Friday, May 31, 2013


Team: “Penticton Perambulating Pigeon Patrol

Members: Russell Cannings(me), Tanya Luszcz, Ryan Tomlinson, Logan Lolande, Jeff Joy, Timmy Joy, Juliette Rhodes, Emily Hillier, Michelle Hamilton, Grant Halm.

Well as you can see, this year’s Big Day team was a big one! After several years of “Shuttleworth Shuffling” the core group of Michelle, Grant, and I decided to do try a 100% green walk around Penticton. 100% green in that we started and finished in the same place. Long-time rival Tanya joined us this year, plus a whole lot of ringers (listed above) including two 12-year-old future starts in Logan and Timmy.

The future of BC birding is bright, with young guns like Logan (left) and Timmy.
The day started off at 4:30am, at my parents’ house on the West Bench above Penticton. As usual, American Robins were the first songsters to start up pre-dawn, joined soon after by Western Meadowlark, Vesper Sparrow, House Wren, and a surprisingly chipper Bullock’s Oriole. Better yet, was the resident pair of Great Horned Owls (usually uncooperative on count days), who decided to hoot away for about 30min, and one even came in for a close look.

As we descended the hill toward the Locatee conservation area along the river channel, we started to nab our first nice riparian species such as Nashville Warbler, Gray Catbird, and Veery (the first of the year for all present). Ring-necked Pheasants are still abundant in this area, as the males “bok! Bok!” rang out throughout the day.

The sun finally arrived after 5am some time, and more birds were added to our list. Migration seemed a little slow, but it was nice to hear the first MacGillivray’s Warbler of the year, along with several Warbling Vireos, a newly-arrived Eastern Kingbird, and a ‘heard-only’ Yellow-breasted Chat.

Embarrassingly, this is the only photo I have capturing most of the group--taking an early morning break at Starbucks!  The pleasures of an urban route! At least they're pretending to look for birds...
Next we turned north, and followed the river to its source near the S.S. Sicamous on Okanagan Lake. Not very many birds here other than a lone American Coot, the final remainder of the ~600 that winter here each year. Here we bumped into my Dad’s cycling team. They said there wasn’t much on the lake but obviously they didn’t go east enough! While it’s true there weren’t mind-boggling waterfowl numbers in the SE corner of the lake, we picked up several key birds that are tough this late in the spring (and a couple of these my Dad missed despite covering 50x the distance). These included a group of 3 Common Loons at the Lakeside Resort, a lone female Northern Pintail at the mouth of Penticton Creek, and a pair of Greater Scaup (Lesser is much more common in May) near the yacht club.

Although the Esplenade trails at the yacht club were relatively quiet, a lone Yellow-headed Blackbird was a pleasant surprise—one that is tough anywhere in the Penticton area. Next we returned to the Okanagan River Channel via Westminster Ave—passersby stared at us quizzically; at 10 people with binoculars, long-lenses, and scopes, walking purposefully through downtown Penticton on a Sunday morning. As our name suggests, we saw lots of pigeons today. This was actually a huge relief, and a great bonus of birding near a city. You see, the “Shuttleworth Shufflers” won distinction last year in missing Rock Pigeon entirely (earning a “Sour Grapes Award” nod), and we nearly missed it the year prior if not for Michael Force’s last-minute triumphant scoping. This year, we made sure to tick them off as soon as possible!

Once back on the river channel, we walked south aaaall the way to Skaha Lake. Not a lot to add along the way other than single Redhead and Northern Shoveler. Once we got to Skaha Beach, we were treated to a lone Least Sandpiper, then in the NW corner of the lake we found a resting ‘mixed flock’ of Western Grebes and Ruddy Ducks.

Birding along the backroad behind the airport. 
From there we took the backroad past Skaha Meadows Golf Course, behind the airport, then on to Green Mountain Rd, where we returned to the river channel, walked north to the old KVR trail, then took that back to West Bench. Phew! Along that walk the big highlight was hear a singing Clay-coloured Sparrow near the airport (a known location for the species but never reliable). Up on the rock bluffs we noted White-throated Swifts, and some heard a distant Rock Wren. When we reached the main Band settlement, Ryan spotted our only Western Bluebird of the day, then, just after we got onto the KVR trail, we had wonderful looks at several male Black-chinned Hummingbirds. The next find was a Willow Flycatcher that popped up into view—the first sighting for the Okanagan this year!

After a short rest at my parents place on the West Bench, we headed up the hill to the west—bound for Max Lake! It was a bit windy in the small valley near Max Lake but a few new birds were added in the falling light such as Sora, Townsend’s Solitaire, and Dusky Flycatcher.

As we waited for darkness to come, we bumped into several coastal birders, who were up here for the same reason we were—Flams and poorwills!

Well it didn’t take long for the first poorwill to call, then we ended up seeing around 10 on the road as we walked back in the dark. The Flammulated Owls were a lot tougher. Only 2 were heard calling, both of which seemed a great distance away. Oh well, a great end to a great day! 102 species seen on foot, and around 32km walked!

Big thank you to all the people who pledged! Proceeds will be going to the Baillie Bird Fund, the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory, and the En’owkin Centre in Penticton.

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