Monday, February 21, 2011

Feb 20--South Okanagan Birding

As part of the "Great Backyard Bird Count" I made a sweep through the South Okanagan on Sunday (Feb 20). I started off in Penticton where I picked up the usual 6 species of gulls (no Glaucous visible unfortunately), then walked in behind the yacht club hoping for one of the Hermit Thrushes that my Dad had found the day before. It took a little while but eventually I found both birds!
[Below: Poor shot of the always cryptic HERMIT THRUSH, my 3rd of the winter!]

As I drove south through Penticton I was pleasantly surprised to see the powerful wing-beats of a juvenile PEREGRINE FALCON as it dove on ducks along the Penticton River Channel. [Below: Eventually it landed on a pole where I managed this poor shot through the windshield]

I headed up Shuttleworth Creek east of Okanagan Falls, hoping for some higher elevation birds but this was not to be. I called in a couple of gorgeous male PINE GROSBEAKS [photo below, with my signature poor quality] but soon the roar of snow machines was too much. Their trucks were even blocking the road to Rabbit Lake so I just bailed out.

I picked up most of the ponderosa pine species along the lower reaches of the road, although a NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL was an added bonus. Despite the bright sun, neither Canyon Wrens not Chukar were vocal along the cliffs at Vaseux.

I tried for Eva's thrush along Sawmill Road in Oliver but only managed to find a BEWICK'S WREN (I believe this bird has been around for most of the winter). Blackbird numbers are up at the Southern Plus Feedlot near Oliver-- mainly male RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS and EUROPEAN STARLINGS but also a fwe groups of BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS. In addition tot he 60+ EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVES (now a regular sight here), I photographed this apparent RINGED TURTLE-DOVE (any thoughts?).

Obviously paler overall, but in the field it also appeared much slimmer-- did not see the pattern of the undertail.

This BIGHORN ram was also a nice find:

Next it was onto Road 22 where most of the usuals were eventually found including only 1 (but enough to be counted) AMERICAN TREE SPARROW. I scoped Osoyoos Lake from the south end of Black Sage Road and the only bird I could see from that vantage point was a single male RED-BREASTED MERGANSER... heck I'll take it. I ended up finding 6 more further south, as well as a COMMON LOON and several HORNED GREBES that I think have only recently arrived as I haven't seen a grebe (other than Pied-billed) or a loon on Osoyoos Lake since the CBC. In the late afternoon I birded Haynes Point and the Osoyoos Sewage Lagoons-- both were relatively quiet although the sewage lagoons had around 200 Lesser Scaup which is a good count for winter I think.

Last stop of the day was at a "special" creek near Penticton where I managed to find a female WESTERN SCREECH-OWL giving me 80 species for the day. I had plans of going owling for more that night but opted to lie on the couch instead!

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