Monday, March 28, 2011

Penticton to Vaseux and back (by bicycle)

Today was supposed to be a sunny day according to the forecast and so I decided to make a "day of it." Left the house at 6:20am, cycled down to the S.S. Sicamous along the Okanagan lakeshore in Penticton and checked the waterbird scene... not much doing here other than a few distant scaup out on the lake and the usual mix of coots with a couple PIED-BILLED GREBES that have been present all winter. From there I turned south and headed down the Penticton River Channel. The highlight along this stretch was definitely a small oxbow near the airport which produced a great variety of ducks including 1 NORTHERN SHOVELER, 6 KILLDEER, 3 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, 2 NORTHERN PINTAIL, and 1 WOOD DUCK (all new "NMT birds" for me"). 3 roosting TURKEY VULTURES were an interesting sight near the airport, then it was onto the old KVR trail that skirts Skaha Lake on the west side.

There wasn't much happening on Skaha Lake itself other than a pair of COMMON LOONS in full alternate plumage, but the cliffs, trees, and bushes along the trail were bustling with action! Just north of Kaleden I was treated to point-blank views of 2 CANYON WRENS who were foraging right down along the lakeshore. The male burst out in song a few times, adding a wonderful melody to the sun-filled morning. A cranky pair of TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRES piped at me as I cruised by (perhaps close to a potential nesting site?), and an adult NORTHERN SHRIKE stopped to check out a flock of chickadees on its way north. Several SPOTTED TOWHEES were singing away in Kaleden as I moved through, as well as a couple groups of WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS.

As the trail leaves Kaleden (southbound) it passes through two nice rock-cuts. The first one of these cuts yielded my first ROCK WREN of the year (photos and video below)! Another great close encounter with a "usually hard-to-see" wren.

I powered through Okanagan Falls and continued south toward Vaseux Lake via the highway (I wanted to check the stands of birches for new Long-eared Owl nests--- no success by the way!). SAY'S PHOEBES were making their presence known all over the place, and a few WESTERN BLUEBIRDS popped up here and there as well, as I passed by various fields and open country.

Vaseux Lake was of course great for waterfowl,where I picked up a male EURASIAN WIGEON (near the campsite) and a couple CANVASBACKS, bringing my daily duck count to 18 species!

I cycled up to the big corner on Irrigation Ck Road and took a break, hoping for a chukar... no luck there but a pair of GOLDEN EAGLES overhead made it worth while.

From there I turned around and headed back north all the way home, a few butterflies, bees, and wasps along the way-- more signs of spring. Also, a flock of 14 PINE SISKINS has suddenly appeared at the niger feeder, will have to re-fill soon. Nice to see the male AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES completing their pre-alternate molt... stunners.

Happy spring!

March 25-- Boreal Owls make for a great evening

On Friday night I joined Tanya Luszcz on her nocturnal owl survey. We started on the upper Carmi Road (east of Penticton), and climbed up past the Ellis Dam to the 201 Road junction then head south toward Rabbit Lake. It was quite snowy up there and the road has not been regularly plowed-- to avoid getting stuck we decided to just keep 'er moving and ended up by driving down Shuttleworth Creek to Okanagan Falls and then back up to Penticton on Hwy 97...

So anyways, the birds---

Historically this has been a very quiet route, but tonight changed that! We had a pair of BARRED OWLS just below the dam (an uncommon treat for us Okanaganers). Once on the 201 however, the real highlights came in-- We got out of the truck at one of our stops and immediately could hear something tooting... "Tanya are you hearing this?? BOREAL OWL!!!" Yes indeed, a male Boreal Owl was singing only a hundred meters or so off the road. After the point count was done, I whistled it in and it posed on a pine sapling, offering Tanya great 'lifer'-views. Unfortunately it flew off JUST as I got the camera out. All I could get was this video recording of it singing:

We continued along and got out at our next stop and whatya know-- another Boreal Owl is singing! A GREAT HORNED OWL also hooted away in the distance for our last owl of the night-- awesome!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wanna go to Texas with me in April?

We only need a couple more people to make the trip "a GO."

Let's do this!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


@Chichester Marsh in Kelowna, BC

This bird was originally found a couple weeks ago but I haven't been able to catch up with it until today. Not surprisingly, it was feeding on Russian Olives. It also spent a fair bit of time going through the leaf-litter underneath some rose thickets. It was fairly vocal, giving both its chattering call, and the cat-like "erik" squawk.
Not a lot else to report from the area except maybe 3 GREEN-WINGED TEAL, and 6 MOURNING DOVES.

Interesting Canada Goose (Iona Island)

This leucistic Canada Goose has been present at Iona Island (near Richmond, BC) for over a year now. An interesting faded look, instead of patches of white. I took this photograph during my brief trip to the coast last weekend. Didn't get out for much birding-- a lone SAVANNAH SPARROW was a decent find at Iona though.