The Okanagan Valley is well known as one of Canada’s premier birding locations. The climate, the great range of habitats, and the location of the valley, situated close to the US border, all aid in making this region fantastic for birding.
Late April brings with it a wave of migrant birds, flooding the valley as they move north to their summer breeding grounds. We’ll pick through the flocks of ‘Audubon’s’ Yellow-rumped Warblers for other gems like Nashville Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler and Orange-crowned Warblers to name a few. The first Dusky & Hammond’s flycatchers will be arriving, alongside Western Tanager, Western Kingbird and the showy Lewis’s Woodpecker.
We’ll visit rocky cliffs where Canyon and Rock wrens sing, Chukar hide amongst the boulders, and White-throated Swifts zip by at lightning speed.
We’ll explore boreal forests where Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, White-winged Crossbill and Pine Grosbeak are possible, and marshes home to Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens, Virginia Rails, Soras and Northern Harriers.
If this isn’t enough, up to 9 species of owl are possible on this tour, with the most likely including Great Horned, Barred, Northern Saw-whet, Northern Pygmy, Long-eared and Western screech-owls. With luck we’ll find the elusive Boreal Owl high in the mountains near Ok Falls, or a Barn Owl roosting in the trees near Road 22. Of course, we’ll focus our attention on birds, but we will also tally up a list of a dozen or more mammal species on this tour.
On the small side, there will be Yellow Pine Chipmunks, Columbian Ground-Squirrels, Red Squirrels and Eastern Fox Squirrels in the region.
Around lakes and ponds we may spot Muskrat or Beaver, while in woodlands we’ll keep our eyes peeled for Moose, White-tailed and Mule deer, Bobcat, Coyote and more. Around rocky cliffs we should see the impressive Bighorn Sheep and the snowy coated Mountain Goat.
Your guide has lived in the Okanagan his whole life and knows the area intimately.
DAY 1 – April 26
Meet at 9 AM at the Parkinson’s Rec Centre in the S. end of the parking lot near Hwy 97. From here we will carpool, making our first stop at Hardy Falls in Peachland. Here, a short stroll up the creek will not only give us a chance to stretch our legs, but it will also give us an opportunity to look for Pacific Wren, American Dipper, Downy Woodpecker and perhaps a few migrants such as Nashville and Orange-crowned warblers, Dusky Flycatchers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets to name a few.
Next stop is at Okanagan Falls where we can scan the rapids along the Okanagan River for American Dippers, and both Common and Barrow’s goldeneye. Over the ridges we may spot a White-throated Swift zipping past. A quick look in the campground itself should produce some early migrants, possibly Red-naped Sapsucker, Golden-crowned Sparrow or a Yellow Warbler. We’ll continue along to Green Lake Rd, pausing in the Ponderosa Pine forest for White-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches, Western Bluebirds, Evening Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills and Cassin’s Finches. As we pass by White Lk we’ll add Western Meadowlark and Mountain Bluebird to our list. Perhaps a Say’s Phoebe will be in attendance. A stop at Three Gates Farm is always in order on one of my tours, so we’ll pop in and see if we can find our first Calliope or Rufous hummingbirds of the year, or perhaps we’ll see the resident pair of Northern Pygmy-Owls.
Depending on the time of day, we may have a chance to scan Vaseux Lk for waterfowl, which may include a few lingering Trumpeter Swans and perhaps a Eurasian Wigeon. The cliffs at Vaseux, if time permits again, are where we’ll find Canyon Wren, White-throated Swift and the elusive Chukar. Overhead, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon.
After dinner we’ll make our way out for some owling. We’ll first head up the Shuttleworth Ck Rd E. of Okanagan Falls. How far up the road, and how much we might see, will depend on the condition of this road. We will easily be able to make it into good habitat for Northern Saw-whet Owl. We will have a fair chance at finding Barred Owl also, but whether we will be able to make it up to Boreal Owl habitat is unknown. We’ll come down the mountain once we’ve found or tried for what we were after. We’ll then put a little work into finding Western Screech-Owl.
Night in Okanagan Falls.
DAY 2 – April 27
After breakfast we will head back to Vaseux Lk if the need arises, to try once again for the hard-to-get species on the cliffs. Next stop will be determined by Shuttleworth Rd condition. If the road allows us to get up to km 23 and Rabbit Lk area we’ll head there in search of Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, Boreal Chickadee and more. If we cannot make it up to this elevation, we’ll instead visit Camp McKinney Rd, where Mount Baldy Ski Area offers us the chance of the same species, but has ploughed roads. Wherever we go, we’ll keep an eye open for woodpeckers such as American Three-toed, Black-backed, Pileated, Lewis’s and the White-headed woodpecker, the latter of which is almost of mythical occurrence it’s so rare. Williamson’s Sapsuckers should be back in their Western Larch habitat by this time and if so their drumming and calling is often quite evident this early in the season.
We will spend the remainder of the day exploring the oxbows along the Okanagan River at the N. end of Osoyoos Lk. Walking through these woods can produce Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Barred Owl, Barn Owl and Western Screech-Owl, although we’ll be happy to see just one or two of these beauties. Other species more common in this area include Northern Harrier, Marsh Wren, Ring-necked Pheasant, Yellow-headed Blackbird and perhaps a Prairie Falcon. Long-billed Curlews should be back in local fields along with all six swallow species possible in the skies over Road 22.
After dinner we will head out for some more owling. Where we go will depend on what we have or have not seen.
DAY 3 – April 28
This morning we will make our way back to Osoyoos, via a stop along River Road and a quick stop at Inkaneep Provincial Park where riparian species including rare appearances by Bewick’s Wren can be had. From Osoyoos, we’ll turn W. and explore the Richter Pass. Along the lower reaches of Kilpoola Lk Rd we’ll see what we can find, before making our way to Chopaka Rd. A short drive down this road should provide us with numerous Western Meadowlarks, and possibly American Kestrel, Vesper Sparrows and perhaps a late Northern Shrike or Rough-legged Hawk. As we make our way up through the Similkameen Valley we’ll watch fields for Long-billed Curlews. Eurasian Collared-Doves are common in this valley also. We’ll cut back over the ridge to the E. and return to the Okanagan Valley, making one final stop at the Red Roost Gift Shop where feeders attract a wide variety of avian visitors. Hummingbirds will be back in action here, and Rufous and Calliope are the two possibilities during this part of the season. Anna’s Hummingbird, while rare, is always a possibility too. This location is fantastic for Evening Grosbeak, Cassin’s Finch, Pine Siskin, Spotted Towhee, Hairy Woodpecker, and much more. Raptors often seen here include Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, Red-tailed Hawk and Golden Eagle. From here we’ll say goodbye and return to Kelowna by 5 PM.
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