This morning David Chapman rolled into the driveway at 4:28am. I was feeling a little under the weather but that's no excuse to avoid doing a big day of birding in the South Okanagan! David had challenged me to design a route that would get us over 100 species and obviously starting early helps! I call this a "Little Big Day" since we didn't start until 4:30 and we ended in the afternoon; a true "Big Day" is midnight to midnight!
So off we went, first to Max Lake to try for poorwill just before dawn. No luck with the goatsucker but we picked up some good birds like DUSKY GROUSE (single-hoots from high on the ridge), both SORA and VIRGINIA RAIL, and many singing SPOTTED TOWHEES and HOUSE WRENS. From there we headed south to OK Falls and up the 201/Shuttleworth Ck Rd where we rain into a gangling pair of MOOSE!
Our first stop was out at KM 25 where snow still covered most of the road! Consequently, not a single Hermit Thrush could be heard in the forest. We did pick up some nice species though: BLACK-BACKED and AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER, NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL, VARIED THRUSH, and flyover NORTHERN HARRIER, and a single PINE GROSBEAK. David had never seen a Boreal Chickadee before so we spent a fair amount of time at my "no worries-guaranteed" spots but no luck! Finally somewhere around KM 20 we called in at least 2 of these gorgeous tits (!).
The woodpecker extravaganza continued downhill where PILEATED and HAIRY WOODPECKERS drummed and called loudly from the the larches, and coolest of all-- a pair of WILLIAMSON'S SAPSUCKERS + a pair of RED-NAPED SAPSUCKERS perched briefly in the same tree on the Dutton Creek Rd!
Down the hill we went, and the forest birds continued to produce: all 3 nuthatches, singing CASSIN'S FINCH and WESTERN TANAGERS, WESTERN BLUEBIRD, DUSKY and HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHERS, CASSIN'S VIREO, EVENING GROSBEAK, RED CROSSBILL, and NASHVILLE WARBLER-- to name but a few.
From OK Falls we turned south and headed to Vaseux Lake where YELLOW WARBLERS and MARSH WRENS called along the boardwalk, then we met Laure Neish near the cliffs and she informed us of a couple groups of LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS up the road. We headed up there and sure enough! We now had every possible woodpecker (except White-headed) for the morning list! We also added WHITE-THROATED SWIFT, CANYON WREN, and a brief look at a PEREGRINE FALCON.
Next up was Rd. 22 where we watched a male LONG-BILLED CURLEW dive-bomb an adult BALD EAGLE, then picked up over 10 species of waterfowl at Deadman's Lake plus half a dozen stunning WILSON'S PHALAROPES.
I was planning on driving to Creston today to look for stilts, terns, and turkeys so we headed back to Penticton in the early afternoon where we easily added GREAT HORNED OWL, CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD, and RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD. We ended the day with something like 126 species (later in the evening David added a few from Kelowna bringing his personal total to 130!) so not a bad outing!
After taking a quick nap, I made the rash decision to drive to Vancouver instead of Creston, opting to chase a mega-rare RED-THROATED PIPIT in spring plumage... a big risk as spring pipits aren't known to stick around too long, especially with sunny weather... details on the twitch soon!
Thanks for the great day David!
(photo of a big BLACK BEAR seen in Manning Park during my drive to the coast-- it was around this time that I realized I was getting pretty darn sick and that this might not be a good idea!)