Friday, March 30, 2012

Mammals Are Birds Too!

Or not, but whatever.

The final stretch of the Great Canadian Chicken Hunt put me closer to home, spending 2 days birding with Russ Cannings in the Okanagan. Outside of Victoria, and possibly SE Arizona, the Okanagan is one of my favourite birding areas. Despite this, I have spent very little time there, and usually only at a select few spots. The final two days were my chance to see what lies beneath the surface.

With a list of targets in mind, we started off on March 26 birding from Penticton down to Vaseaux Lake. We did very well with waterfowl, finding good numbers of Horned Grebes, Redheads, Canvasbacks and others, plus lesser numbers of Barrow's Goldeneye.

At Vaseaux we heard, but didn't see, Canyon Wren, and completely missed Chukar, one of my targets. From there we worked through Deadman Lake, where we found a female Ruddy Duck and a male Eurasian Wigeon. Also hanging around were my first Say's Phoebes of the year. Closer to Osoyoos we found a roosting Long-eared Owl (owl number 6 for the trip!) and a Great Horned Owl that exhibited a bizarre blend of tan and grey, appearing to have more Barn Owl colouration than anything! While scanning Osoyoos Lake from a road along the west side, we heard, and then found, the first Osprey of the year.

Russ and I wound down the afternoon birding first at Haynes Point Provincial Park, where we dipped on the Rusty Blackbirds that have been hanging around, and then working our way through White Lake back to Penticton. Along White Lake Road we had Pygmy Nutchatches, a Rough-legged Hawk, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, and a few scattered passerines and waterfowl. After a great dinner with Russ's parents and a rest, we headed out after dark to track down some owls.

My main owl target was Boreal Owl, a bird which many dream of finding, and we put in a great effort for it. Despite the blowing snow and dicey roads we plowed on, but our only reward for our efforts was two sightings of Snowshoe Hare dashing across the road.

The next, and my final, morning in the Okanagan we headed back out to OK Falls and up to Shuttleworth Creek Rd. As in Alberta, we heard a single White-winged Crossbill fly over, but couldn't get eyes on it. When we reached Rabbit Lake the birding continued to be good, with small flocks of chickadees defying the wind and flitting through the trees. One of these flocks contained a single Boreal Chickadee, my first for British Columbia. Other birds along Shuttleworth included Gray Jays, Clark's Nutcrackers, and a calling Pine Grosbeak.

Back at Haynes Point Park, we again missed Rusty Blackbird, but had better luck on Anarchist Mountain, where we located a stunning male Williamson's Sapsucker, my first for Canada, as well as another Rough-legged Hawk.

While driving along Road 22, I spotted a suspicious looking lump in a field which I dismissed as a bush, but which on closer inspection turned into the first arrival Long-billed Curlew! The Haynes Lease Ecological Reserve was also a treat despite the gusting wind and occassional rain as we flushed one, and the another Gray Partridge. Two Peregrine Falcons soared overhead, and several Canyon Wrens sang from the cliffs. Our second sheep of the trip, California Bighorn Sheep, watched inquisitively from the safety of the rocks.

The day, and my trip, ended at Vaseaux Lake again, where I finally managed a look at a very vocal Canyon Wren, plus both bluebirds, though we missed Chukar yet again.

Over the course of seven days, we tallied a list of 120 species, which isn't too bad for late winter/early spring in the interior. Of those 120, I had 6 lifers (four chickens, a woodpecker, and a redpoll), 9 Canada birds, and three BC birds. We also had 6 species of owl, and 13 species of mammals, including Pronghorn, Rocky Mountain and California Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Pine Marten, and Wild Horse.

Trips don't get much more memorable than this one, even given the season! Many thanks to Russ Cannings and Ilya Povalyaev for great company and a place to stay, and to Dick Cannings and Margaret Holm for their incredible hospitality while I was in Penticton.

Good birding in all seasons,

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an amazing trip Jeremy, always great to explore new birding haunts! Let's just hope that those chickens hang on for future generations to enjoy (let's not hold our breath).
    A great read! Maybe next year I'll follow in your footsteps.