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!

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