Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Early June--Bush Arm and Okanagan Birding

I have recently returned from a fabulous stint in the middle of nowhere, or is it the middle of everywhere? 5 days near the Alberta border in the gorgeous "Bush Arm" of Kinbasket Lake (about 90km north of Golden on a logging road), allowed for some great birding. A co-worker and I camped along the Valenciennes River (a main tributary of the Bush River and later the Columbia), and spent most of our time doing bird surveys along the river and reservoir for BC HYDRO. A lot of our working area is just barren mud and gravel but a few spots as well as everywhere in between can be very productive. Most days I would get up super-early and go out atlassing, then wake up my partner for work, then later in the afternoon we would go for a hike somewhere. Anyways, it was quite nice and we found some good birds for the area (and the atlas!).

Some of the highlights:

-a single YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER on territory for at least 4 days (will return soon to check on him). This may be the southern most record for this species in the province! I would appreciate any information on other records south of McBride if they exist (picture of habitat included, also a picture of my reaction... the best I can provide when you don't get a photo of the bird! My camera is currently getting repaired so I've just got this tiny point and shoot thing). For those interested in the habitat, it seems to favour a cedar snag and a tall birch snag that jut out of a mixed forest of cedar, cottonwood, aspen, pine, and spruce (mostly young stuff), and as one might expect, the ground cover is fairly moist and is mostly mossy. So far I haven't heard any other birds. This species (like Gray-cheeked Thrush) is probably more widespread in BC than anyone realizes simply because of limited access to appropriate habitat, limited coverage by birders in various regions, and limited experience with their calls and song. For instance, the YB Fly can sound a lot like a Least Flycatcher or even a Hammond's or Dusky to the unfamiliar ear.


-Several pairs of WESTERN and EASTERN KINGBIRDS (as well as a few migrant flocks- the biggest being 7 EAKIs and 1 WEKI)

-at least 4 singing male LECONTE'S SPARROWS in one spot plus at least 1 female

-Copulating BLACK SWIFTS (lots around!)

-1 possible BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (haven't seen it yet, it sings classic BT Green song for 90% of the time then switches over to a TOWA-like song every once in a while. This could be a hybrid or perhaps just a Townsend's that sings BT Green song (this has been documented in the Peace). Will continue to pursue this guy.

-1 singing GRAY CATBIRD

-1 female WILSON'S PHALAROPE (keep in mind, I'm in the middle of the mountains!) feeding in a creek (she has been there for at least 10 days and a male was sited a few weeks ago in the same area)

-I also found a neat hidden lake with lots of reeds that seems to have breeding WOOD DUCK, MALLARD, both HOODED and COMMON MERGANSERS, PIED-BILLED GREBE, BUFFLEHEAD, RING-NECKED DUCK, and both rails. Maybe I'll find a Swamp Sparrow if I can find time to check it in the morning.

Much more!

At the moment I'm back in the Okanagan where it is pouring rain (it was baking in the mountains!). Pretty much all my money is gone so hopefully I'll get payed soon and my little car tune-up won't be too pricey! Bird-wise I managed to find a singing GRASSHOPPER SPARROW along the first stretch of the Nighthawk Rd west of Osoyoos. Got great looks. Unfortunately however it seems like the Black-throated Sparrow and Sage Thrashers have moved on. Hopefully mote thrashers will return in late June as they do most years.

I'm afraid a trip to the coast for that Indigo Bunting would really drain the bank so I hope it either sticks around or calls up some friends!

Until next time,

Russ Cannings
Currently in Penticton, BC

p.s. Will probably try for Clark's Grebe this evening in Salmon Arm, fingers crossed... maybe a stilt will show up?

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