Well, it was another day of a lot of driving. But was it ever worth it!
I got an early start and continued to snake my way through the mountain passes of SE British Columbia. What a beautiful drive! At times I was up in rocky areas with sparse vegetation (mountain summits), and others I was in lush evergreen forests or mixed forests in the river valleys. My day ended in sage brushlands of the incredible Okanagan Valley.
Photos: From the Rocky Mountains to the Okanagan Valley
Ok, so about the birds. My first year bird came in the form of a MACGILLIVRAY’S WARBLER high up on a mountain pass. I heard it singing first, and knew right away what it was. With a little patience I was able to get some nice looks at it, and a few bad pictures.
Photo: A blurry male MacGillivray’s Warbler
Once I made it out into some of the more arid landscape (near Castlegar) I heard and then saw a nice CASSIN’S VIREO (lifer!). A little farther down the highway I was treated to a soaring GOLDEN EAGLE, that later landed up on some cliffs.
Another real treat came in the form of a flycatching LEWIS’S WOODPECKER near the town of Kettle Valley. It would end up being the first of 3 of these incredible woodpeckers that I would see today. They are stunning. This was only my second sighting of this species, the first being a very out of place bird in eastern Ontario back in the early 2000’s!
Photos: Lewis’s Woodpecker!
As I approached the Okanagan Valley I really started to notice the change in both topography and vegetation. This arid region is dominated by sagebrush on the slopes and in the lowlands, and a lot of Ponderosa Pine. There are also a lot of bare rocky outcroppings, and some stark cliffs. It is a really neat region. Unfortunately development it destroying a lot of this unique habitat that is full of rare, threatened and endangered species.
As I approached the area I started to come across several new species. I heard and saw some nice WESTERN TANAGERS, as well as 2 WESTERN BLUEBIRDS (Canadian Lifer), 4 SAY’S PHOEBES (Canadian Lifer), several CALIFORNIA QUAIL, 3 BULLOCK’S ORIOLES (Canadian Lifer), a few VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, 3 CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRDS (Canadian Lifer, and the smallest bird in North America!) and a stunning male WILLIAMSON’S SAPSUCKER.
Photos: California Quail, Say’s Phoebe, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock’s Oriole, Calliope Hummingbird
In the early evening I headed to the cliffs alongside Vaseaux Lake, where I watched WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS circle overhead, while listening to a CANYON WREN singing somewhere up in the cliffs. Both of these were also new to Canada for me.
With darkness approaching I decided to try and listen for Common Poorwill west of Osoyoos. After finding some suitable looking sage slopes I stopped my jeep and started to listen. Immediately I heard one calling upslope. COMMON POORWILL! Another Canadian Lifer.
What an amazing day of birding. I hopped back into my jeep and started to make my way back to town. A short distance later I was pulled over to the side of the road with my emergency lights on. There was one less deer in the world.
After a few moments of shock and then a flurry of phone calls (thank goodness I had reception!) I sat and waited for the police. They were there fast and arrived along with an ambulance (just in case I was hurt). I was fine, just a little shaken. The ordeal was over pretty quickly. The officers said the deer was killed instantly, so I was happy to know it didn’t suffer. The same could not be said for my Jeep. The front left side got banged up pretty badly.
SO, it was quite a day/night. I will be getting some bodywork done before I continue on my way to the Yukon. Hopefully I will be back in action soon!