June 27 – A major change in my travel plans…

So I have been in the Okanagan Valley for the past few days dealing with the aftermath of the deer carnage. It turns out there was a lot more damage to my vehicle than was originally thought.  Repairs will take a few weeks. So, I will be leaving the Okanagan for a week or so and then fly back to pick up my jeep. Thank goodness for insurance! They are covering me to fly up to Whitehorse and back, as that was where I was headed in the first place. The alternative was to fly back to Ontario (no way), or to have a rental vehicle for the duration of my repairs. Unfortunately there is a cap on the km usage, and it has to stay on paved roads, so that was not a viable option for me. Thankfully my friend in the Yukon has a vehicle that will be suitable for doing some birding along the Dempster Highway, so the Yukon birding adventure is still a go! I am totally gutted that I am having to fly domestically during my Big Year, but sometimes you just have to work with what is given to you.

Back to the birding. I wish I could say I have been out birding all waking hours over the past few days. That has not been the case. I have heard many of the locals talking about the weird weather. Almost the whole time I have been here it has been chilly, overcast, and often raining.

The other day I took advantage of a break in the weather, and checked out the nearby Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park. I found a trailhead and made my way up some of the trails in the hopes of coming across some new species. This area is recovering from a big wildfire, so the landscape is a mix of open charred areas, as well as pine forest and shrubbery.

The first new bird I came across I heard first. Then it flew up into a pine nearby. ROCK WREN! Woo-hoo, what a fun little bird. A few moments later I heard and saw my first of several PYGMY NUTHATCHES! They are also fun birds to watch. Both of these birds are new for Canada for me. A short distance away I heard an unfamiliar flycatcher. After a little pateience and some luck it popped into view. PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHER! Lifer! It turned out to be a great walk, and welcome change from the stresses from earlier in the week

June 27 – On a quest…

This morning it was raining…again. After confirming tomorrows travel plans, and shuffling gear from my rental to my jeep, I hopped in my rental and went back south to try for some more Okanagan specialties. I had one goal in mind for today…find a Sage Thrasher.

I went to White Lake where there is even a sign in honour of the species I was after. I drove down through prime habaitat, but no luck. I turned my vehicle around and slowly made my way back. Just as I was about to give up something flew through the sage brush…it was about the right size and colour. But it lost sight of it. I scanned the area and focused on a bird sitting atop one of the sage bushes. SAGE THRASHER! ARE YOU KIDDING ME! It was one of those lucky moments. After a few moments of enjoying the bird in my binoculars I took a few quick (and awful) pictures, and then it was gone. I never saw it again. I heard some vocalizations from the general area, but it would not make itself visible. My first lifer of the day.

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Photos: Sage Thrasher habitat (and sign) at White Lake, and a SAGE THRASHER!

 The rest of the afternoon was pretty quiet. Being restricted to the paved areas, I didn’t try too much exploring. While I was up on one of the mountain roads I did come across a RED-NAPED SAPSUCKER, which was also a lifer. I heard a few flycatchers off in the distance, but I wasn’t able to get a positive ID on them. When I am back in July, I hope they will still be calling, as there are several species that I am still missing for my year.

 On my way back north I stopped in again at Vaseaux Lake to watch the White-throated Swifts. I was only able to get good looks at one bird today. While I was there I noticed a large ungulate hanging out in the boulders. I think it was a Bighorn Sheep! I am not sure if I have ever seen one before, so that was cool.

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Photos: Bighorn Sheep ewe?

 I fly up to Whitehorse, Yukon tomorrow after a brief layover in Vancouver. There are a lot of new birds I could potentially add, so I hope the weather and the birds cooperate!

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About canadabigyear2013

I'm a lifelong birder and naturalist who is undertaking a Canada Big Year in 2013.
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