British Columbia, 7th to 20th September 2006

This page is designed to show readers where the sites mentioned in the species accounts were. I've also added a very brief account of each site together with the ornithological (or other) highlights.

map of North America showing location of British Columbia map of southern British Columbia

The accounts are split into three geographic regions:

Return to the species list and photos

 

Part I - Vancouver area

Thursday 7th September

MacDonald Road. Nothing special, just a road with a few adjacent bushes and scrub. Good enough for my first stop on leaving the airport though. Good chance to get to grips with Yellow and Orange-crowned Warblers in their fall plumages. At least 1 Warbling Vireo would have received much more attention had I realised that it would prove to be the only one seen all trip. Though common, Black-capped Chickadees and Northwestern Crow were both new birds for me.

Iona Beach. My arrival at the Water Treatment Works coincided with a couple of birders leaving which was fortunate as I hadn't realised I needed a code to get in. Not much there by locals' standards but plenty to keep me occupied until dusk, including my first Lincoln's Sparrows and a Marsh Wren.

 

 

Friday 8th September

Ladner Harbour Park. Seemed deathly quiet when I arrived but then all of a sudden there were birds everywhere. Warblers, chickadees, creepers, woodpeckers and more, the best being at least 1 Black-throated Gray Warbler.

Westham Island. Although Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary (below) is clearly the hotspot on the island, the rest of the island can apparently be good too. Plenty of birds but nothing special – a flock of 64 Killdeers was probably best.

Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Well known reserve and rightly so. Famous for its Sandhill Cranes but these birds' origin is a bit unclear. Apparently no-one knows where they come from but they're assumed to be of wild origin. They're very tame though and not nearly as satisfying as some migrating flocks seen later on the trip. Other highlights included Canvasback, Wilson's Snipe, 2 distant Bald Eagles and (Black-crowned) Night Heron. Might have been much better for waders (or shorebirds to North American readers!) if the tide hadn’t been low. Good numbers of wildfowl including the only Cinnamon Teals seen all trip.

Vancouver. Vitty spent the day in Vancouver city and I popped up there to have lunch with her in a very nice restaurant on Howe Street, the name of which escapes me. Worth the detour and for a city, Vancouver seemed quite nice. Impressive too that I was able to get pretty much right into the city so quickly.

Boundary Bay, 8-Sep-06
Boundary Bay (and Pintails) with snow-capped mountains in the background, 9th September

Boundary Bay. A large area - this afternoon I went to the section between 72nd and 104th Streets. On arrival the tide was still fairly low so I had a look round some fields before returning to the bay for the evening's high tide. Unfortunately when I returned in the evening the tide was so high that no mud was exposed at all and all the shorebirds had gone somewhere else. Incredible numbers of (Northern) Pintails here though, 2000 being a conservative estimate.

 

 

 

Saturday 9th September

Boundary Bay. This morning tried the other end of the Bay from 12th Avenue. Best area was the scrubland which was full of passerines, probably including some migrants brought down by the rain. Excellent birding, though no lifers until some American Pipits dropped in just before I left. A fantastic Belted Kingfisher provided good photo opportunities despite the rain.

I returned to Boundary Bay at the end of the holiday, details are at the bottom of this page to keep it in chronological order.

 

Part II - Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island Victoria area (south-eastern Vancouver Island)

Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferry. Fairly quiet on the bird front. A few dolphins or porpoises, none specifically identified although most looked like they could have been Harbour Porpoises. Also seals (again, not identified) and Sea Otters.

Clover Point, Victoria. Highlight was 6 Harlequins including 1-2 adult drakes and 5 Heermann’s Gulls. A pair of Black Oystercatchers flew past.

Victoria. The city of Victoria was nothing like what we expected. A few people had mentioned that it was a quaint, slightly English city, but in reality it was a vast urban sprawl with nothing that I recognised as being English! It did however provide my first Sharp-shinned Hawk. Left Vitty in the capable hands of the impressive Empress Hotel for her conference for the next few days.

Esquimalt Lagoon. Not much on the lagoon apart from large numbers of gulls (mostly California ). Couple of Turkey Vultures and an Osprey overhead while the bay proved more interesting. A selection of alcids included a Marbled Auklet, Pigeon Guillemots and a distant flock of Rhinoceros Auklets. Also a couple of Heermann's Gulls and some Red-necked Grebes.

 

Sunday 10th September

Island View Beach/Cordova Spit. Started off checking the trees and scrub which contained a good variety of species. Then walked over to the beach where I met some local birders who had come to see a couple of Baird's Sandpipers. At least 1 of these was quickly located and allowed very close approach. The area also provided me with my first wild Hooded Merganser and my first Mew Gulls. Great Northern Divers (Common Loons) gave good views and a flock of Rhinoceros Auklets were found among the scattered Pigeon Guillemots.

McIntyre Reservoir. Small site on the way out which I wouldn't have found were it not for the birders I met at Island View Beach. A Spotted Sandpiper was among the 4 species of wader present.

Centennial Park. Local birder Rick Shylo who I’d met at Island View Beach kindly took me here in the hope of finding me Pileated Woodpecker and maybe Barred Owl. No luck with the woodpecker but incredible views of a superb Barred Owl. Thanks Rick! Also a Red-breasted Sapsucker and other common woodland species.

Beaver Lake. Stopped off here briefly as it was another site for Pileated Woodpeckers. However it was an even better site for tourists or day-trippers and I so I left it to them.

Cowichan Bay. Having had enough of the over-populated Victoria area I decided to head out of town to the north in the hope of finding somewhere that wasn't heaving with people. I'd been given directions to a track at Cowichan Bay but if I found the right place it was closed for maintenance work. An alternative footpath produced a variety of species including a surprisingly unseasonal Tundra Swan and the only reptile I managed to identify all trip, a Northwestern Garter Snake.

Somenos Marsh. The first stop revealed a short board walk leading to a platform overlooking what might once have been a marsh. Very dry and few birds, but a pull-in a bit farther up the road revealed some water and a few more birds. Nothing very exciting though.

Nanaimo. A spot along the road to the ferry terminal probably has a name but I don't know what it was. It looked as though the area was being worked on still and might be better later on. A Golden-crowned Sparrow showed briefly in the White-crowned Sparrow flock, but the mozzies soon saw me off.

 

Monday 11th September

Rathrevor Park. Excellent woodland with a variety of woodland species including 2 stunning Pileated Woodpeckers, 10 Northern Flickers and a Red-breasted Sapsucker. A patch of scrub held my first Willow Flycatcher. The bay and sea were relatively quiet, a Red-necked Grebe being the best bird here. Nice sunrise too.

Sunrise, Rathrevor Park, 11-Sep-06
Rathrevor Park, 11-Sep-06

Sunrise at Rathrevor Park, 11th September 2006

Canada Geese and the view from Rathrevor Park, 11th September 2006

Englishman River Estuary. Seemed like quite a nice spot with lots of birding potential but didn't really see anything very exciting here. Not sure if I found the best place to go to or not.

Kennedy River. The journey from Parksville to the west of the island might have been more productive if I hadn't rushed it. However one stop along the Kennedy River did produce brief views of my first American Dipper.

Kennedy Lake, 11-Sep-06

One of the lakes along the Kennedy River Valley, 11th September 2006

Ucluelet. A short walk here produced a Heermann's Gull and 3 Fox Sparrows.

Ucluelet, 11-Sep-06 Ucluelet, 11-Sep-06

Ucluelet, 11th September 2006

 

Pacific Rim NP, 11-Sep-06 Tree, Ucluelet, 11-Sep-06 Fungus, Ucluelet, 11-Sep-06

Pacific Rim National Park, 11th September 2006

Ucluelet, 11th September 2006

Some sort of bracket fungus, Ucluelet, 11th September 2006. If anyone knows the species, please let me know!

Pacific Rim National Park. As I'd missed the booth on the way in where you buy entry tickets I wasn't allowed to park anywhere which made it a bit awkward for birding. Looked like a nice area and worth exploring another day. I was half-minded to spend the night out this way so I could have a better look in the morning, but in the end having spent too much time this holiday driving with the sun in my eyes, the idea of returning in the evening with the sun behind me was more attractive than leaving it to the following day. In hindsight, spending the night here would have made the drive over here much more worthwhile. Never mind.

 

Tuesday 12th September

I had been thinking of heading back to Victoria to revisit some of the sites I'd been to without the all the weekenders everywhere. However I was disappointed by the lack of remoteness on the island so far and was wondering if a trip north might be more worthwhile. A night at a Best Western enabled me to check the internet and discover that a Hudsonian Godwit had been seen at Oyster Bay on Monday. A species I'd love to see, this news was enough to swing my decision and head north. Although still along way from the real north of the island, it certainly did become more remote further up and the birding was excellent.

Oyster Bay Shoreline Park. No sign of the Hudsonian Godwit but a very enjoyable morning was spent between here and the next site, Campbell River. The muddy bay where the godwit had been held good numbers of Bonaparte's Gulls and a variety of waders including Black Turnstones. The sea was heaving with birds including no less than 525 Western Grebes. Also plenty of Red-necked and Slavonian (Horned) Grebes, Great Northern Divers (Common Loons) and a Pacific Diver (Loon). A flock of Red-necked Phalaropes consisted of at least 50 birds. Raptors included my first North American Merlin, 19 Turkey Vultures and a fantastic Osprey spending ages fishing just in front of me.

Campbell River. Good numbers of duck here including a bare minimum of 250 Surf Scoter, 110 Harlequins, 77 Goosanders (Common Mergansers) and 50 American Wigeons. Vast numbers of gulls, especially Glaucous-winged, Mew and Bonaparte's Gulls. The latter received the attention of 2 Arctic Skuas (Parasitic Jaegers). An adult Bald Eagle were seen at the marsh by the river mouth.

Courtenay. Looked like a good spot but I only had a quick scan at low tide. About 50 of each of Bonaparte's and Ring-billed Gulls and a selection of other species.

Amber Way Biofiltration Wetland. A small site found by chance, didn't appear to be much more than just a short length of rocky shoreline. A flock of 68 Black-bellied Plovers contained a Black Turnstone and my only Surfbird of the trip.

Englishman River Estuary. Stopped off here again on my way back down but didn't see much. Probably didn't give it enough time.

Swan Lake, Victoria. Very pleasant lake in amongst the suburbs of Victoria, but you wouldn't know it if it wasn't for the joggers everywhere. I arrived here shortly before dusk so not long to look round properly. Enough time though to see the American Bittern sat out in the reeds over the other side of the lake. Also a Barred Owl was being harrassed by American Robins.

Swan Lake, 12-Sep-06 Swan Lake, 12-Sep-06

Swan Lake (Victoria), 12th September 2006

 

Wednesday 13th September

Island View Beach/Cordova Spit. A return trip to this location offered more good birding. Among the passerines there seemed to be more Audubon's Warblers and American Robins around than on the previous trip, perhaps indicating a small arrival of migrants? The beach produced a few more waders including 2 Spotted Sandpipers but no sign of any Baird's today. On the sea were better numbers of alcids (or else I counted them more thoroughly) with 190 Pigeon Guillemots and 20 Rhinoceros Auklets. As well as American Pipits on the point, there was a group of 4 fine Horned Larks.

Clover Point, Victoria. Having picked Vitty up from the poshest hotel in Victoria where she'd been staying for her conference, we went to Clover Point to have our lunch. Nothing much here that wasn't seen on the previous visit.

Swan Lake, Victoria. A couple of Anna's Hummingbirds were seen and a Cooper's Hawk saw to it that none of the sparrows hung around too long.

McIntyre Reservoir. Here I was able to find one local birder a new bird (for him, not me) - a Pectoral Sandpiper. Also a Greater Yellowlegs performed well and a Mink put on a good show, albeit briefly.

Swartz Bay. Good job we arrived when we did as we still had to queue for an agonising three hours to catch a ferry. Next time, book in advance! Whilst waiting a Pileated Woodpecker flew over the queue.

Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen ferry. A Black Oystercatcher was seen in flight and a pair of Dolphins were seen briefly. The latter had pale sides and I'm guessing they were most likely Pacific White-sided Dolphins.

Swan Lake, 12-Sep-06

view from the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen ferry, 13th September 2006

 

Part III - Interior

Thursday 14th September

Lytton. Vitty had planned to go white-water rafting when we were in California but had been disappointed as it had been cancelled at the last minute. So she booked up to spend today white-water rafting near Lytton. Not my cup of tea so I planned to spend the day birding in the area. I didn't plan for it to rain all day though. Despite the rain there were plenty of birds around, one flock of sparrows and American Pipits containing the first Chipping Sparrow of the trip. American Kestrels were common in this area.

Skihist Provincial Park. Red-breasted Nuthatch was the best bird at this location.

Goldpan Provincial Park. By now it was clear that "Provincial Park" was a fairly grand name for what was basically a layby with half a dozen pitches for tents. Not much good for birding, an Osprey was best.

Marble Canyon Provincial Park. Despite already discovering that Provincial Parks weren't much cop, I decided to press on to another, and I ended up very glad I did. Just before I got there I saw my first Clark's Nutcracker getting a good soaking at the top of a pine, the first of 5 lifers in the space of half an hour in the pouring rain. The Provincial Park was again a glorified layby, but with a few more trees and generally much birdier. I was greeted there by a tame Hermit Thrush, a bird I had been looking hard for all trip. A couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets came down to see what all the fuss was about, along with the likes of Red and White-breasted Nuthatches (the latter the only one of the trip), Brown Creepers and Audubon's Warblers. Lots of sparrows here, including another Chipping Sparrow, and my first Black-billed Magpie of the trip. All this and more, and I hadn't even got out of the car. When I eventually did get out, I wandered down to the river/lake where I saw my first Barrow's Goldeneyes and a Merlin.

Lillooet to Lytton. I had to drive along this road at break-neck speed in order to get back to Lytton in time to collect Vitty following her white-water rafting, and in any case stopping wasn't an option as I was driving on fumes and restarting the engine would exhaust what little fuel might have been left at the bottom of the tank! All this was unfortunate as this was one of the birdiest roads I travelled along with flocks of sparrows and juncos flying up from the edge of the road all over the place and Steller's Jays and Clark's Nutcrackers flying over. The clear highlight though, which I really wish I could have stopped for, was a Black Bear in some sparse woodland to the side of the road. I had wanted to see a bear on this trip probably more than any bird, so this was a really great climax to a fantastic, wet day.

Kamloops. After leaving Lytton we travelled east towards the Rockies fairly rapidly, pausing briefly to scan some lakes beside the road at Kamloops. One of these contained a good variety of wildfowl including Canvasback, (Greater) Scaup, Bufflehead and Barrow's Goldeneye.

 

Friday 15th September

Revelstoke. A side turn near Revelstoke took me along the river valley through some flooded woodland where I had excellent views of a tiny Sharp-shinned Hawk. Plenty of passerines around including a Yellow-rumped Warbler which appeared to belong to the eastern form known as Myrtle Warbler.

Revelstoke, 15-Sep-06 Revelstoke, 15-Sep-06

near Revelstoke, 15th September 2006

Skunk Cabbage Trail. As with a lot of the places I visited, my attention was drawn to this one by a binoculars sign at the side of the road. A nice trail with a boardwalk taking you through damp woodland where you apparently get the likes of MacGillivray's Warblers and American Redstarts. The birds weren't reading the signs today though and instead I was treated to my first Varied Thrush and a Wilson's Warbler.

Vitty, Skunk Cabbage, 15-Sep-06

Vitty, Skunk Cabbage Trail, 15th September 2006

Hemlock Grove. Another binoculars sign led me to a much more disappointing site with nothing but tame Steller's Jays to report.

Illecillewaet. We decided to take a short stroll along one of the trails leading from the campsite. Then we saw a sign to a lake (I forget the name) along a 2 km trail. This seemed to be do-able, despite the steep incline so we set off on an enjoyable hike. We hadn't left the car intending to do more than a quick half hour canter so we hadn't taken our waterproofs and when we had gone well past the 2 km marker with no sign of a lake, it started raining and was beginning to get dark. The bears were getting hungry (or so we imagined) so we turned back without reaching the lake. A bit disappointing we didn't quite finish but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Birds included a juvenile Hermit Thrush, more Varied Thrushes, Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets and more. By now we were well familiar with the dry rattling call of the Spruce Squirrels which were everywhere here (also called Red Squirrels but quite different from the Red Squirrels we get in Europe).

Illecillewaet, 15-Sep-06 Illecillewaet, 15-Sep-06 Fungus, Illecillewaet, 15-Sep-06

Vitty and me, Illecillewaet, 15th September 2006

 

Mushroom, Illecillewaet, 15th September 2006. Please contact me if you can identify it.

 

Saturday 16th September

Kicking Horse Drive, Golden. At the bottom of the road leading up to the mountain resort there was a pool at the side of the road. Not much to look at, but it contained a good variety of birds. Six species of duck included Barrow's Goldeneyes. The waders were commuting between the pool itself and a ditch right beside the road. Here they allowed excellent views but were feeding too actively to make photography straightforward. At least 45 Long-billed Dowitchers were here and 4 Pectoral Sandpipers, but the highlight was a juvenile Stilt Sandpiper which I understand is a fairly scarce bird round here.

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Golden. Two species I really wanted to see this holiday were Gray-crowned Rosy Finch and White-tailed Ptarmigan, but the lack of preparation meant that I had absolutely no idea about where I might have half a chance of seeing them. I knew both species like high ground, and mindful of the (Rock) Ptarmigans that you can see from the top of the ski lift in the Cairngorms (Scotland) I speculated that a ski lift might be a good place to look. A comfortable Gondala ride took us up to the top which was covered in snow - apparently it had fallen unseasonally early this year. Unfortunately cloud had come down and you couldn't see very far most of the time, and with the ice and snow walking anywhere wasn't really an option, at least not without proper gear that we didn't have. However the restaurant at the top provided an early lunch, one of the better meals of the trip (and one of the most expensive). While sitting in the restaurant I turned round to see a flock of 4 finches flying past. The silhouette shape really didn't leave any other options apart from Rosy Finches, but these weren't the views I was hoping for and sadly they couldn't be relocated once we got back outside.

Emerald Lake. Fortunately the coach loads of noisy Japanese tourists who arrived at the same time as us weren't interested in going very far before they got back on their coaches and headed off. The walk round the lake was both pleasant and birdy with no less than 3 new birds for me: Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay and Pine Grosbeak (OK, I'd seen a Pine Grosbeak in the UK in July, but that was an escaped bird so it doesn't count). Several Osprey nests were seen during the trip but most were empty by this time. Although the nest wasn't in view here, the sounds and frequency of adults flying over certainly suggested that this one wasn't vacated yet.

Emerald Lake, 16-Sep-06

Emerald Lake, 16th September 2006

Natural Bridge, Field. An American Dipper showed extremely well at this peculiar geological feature, although unfortunately there wasn't enough light left for very good photos.

Natural Bridge, 16-Sep-06 Natural Bridge, 16-Sep-06

Natural Bridge (Field), 16th September 2006

Field. The village provided one of our favourite meals of the holiday and the valley outside provided good views of a group of Elk. The male, complete with large antlers, kept apart from the rest of the group and was quite close to the road. We'd heard about bear-jams where tourists stopping to photograph bears create a traffic jam, so I suppose this was an elk-jam. It was very nearly photographer jam though as one idiot decided to try and walk right up to the elk to get a photo - not a good idea in rutting season! It wasn't long before the elk was after him and they ended up dodging each other round a small tree before the photographer managed to jump over a fence to relative safety. I'm sure the elk could have got to him still but fortunately the guy now had the sense to back off slowly and the elk made do with a few half-hearted charges that didn't quite make contact with him.

 

Sunday 17th September

Emerald Lake. I decided to try another walk round the lake early on when there were fewer people there. The lake itself held Barrow's Goldeneye, Ring-necked Duck and 6 Lesser Scaup while the woodland provided good birding once again. Pileated Woodpecker and more Pine Grosbeaks were seen but the clear highlight was a party of 4 Spruce Grouse on the path just in front of me as I rounded a corner. To my amazement instead of flying or running away they just waddled right up to me, close enough to touch them. Excellent! Later a different male was seen perched high in a pine tree.

Emerald Lake, 17-Sep-06 Emerald Lake, 17-Sep-06

Emerald Lake, 17th September 2006

 

Natural Bridge, 17-Sep-06 Glacier, 17-Sep-06

Natural Bridge (Field), 17th September 2006

A glacier somewhere in the Rockies (can't remember where), 17th September 2006

Takakkaw Falls. Famous for its high waterfall this site was too tourist-ridden for much in the way of birds, save for a couple of Gray Jays.

Takakkaw Falls, 17-Sep-06 Vitty, Takakkaw Falls, 17-Sep-06

Takakkaw Falls, 17th September 2006

Banff National Park. We ventured across the border into Alberta for a short distance but didn't see many birds here. One picnic site contained some very tame Gray Jays, much to the amusement of one couple who ignored the signs warning them not to feed the local wildlife.

Banff NP, 17-Sep-06 Vitty, Banff NP, 17-Sep-06

Banff National Park, 17th September 2006

 

Banff NP, 17-Sep-06 Continental Divide, 17-Sep-06

Banff National Park, 17th September 2006. I think this was Castle Mountain.

The border sign between Banff and Kootenay National Parks, 17th September 2006. I suppose it's logical that rivers on the east side of the highest mountain range in North America should flow into the Atlantic, but it still seems odd to think that they flow out to the Atlantic even it's about 5 times further than the Pacific.

Paint Pots Traill, Kootenay Valley. The site is known for its rich reddish-coloured soil, once used as a dye. A few birds involved mainly Kinglets but also the first Mountain Chickadee of the trip.

Paint Pots Trail, 17-Sep-06 Vitty, Paint Pots Trail, 17-Sep-06

Paint Pots Trail, Kootenay Valley, 17th September 2006

Wilmer Bird Sanctuary. I'm quite sure that if I'd done any research about where to go birding in this area, this would have been high on my list of priorities. As it was I stumbled across this massive wetland quite by chance and spent most of the evening trying to work out the best way to get views. After wasting far too much time trying to find a way in, I reached a spot overlooking the wetlands from great height, a good vantage point but everything was a very long way off (even if it wasn't far horizontally). I did eventually find a place where you could get down to a lower elevation and still see a lot of the pools but by that time it was getting dark. There were vast numbers of wildfowl at this site, even if they were dots far beneath me. The deeper pools held 470 American Coot, 80 Ring-necked Ducks, 10 Ruddy Ducks and the shallower areas contained at least 700 American Wigeon and 100 (Northern) Pintails. A Slavonian (Horned) Grebe was the only one I saw inland and a fine adult Bald Eagle flew over. Passerines were numerous too, including Boreal Chickadees and a Townsend's Solitaire.

Wilma Bird Sanctuary, 17-Sep-06 Wilma Bird Sanctuary, 17-Sep-06

Wilmer Bird Sanctuary, 17th September 2006

 

Monday 18th September

Panorama Road, Invermere. Last night I had found a signboard at Wilmer which showed a photo of a Mountain Bluebird. This was a species I very much wanted to see so seeing that they occur in the area, I made it my mission to find one this morning! Having missed the turn to Wilma Bird Sanctuary I decided to carry on up the road and see what was there. Not much at the top but nearer the bottom there were loads of birds, mainly things like Audubon's Warblers and Oregon Juncos but also a group of Western Bluebirds. A bit further on and I stopped to check some birds on a wire. To my delight they turned out to be Mountain Bluebirds. Mission accomplished! I then wasted far too much time trying to string a Vesper Sparrow but as I failed to see its white outer tail feathers and it was a long way off, I'm not having it.

Wilmer Bird Sanctuary. This time I knew where to go, but as I walked down the path I encountered a herd of Elk. At least I'm pretty sure they were elk but given my experience in Field a couple of days earlier I decided not to hang around and find out. Much as I wanted to get to the bottom of the path, I didn't fancy an argument with a rutting elk so I turned back, serenaded by some very noisy Townsend's Solitaires. Two Bald Eagles this morning and another Mountain Chickadee.

Wasa Lake. A fairly extensive area of lakes but only one small section checked as we still had a long way to go and it didn't feel very safe parked on the edge of a very busy road. This section contained 3 Redheads and 70 Ring-necked Ducks.

Cranbrook. A lake just outside the town contained at least 100 American Coots and 3 Lesser Scaups.

Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area. Vitty's rough guide to Canada isn't the sort of book I would normally dip into to find out where to go birding, but as Vitty mentioned it said something about this place and it was more or less en route we decided to give it a go. It was indeed a good spot with a fairly extensive area of marshes and lakes. The visitor centre was closed but there was nothing to stop us wandering round, save for lack of time. Enough time though to see 127 (Greater) White-fronted Geese, at least 15 Wood Ducks, Marsh Wren and Muskrats. On the way back to the car it began to rain but I caught a glimpse of a largish passerine moving heavily through a bush in a manner recalling a Barred Warbler. Through the leaves I saw a plain grey head with a neat black cap well separated from the eye. Catbird? I wasn't expecting to see one of these and wasn't even sure if they normally occurr here (turns out they do). Eventually I saw the whole bird and it was indeed a superb Gray Catbird and then, true to its name, it began meowing like a cat. A surprise lifer for me and one of my favourites of the trip.

Slocum and New Denver. Despite the now-heavy rain and vanishing light we decided to take the scenic route back. I'm glad we did as despite the conditions this was one of the more beautiful areas we saw all trip, better in my opinion that the Rockies themselves. Not really suitable conditions for stopping to bird but 3 seperate single Ruffed Grouse were seen at the edge of the road, another new bird for me.

 

Tuesday 19th September.

Kelowna. A later start than planned plus some of the worst traffic around Kelowna that we'd experienced all holiday meant for a poor start to the day. To make matters worse we wasted quite a bit of time trying to find a site I'd heard about without any success. The area was good for Black-billed Magpies but not much else was seen.

Okanagon Falls area. We stopped here out of desperation more than anything, frustrated at the fact that most of the morning had disappeared and I'd not started birding. The area was good for Brewer's Blackbirds and a number of birds seen here were new for the trip including Mourning Dove, (Red) Crossbill, Pygmy Nuthatch and several flocks of California Quail.

Vaseux Lake. Another site whose attention was drawn to us by a binoculars road sign. A short boardwalk led to a hide at the north end of the lake. The lake contained a Great Northern Diver (Common Loon), 600+ American Coots, Ring-necked Ducks and American Wigeon. The bushes around the boardwalk were lively with various warblers including Wilson's and Myrtle and 2-3 White-throated Sparrows.

Bobolink Meadows. Some birders we'd bumped into at Creston Valley mentioned that there was a place between Osoyoos and Oliver and so we found ourselves here. The site appeared to be a meadow beside a river, not particularly inspiring. In fact we'd driven past much better-looking habitat along the way which might have been where they meant. The next hour or so provided one of the most memorable birding experiences of the holiday though. Upon arrival I heard the distinctive sound of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead. Three birds were quickly located and even better, an adult Broad-winged Hawk was circling around in the same patch of sky. A lifer and a fairly scarce bird over here I think. A few minutes later more Crane calls made me look up. A flock of over 220 Sandhill Cranes were circling overhead and continued to do so for several minutes before gradually moving on. Within an hour or so I'd tallied up a total of 480 of these impressive birds moving south, so much better than the dodgy tame things at Reifel! Other raptors were moving too including several of 10 Turkey Vultures, 3 Sharp-shinned Hawks and Northern Harrier while Osprey, American Kestrel and Cooper's Hawk were probably local birds. One of the last raptors to be seen was another unexpected lifer, a Swainson's Hawk. Birding at its best! A flock of hirundines was in the air for much of the time, though I'm not sure if it was one flock hanging around or several moving through. Most appeared to be Tree Swallows, my first of the trip, although I couldn't be sure there weren't a few (or possibly many) Violet-green Swallows mixed in. There were White-throated Swifts there too, also a new species for the trip. Another Mourning Dove was seen here too.

Beaver Lake. This Beaver Lake was a small wooded lake beside the road from Princetown to Hope. No Beavers there, or much else apart from more Golden-crowned Kinglets.

 

Part IV - Vancouver area again

Boundary Bay. Our attempts to get back to the Vancouver area in time to do some birding failed. We arrived at Boundary Bay before dark but due to mixing up which streets had parking on there wasn't time to see anything other than a Northern Harrier and a few Great Blue Herons.

 

Wednesday 20th September

Boundary Bay. For the final mornings birding I decided to return to Boundary Bay. The weather was attrocious with heavy rain preventing a decent look at the birds in the bay. As I walked between 104th Street and 96th Street American Pipits were everywhere and (Barn) Swallows were also enjoying the rain. A flock of waders dropped in beside the path and through wet and misted optics I discovered that they were 24 Pectoral Sandpipers - I didn't know they occurred in sizeable flocks. Mindful of recent reports of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers in the Vancouver area I decided to check these carefully, but sadly no Sharpies here today. One excellent local bird was found though, a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. I saw it once near 96th Street on the way down and then again (or was it a second bird?) further back towards 104th on the return leg. The only other waders seen in the rain were 70 Long-billed Dowitchers. There were lots of sparrows, mainly opposite the end of 96th Street and among the White-crowned, Savannah, Lincoln's and Song Sparrows were single Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows.

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