a Virginia Rail, which we had only heard before.

Virginia Rail
We then spent the rest of the morning working our way up Shuttleworth Creek road, a logging road with many switchbacks affording some dramatic vistas of the valley below. No time to dawdle, however. Dick led us to a Ponderosa Pine forested area with some nice clearings and we saw three new year birds in quick succession: Dusky Flycatcher, Gray Flycatcher and Cassin’s Vireo. Brian announced that the Gray Flycatcher is our 400th species, fur and feathers combined.
Gray Flycatcher - #400 [Note diagnostic dark tip to lower mandible]

Not pausing for celebration, we headed on up the logging road to kilometer 13, where Dick’s son Russell had seen two Black-backed Woodpeckers a few days earlier. We soon encountered an encouraging tapping sound which turned out to be an American Three-toed Woodpecker, normally an excellent find but today inducing a whiff of disappointment. After a fairly exhaustive search, we had to admit defeat on the Black-backed and hope to catch up with this bird later in the year. As a consolation, we had excellent looks at Red-naped Sapsuckers; however, a glimpse of a Northern Goshawk was not deemed worthy of making our list.

Red-naped Sapsucker
The IGA in Okanagan Falls makes good sandwiches, which we munched in the car park before setting off after the rest of our list of targets. At Three Gates Farm we saw a male Black-chinned Hummingbird which is a regular at the feeders of this beautiful property.
Black-chinned Hummingbird
 A small slough produced three species of rail: American Coot, Sora and a Virginia Rail, which put on a real show for us. Exploring some sagebrush and grasslands we found the truly-homely Brewer’s Sparrow. This was the last of our “new” species for the day, but we picked up several more as we made our way back to Penticton, ending the day with a total of 97 bird species and five mammal species. Displaying Bobolinks were especially noteworthy. We said our goodbyes to Dick, an excellent guide and very congenial birding companion.

 Brian’s mother and stepfather kindly invited us to their home for dinner, which was delicious and made for a relaxing evening appreciated by us all.

 May 25 – We decided to make another attempt at the Black-backed Woodpecker on the Shuttleworth Creek road, but we were thwarted again. Brian needed to go to Kelowna to take care of some personal business, so Ray, Mike and Phil soldiered on for the rest of the day without him. Probably to Brian’s relief, we did not find any new bird or mammal species, but we enjoyed birding in beautiful country, and abundant spring wildflowers.

Ecological Reserve 100 is sage, antelope brush grassland which lies at the base of the high cliffs of the Throne, east of Oliver, providing outstanding views. In March we had seen a pair of Peregrine Falcons here. This morning we enjoyed wonderful looks at Lark Sparrows, Lazuli Buntings and – finally – a Rock Wren, singing its heart out.  After lunch in Osoyoos, we explored the area of Richter Pass, Kilpoola Lake and Kilpoola West. While we were not lucky enough to find a Sage Thrasher, it was a most enjoyable drive affording leisurely looks at a good number of bird species and a family of Yellow-bellied Marmots.

Lark Sparrow
Yellow-bellied Marmot
A final visit to Vaseux Cliffs (still Chukar-less, to Ray and Phil’s dismay) gave us our best look yet at Lewis’s Woodpecker.

Lewis's Woodpecker
Tomorrow we set off home to Calgary, and are hoping to find one or two new species along the way.

1 comment:

  1. The lzuli bunting looks like it is made up of different birds! Cracking pictures once again.