Tuesday, June 1, 2010
NMT BIG DAY (75km cycled)
Today (May 23), I was joined by Sam Brett, Ana Milner and Ryan McIndoe. Our starting point for this cycling "Big Day" was KM25 on the 201 Rd above Okanagan Falls. As you can see in the photo, it was a little wintery up there with light snow in the air and on the ground and YES it was very cold. We didn't have a thermometer with us but it was certainly below zero at 5am when we got our first bird: RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. The rest of the morning up high was very quiet, much different from previous mornings leading tours and doing the driving big day; there were hardly any birds singing! Instead of the usual 30+ hermit thrushes around Rabbit Lake we heard only 1 singing, we missed white-crowned sparrow and Pine Grosbeak, and not a single spruce grouse was heard wing-capping. We did however hear some female SPRUCE GROUSES calling close to the road, and heard the NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL that has been very reliable up there of late. No woodpeckers early on but eventually down lower we heard RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, PILEATED WOODPECKER, and NORTHERN FLICKER. We missed "Willy" but were happy to see MACGILLIVRAY'S and WILSON'S WARBLERS close at hand, many TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS, a couple BOREAL CHICKADEES, and other common larch birds like CHIPPING SPARROWS and PINE SISKINS.
Once we got down lower I decided to take an alternate route to Vaseux Lake, both for old time's sake, and to save us a couple KM (at this point I was still suffering from my cold that caught me on the Red-throated Pipit chase... wasn't sure how long I could survive). The alternate route was of course the old Irrigation Creek Road (aka McIntyre Creek Rd) which branches off the 201 (Shuttleworth) around KM5.5. This road used to be one of the premier birding roads in the province but the fire of 2003 wiped out a large portion of the pine forest while other areas have been logged, plus it has been decommissioned to the point that few vehicles can pass through. Anyways, there are still birds there and we had a great ride down! No gray flycatcher this year unfortunately, but lots of LAZULI BUNTINGS singing, a family of CANYON WRENS poked around the rocks right beside us in the box canyon, NASHVILLE WARBLERS sang in the riparian draws, and pine specialists like RED CROSSBILL, CASSIN'S FINCHES, PYGMY NUTHATCHES, and CLARK'S NUTCRACKERS displayed themselves in a convenient and pleasant manner.
Further down along the Vaseux cliffs we heard several CHUKAR calling away somewhere up on the rocks; our first LEWIS'S WOODPECKERS of the day chased each other around, and from up on the hill we picked off some of our first waterbirds of the day on Vaseux Lake including a COMMON LOON, 5 EARED GREBES, 1 CANVASBACK, and many REDHEADS.
Next we cycled over to the Vaseux boardwalk where a VEERY called repeatedly, joined by chattering MARSH WRENS, witchitie-ing COMMON YELLOWTHROATS, and overhead-- WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS swooped and screeched.
Now it was time to head south to River Road where we found Mr. BLACK-CHINNED HUMMINGBIRD perched on his usual wire; like last year we were skunked once again at River Road on the chat front... where does he go? Around the bend at Hack's Pond, RING-NECKED PHEASANT, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, and SORA were added to the list among other things... now it was time for the big slog!
All the way down to Rd. 22 north of Osoyoos, we fought the wind and gravel (okay it wasn't that bad but my bum was pretty sore!) We rode the dyke along the Okanagan River and picked off new species for the day such as WOOD DUCK, EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE, CEDAR WAXWING, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT (at least 3 along there!), and EASTERN KINGBIRD. Upon finally reaching Rd. 22 we notched BOBOLINK, LONG-BILLED CURLEW, YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD and NORTHERN HARRIER in quick succession, bringing our day total close to 130... pretty good considering out total last year was 118! We still had a couple stops though-- first was Deadman Lake where loads of waterfowl continued to be found, plus WILSON'S SNIPE and WILSON'S PHALAROPES. I scanned and scanned for the previously noted common goldeneye, semi plover, and least sand but no dice. Back to rd. 22 we headed south along Black Sage Road to the look-out over Osoyoos Lake: like most years, boat traffic was heavy on the Victoria Day weekend and little was left on the lake other than a few RED-NECKED GREBES and a distant loon in basic plumage... possibly a yellow-billed??? Too far...
When we returned to Rd. 22 Carlo Giovanella and his gang informed us that the goldeneye, plover, and peep were indeed still at Deadman Lake... uuuurg! Back on the saddle for the back-track and finally after 20 minutes of concentrated scanning with the bins (no scope), we found the LEAST SANDPIPER and the female COMMON GOLDENEYE... no plover though. So, that brought us to 135 around 4:30pm. We were all pretty bushed at that point and figured our total was a competitive one, so opted against heading up hill again to search for some of our big missed... bad yes I know: Lark Sparrow, Hairy and Downy Woodpecker... etc.
But a fun day all in all and mostly great weather! (75+KM cycled) THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you who supported my DAY with a donation/pledge to the Baillie Fund and the Vaseux Lake Observatory. I believe it is still possible to contribute at: