Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jan 17: Osoyoos to Williams Lake

Today started off with a bang! Despite the dreary weather Sam Brett, Mom, Dad, and I set off for Osoyoos in the 6am blackness. We were following up on Soug Brown's report of 2 Yellow-billed Loons on Osoyoos Lake and since Sam needed to get to the Kelowna airport by 11am we needed to get the bird ASAP so that she could get back to Ontario! Our first couple stops along the northwestern side of the lake turned up a few Common Loons and a possible Pacific but we couldn't spy anything suspiciously yellow-y out there. Then finally we drove down behind the old packinghouse and Sam spotted a bird comnig out from behind some trees (blocking our view of the shoreline)... an immature YELLOW-BILLED LOON!!! Doug had seen his birds on the far side of the lake so we were very pleased to see one so close. I snapped some record shots but unfortunately due to the low light, drizzling rain, and the fact that I didn't grab the camera until it was getting further away, they are not "amazing" photos but at least you can tell it's a yellow-billed loon (note the pale upturned bill, pale face, and brown back with light barring).

Flushed with success, Sam and I headed north to Kelowna. We picked up my friend Kevin Easthope (who was to join me for a little more of a journey than expected) in Rutland, then Kevin and I said our goodbyes to Sam at the airport before continuing north towards the hawk-owls of Williams Lake! Our first stop along the way was at Desert Cove near Vernon where Gray Partridge are known to spend the winter beneath trailors in the commnuity (or so I am told?). We cruised around the community and chatted with locals but no seemed to have any tips on finding the birds. I spotted a brushy area with some old trailors in behind the main complex and thought this would be the best place to search. Sure enough there was a feeder down there covered in birds. No partridge in site but after a few quick pishes out the window, 1,2, then 3 WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS popped up to check us out!!! I've never had more than 2 of these locally rare sparrows at a time in the Okanagan so a great treat! (Photo of one bird included below in my previous post--- can you spot him amongst the branches?)

After a sunny and scenic drive from Vernon to Kamloops, I decided to follow up on some Sharp-tailed Grouse-finding tips from local bird expert Rick Howie. Having never seen these birds outside the Peace River region I was keen to find them down south and before winter leaves so for a couple hours Kevin and I cruised the back roads south of Kamloops (off Hwy 5a). Since it was a sunny Sunday there were a lot of dog-walkers around and we feared that the grouse would be hiding away. Then at the last place we checked, POOOF!, 2 SHARP-TAILED GROUSE flushed out of an aspen grove right over out heads! I let out a triumphant whoop, and we carried on our road trip, arriving in Williams Lake for dinner. There we stayed with Kevin's parents who spoiled us with hearty meals, delicious desserts, warm beds, and a great location: Chimney Valley! Kevin and I tried for owls for a bit that night but only managed to get an leery 'yowl!' out of one of the resident Great Horns.

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