Conference and AGM: June 9-11, 2023 Vernon, BC

Photo courtesy Tourism Vernon



Prestige Vernon Hotel

4411 32nd St, Vernon, B.C. V1T 9G8

NOTE: 20 rooms have been set aside at conference rates. First come, first served. To book a room call (250) 558-5991

Full conference registration: $195/person.
Social Only $75.00 : includes Friday evening meet & greet, and Saturday banquet
Young Birders (under 19 years of age) $90.00: includes Friday evening meet & greet, Saturday & Sunday breakfasts & lunches, Saturday evening Banquet, plus all field trips and talks.

Registration has closed.

Friday, June 9

Registration and Social: 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Prestige Vernon Hotel, O’Keefe/Ellison Room. Pick up your conference package, socialize with fellow birders, sign the Conference waiver form, and make your field trip selections for Saturday morning. There will be appetizers and a cash bar.

Saturday and Sunday, June 10 and 11

Location: Prestige Vernon Hotel.

Breakfast: 5:30 AM to 6:00 AM, prior to field trips.

Lunch: 12:00 to 1:00 PM

Conference Field Trips (Saturday and Sunday) 6:15 AM departures from the Prestige Vernon Hotel

Field Trip Selection and Waiver Forms

Field Trip selections for the morning of June 10 will be made during registration on Friday, June 9th at 5:00 PM. At the same time, you will be asked to complete your conference waiver form and review the BCFO Code of Ethics. Sign-up sheets for the Sunday morning field trips will be available just after the AGM on Saturday afternoon.

Swainson’s Hawk: photo by Gary Davidson

Field trip #1

Kalamalka Lakeview Road, High Ridge Road, and the Lower Commonage. You will be following your leader south of Vernon to a portion of the old highway towards Kelowna. Now named Kalamalka Lakeview Road, this is a scenic grassland route with the hills of the Vernon Commonage on the west and grassland and remnant Ponderosa Pines intersected by shrubby draws and occasional talus slopes to the east set against Kalamalka Lake. The route proceeds south to High Ridge Road north of Kekuli Bay Provincial Park then joins Highway 97 for a brief section before pausing at the base of Bailey Road for a brief exploration of riparian shrubbery before climbing Bailey Road, passing an active Osprey nest and stopping to scan Bailey Pond. Then the tour turns north onto Commonage Road for a final stop at Rose’s Pond before ending back in Vernon. The tour will target open country and pond species including Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, White-throated Swift (scarce), Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Willow Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Common Raven, Rock Wren, Gray Catbird, Western Bluebird, Yellow-breasted Chat, Bullock’s Oriole, Yellow Warbler, and Black-headed Grosbeak. There will be a final stop or two along Mission Rd. to look for Swainson’s Hawk which traditionally nests at the Vernon Army Camp and possibly at the entrance road to the Allan Brooks Nature Centre. Walking difficulty: Easy stop-and-go automotive tour. Driving caution must be taken especially on the section of Commonage Rd. between Bailey, Rose’s Pond, and Mission Rd. because of fast drivers and very limited pull-off areas.

Field trip #2

BCFO – Morning Birding – Swan Lake Nature Reserve Park and possibly other Swan Lake stops, O’Keefe’s Pond, and Otter Lake. The success of this morning outing will depend upon the water levels in the valley in late spring. A wet spring with high ground water may produce an ephemeral pond next to Swan Lake Nature Reserve Park, attracting gulls, the occasional tern, late shorebird migrants, and breeding waterfowl including Cinnamon Teal and Gadwall. However, a wet spring may also flood normally productive cattail and bulrush marshes and submerge shores, dramatically decreasing biodiversity at Otter Lake and O’Keefe Pond. Equally impactful, an arid spring can dry up wetlands. Pray for a “normal” not-too wet – not too dry season.

Target species at the south end of Swan Lake include a pair of Northern Harriers, one of the largest Yellow-headed Blackbird colonies in B.C., Tree Swallows galore nesting in boxes managed by the North Okanagan Naturalists who take an active interest in the management of the Swan Lake Nature Reserve Park, and a very photographable occupied Osprey nest next to a two-story viewing tower. Other species possible include Red-necked Grebes and Pied-billed Grebes (nesting), Wood Ducks (scarce), Gadwall, Common Loon, and even the occasional Western Grebe are targets as well as the usual marsh birds such as Sora, Virginia Rail, Wilson’s Snipe and Marsh Wren.

If there is time the tour will continue driving north along Old Kamloops Rd. and Highway 97 to the junction of Highway 97 and St. Anne’s Rd. where O’Keefe Pond is located right next to the road. Here are Red-winged and Yellow-headed blackbirds often perched within close photographable distance, a diversity of swallows, and waterfowl. The tour continues north turning onto Otter Lake Rd. where catbirds, Cedar Waxwings, Bullock’s Orioles, and other species of riparian brush can be seen along Deep Creek. The final stop will be at Scott Park at the north end of Otter Lake to view the marsh. This is a local hot spot with 150 species on its accumulated sightings list. This is a good spot in early June for Black Swift, Wilson’s Phalarope, Great Blue Heron, Bullock’s Oriole, Gray Catbird, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal, Northern Rough-winged and Bank Swallow, Redhead, Yellow Warbler, and occasionally Double-crested Cormorant.

Expect to walk about 2 kms on mostly level ground in Swan Lake Nature Reserve Park. The remainder of the tour will involve stop and look driving. Scopes are highly recommended for Otter Lake.

Field trip #3

Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park. For conference participants who are comfortable hiking at least 4 km, this tour explores the largest remaining Ponderosa Pine-Douglas-fir forest remaining open to the public in the North Okanagan. The tour will arrive at the Red Gate entrance and pass through fairly open forest towards Cosens Bay on beautiful Kalamalka Lake. The first km is on level ground while the second km descends an arid south-facing slope to a small sheltered bay on the north-east shore of the lake backed by a marsh in damp springs. Exploring these two areas will take up most of the morning, but if there is time, the tour will drive to a second parking lot (Cosens Bay Gate) to bird the base of the cliffs that run east west across the park.

Target birds in the dry forest include Dusky and Ruffed Grouse, Calliope Hummingbird, Golden Eagle, Red-naped Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Western Wood-Pewee, Dusky Flycatcher, Cassin’s Vireo, Clark’s Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee, White-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches, House Wren, Townsend’s Solitaire, Cassin’s Finch, Red Crossbill (Ponderosa Pine call-type), Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Nashville Warbler, Western Meadowlark, and Lazuli Bunting.

In the cottonwoods and marsh around Cosens Bay we will search for Common Merganser, California Quail, Vaux’s Swift, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Sora, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-naped Sapsucker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Tree and Violet-green swallows, Gray Catbird, Swainson’s Thrush, MacGillivray’s and Yellow Warbler and Black-headed Grosbeak.

Field trip #4

Silver Star Mountain – Sovereign Lake- high boreal birding. Join Chris Siddle on a short tour of the spruce-fir forests surrounding Sovereign Lake. We will be walking about 2-4 kms of ski-trails and communications one lane roads. In early June these trails may still be covered in fairly deep snow so wear waterproof boots and be prepared for last minute changes of plans. Layered clothing is highly recommended for the weather can be very changeable at 5000 feet running from cold to hot. This trip involves dense forest edge birding and can vary from highly productive to a complete bust so you’ve been warned. However, you can usually count on a few mosquitoes so bring repellent. Hopefully at least one participant will still have acute hearing and can draw the crowd’s attention to the location of chickadees and kinglets, because your leader admits to being “somewhat deaf” when it comes to these species. Target birds include “Franklin’s” Spruce Grouse, and Boreal Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Canada Jay, Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill, and Lincoln’s Sparrow and Fox Sparrow (Slate-coloured type). Other species in the general area include Barrow’s Goldeneye (Brewer’s Pond, Silver Star village), Spotted Sandpiper (same site), Northern Pygmy Owl (rare), Hammond’s Flycatcher, Pacific Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit, Swainson’s and Varied Thrushes, Cassin’s Finch (sporadic), Red Crossbill, and White-crowned Sparrow (gambelli types). Usually there’s plenty of parking at km 2 of the Sovereign Lake Road

Field trip #5

Beaver Lake Road rises through a variety of habitats, affording the chance to see many different species; grassland slopes, mixed woodland, conifer forest, upper plateau lake environs. Bluebirds, meadowlarks, Lazuli Bunting, and a variety of forest birds are possible on this route. As much of the lower part is private land we will be driving with frequent stops to look and listen. Come prepared to carpool so that we reduce our need for parking space and to minimise our environmental impact. There are no facilities, just ‘happy trees’ at higher elevations so be warned. Please bring water and a snack. Pace will be easy with perhaps some short walks on uneven ground on forest trails.

Mountain Bluebird: photo by Gary Davidson

Field Trip Leaders

Chris Siddle – a long time resident of Vernon and life-long birder and naturalist. He has published many papers and articles in a number of scientific journals.

Pam Laing – currently residing in Kelowna, Pam has been active with the Central Okanagan Naturalist Club for many years.

Gail Loughridge – born in Victoria where she met Cam Findlay and was introduced to the world of hummingbird banding. She later received her hummingbird banding permit and has been active in the BC hummingbird banding program in Vernon for the past 15 years.

Margaret Mackenzie – a long time resident and naturalist of the Vernon area. For over 10 years, she has coordinated the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club Bluebird Nest Box program consisting of 22 trails and over 400 boxes. She is extremely knowledgeable about local habitats and ecosystems and is our local go-to person to help with plant identification. In recent years, her proficiency with a camera has enhanced her knowledge of birds and become a great accompaniment to her ability to identify bird song. 

Pat McAllister – a long time naturalist of the Vernon area enjoys sharing her knowledge of birds, plants, local geology and general ecology to all ages. She has been a member and supporter of North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club for many years.

Harold Sellers – another long-time director of North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club, Ribbons of Green Trails Society and other organizations. His knowledge of the Vernon area trails and birding areas is a great support to the local birders and naturalists. His dedication to the preservation and protection of natural areas in the North Okanagan has been a guiding force in our club. 

Marnie Williamson – a director of North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club for over 12 years. She has lived in the Vernon area for over 40 years and knows some of the local and regional spots that bring the wonder and joy of nature to one’s soul. Always willing to learn and share.

Scott Thomson – born and raised Vernon and has long had an interest in the outdoors. He lived most of his working life in Summerland before returning to the Okanagan 4 years ago; he now lives in Lumby. Scott has made Rawlings Lake, northeast of Lumby his special project. Since arriving in the North Okanagan has added several birds to the local checklist including an errant Brant and a completely lost Green-tailed Towhee. 

Don Cecile – is a retired school teacher/administrator who has been an avid birder and photographer since 1986.  He has a biology background with several seasons conducting shorebird census/nesting studies in the Canadian and Alaskan arctic. When he is not pursuing birds off-continent, he is most often found pursuing birds of the Salmon Arm shoreline.

Saturday, June 10

Morning field trips depart 6:15

Lunch 12 to 1:00 pm

Afternoon Speakers: 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM

Jocie Brooksthe Life and Art of Allan Brooks

Allan Brooks (1869-1946) was one of North America’s most renowned illustrators of birds and mammals. The Brooks family came to Canada from England and settled in the Chilliwack area in the late 1880’s. Young Allan was enthralled with the wilds of British Columbia. He established a home at Okanagan Landing, near Vernon, and eventually divided his time between the Okanagan and his winter home in Comox. Allan illustrated many major bird books of the day, including Birds of Western Canada, Birds of Canada, Birds of Washington and Birds of California. His paintings were also widely circulated in magazines such as National Geographic, Canadian Nature and Audubon Magazine. Allan wrote and illustrated articles for many ornithological journals including the Condor and the Auk.

Allan’s grand-daughter, Jocie, will give an overview of Brooks’ life and art, focusing on his time in the Okanagan and his many paintings of birds and wildlife from this rich area. There will be a “sneak peek” from Brooks’ diaries and sketch books that are in the Brooks family private collection.

Jocie Brooks is a piano teacher who moonlights as a “nature nerd.” In keeping with family tradition, she is a birder and naturalist, with particular interest in botany and fungi. Currently, Jocie is the leader of the Comox Valley Nature botany group. She lives in the Comox Valley with her two teenagers.

Les GyugOkanagan Mountain Park, Before and After the Firestorm

Les is a self-employed biologist living and working in the Okanagan for the past 35 years. His work has included environmental consulting and monitoring and designing and conducting wildlife research and inventories for all manner of wildlife from mice to moose and birds to bears. He has conducted bird surveys of many sorts for over 40 years, but lately has specialized in working with species-at-risk, particularly sapsuckers and other woodpeckers. He has been an active member of the Central Okanagan Naturalists Club for 30 years and was a director of BCFO from 2006-2012.

Annual General Meeting: 3:00PM

Social with Cash Bar: 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM

Banquet: 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM

7:30 – Steve Cannings Award presentation

7:45 – Keynote Speaker, Richard CanningsAdventures in Okanagan Owling

The Okanagan Valley has arguably the highest owl species diversity for a small area in North America, with 14 species on the checklist, including at least 12 breeding species.  From the Burrowing Owls of the desert grasslands to the Boreal Owls of the subalpine forests and everything in between, the Okanagan is an owl adventure from top to bottom.  Because we know relatively little about owls, there’s always a sense of excitement and discovery when you find an owl.  I’ll talk about some of my owl adventures and discuss the interesting aspects of owl biology at the same time.

Dick Cannings

Dick was born and raised in Penticton in a family that loved nature and the outdoors.  He gravitated to biology as a career and worked for 17 years in the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia.  In 1995 he moved back to the Okanagan with his wife Margaret and young children, where he worked with Birds Canada, coordinating Canadian Christmas Bird Counts, the eBird program and the British Columbia Owl Survey.  He served on various boards and committees, including 8 years as co-chair for birds on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, 11 years on the British Columbia Environmental Appeal Board and 5 years on the British Columbia Forest Appeals Commission.  He was a founding director of the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance and has also served as a board member for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.  Dick has written over a dozen books on the natural history of British Columbia. In 2015 he moved from biology to politics and now serves as the Member of Parliament for South Okanagan-West Kootenay in Ottawa. 

Sunday, June 11

Morning field trips depart 6:15 am

Lunch 12:00 to 1:00 pm



Pre-Conference Extension Trip – The Okanagan Valley from south to north

June 7, 8, and 9, 2023

Note: You must be a paid-up registrant for the Conference and AGM to participate in the Extension Trip.

Cost for Extension Trip: $160.00 per person, not including meals and accommodation.

The registration and payment page for the Extension will open at 9:00 am, April 1.
The tour is limited to 12 persons on a first-come, first-served basis.

Registration and payment pages will be available soon.

The tour will begin in Osoyoos where participants will meet the leaders on Tuesday evening for dinner. Details of motels and restaurants will be provided to all participants at a later date. Expect to spend three nights, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Osoyoos

Field trips will begin early on the morning of June 7th.

Pre-conference Tour – The Okanagan Valley. Leaders: Gary Davidson and Chris Siddle.

Gary Davidson is a retired secondary school math and physics teacher. Most of his working career was in Nakusp where he still lives. He has been an active birder and naturalist since his university days in the early 1970’s. He has compiled the Nakusp Christmas Bird Count since 1975 and he completed in excess of 50 Breeding Bird Surveys over a 30-year period. He contributed over 100 000 bird records to the 4-volume publication The Birds of British Columbia. He is a director of the Biodiversity Centre for Wildlife Studies and has published numerous articles in their journal Wildlife Afield. He is an eBird reviewer for three regions in BC. He is the current president of the BCFO and has served on the Board of Directors for 6 years.

Chris Siddle is a retired secondary school English teacher and has been an active birder since 1962. He has compiled and participated in dozens of Christmas Bird Counts, and carried out 25 years of Breeding Bird Surveys. He was also a field editor for the Royal British Columbia Museum’s publication The Birds of British Columbia (1990-2000) and contributed species accounts to The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia. He is a former director of the Biodiversity Centre for Wildlife Studies and remains the Centre’s book review editor for Wildlife Afield: A Journal of British Columbia Natural History. He has worked as a co-leader for Avocet’s Tours and as a sightings reviewer for eBird. He is a member of the British Columbia Field Ornithologists and in 2016 was the recipient of the BCFO’s Steve Cannings Award for contributions to the province’s ornithology. He writes a column, Gone Pishing, for the BCFO’s quarterly news magazine, BC Birding.

The focus of this tour will be the Okanagan Valley south of Penticton since morning tours of the North Okanagan will be available on the weekend. There will be the opportunity to make a few stops north of Penticton on our return to Vernon on Friday. In the following, we describe the tour without reference to specific days and times. This broad approach allows for maximum flexibility. Once in the field we will be able to access more precisely a schedule, and the accessibility of each site. We will endeavor to make this tour as comfortable and rewarding as possible. Expect sunny warm conditions (but come prepared for occasional wet conditions), wear sturdy waterproof footwear, pack plenty of snacks, and expect early morning hours (in June 6:00AM departures are necessary), some irregularity of meal stops, and the flexibility to deal with the occasional “natural” comfort break. Apply insect repellent to discourage mosquitoes and wood ticks.

Early Wednesday morning we will carpool and head west along Highway 3 over the Richter Pass to the Chopaka area, a brushy flat between Highway 3 and the US border. This area which is also called Nighthawk after the name of the border station is famous for attracting Sage Thrashers, Grasshopper Sparrows (sporadic), Lark Sparrows, Brewer’s Sparrows and Long-billed Curlew (uncommon). After exploring flats from the road leading to the border we will return over Richter Pass, pass through Osoyoos and drive up the mountain on the east side of town .

Anarchist Mountain forms the high eastern side of the Okanagan Valley. As we climb we will pass through a succession of habitats including orchards, arid rocky hillside, Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir forest, and finally Western Larch-spruce-fir forest and high grassland. Our targets in this patchwork of forest and fields will be Swainson’s Hawk and Williamson’s Sapsucker but many other species are possible including nesting Mountain Bluebirds.

If time allows on our return to the valley we will go north of Osoyoos Lake to Road 22. This location is especially rich with birdlife and rewards a slow careful search. We will check the oxbows of the Okanagan River next to Highway 97 for waterfowl, late migrating shorebirds, and wetland passerines like Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings, and Marsh Wrens. At the hard-stem bulrush marsh next to the junction of the highway and the beginning of Road 22 proper we will look and listen for Sora and Virginia Rail as well as Wilson’s Snipe and a colony of Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The ridge to the west is a good site for soaring Golden Eagles.

Along Road 22 west of the channelized river we will search the fields for Bobolinks, one of the most visible colonies of these long members of the blackbird family in B.C. Long-billed Curlews can sometimes be seen as well, but are more visible in April and May. Ospreys nest along the south-east dyke which passes riparian thickets and bulrush ponds usually full of birds including Willow Flycatchers, Gray Catbirds, and Veeries. Yellow-breasted Chat will certainly be heard if not seen. The south end of the dyke where the river joins Osoyoos Lake is a hotspot for rare waterbirds.

At the east end of Road 22 we will once again listen for chats and check out the waterfowl which usually include Wood Ducks, Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal. Hooded Merganser is also possible. After a short stint on Black Sage Road, we will take Mackenzie Road to the Haynes Lease Ecological Reserve. Careful not to disturb this fragile environment, we will experience the Great Basin vegetation as it looked in the past before vineyards and urbanization claimed it. Targets will include Chukars, Rock and Canyon wrens at the base of the massive rock wall known as The Throne, Golden Eagle, and perhaps distant views and cries of Peregrine Falcons that traditionally nest on the rock face. Veteran old growth Ponderosa Pines spaced wide apart and surrounded by tall shrubs make for productive Lewis’s Woodpecker habitat. Lazuli Bunting, Western Bluebirds, and Lark Sparrows also occur.

Camp McKinney Road runs east out of Oliver. Traditionally distances along McKinney are measured from the gas station at its junction with Black Sage Road. The first nine kilometres are First Nations land where we bird from the side of the road. This area is a large sage area known as Manuel’s Flats where Vesper and Lark sparrows occur especially at rockpiles (past km 3).

Past km 10 we start looking for Gray Flycatchers in the pines at cattle guard. This species first extended its range from Washington State in the 1980s and so far has remained very locally distributed in the Okanagan occurring (sparsely) only as far north as Summerland. The forest beyond km 10 remain the best spot in Canada for this species. In the surrounding dry forest Townsend’s Solitaires, Clark’s Nutcrackers, all three nuthatches, Cassin’s Finches and Red Crossbills also occur. This general area was home to the last White-headed Woodpeckers that could be found by the greater birding public in 2001. Since then the species has been highly elusive and with the recent increase wild fires may be extirpated in Canada.

After exploring km 10-13 we will return to Oliver and head west towards the Fairview-White Lake road. A Bank Swallow colony, Black-chinned and Calliope hummingbirds and possibly a Least Flycatcher calling “chebec” from aspen copses may enliven the first few kilometres. At the km 7.5 intersection we will check out public land at the corner for White-breasted and Pygmy nuthatches, and Western Bluebirds before continuing straight on towards White Lake.

The next important landmark is the junction of Green Lake-White Lake. About 5 kms north of this junction we will stop at a pull-off on the right where a gated track leads down towards White Lake. Here we will look for White-throated Swifts overhead, and Nashville and Lazuli Bunting singing from brushy edges, Grassland birds here include Western Meadowlarks, Vesper Sparrows, Mountain and Western Bluebirds. Chukars may announce their presence from the rocks while Gray Partridges are possible.

We will double back towards Oliver to visit River Road and Hacks’ Pond – Yellow-breasted Chats call from the riparian thickets along River Road. Often a male Black-chinned Hummingbird can be spotted perched on the wires where River Road becomes gravel. Hacks Pond is a little oasis at the foot of a steep pine covered slope. Expect Black-headed Grosbeaks, all 3 teal species, Marsh Wrens, Yellow Warblers, Gray Catbirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Red-eyed Vireos and other riparian songbirds.

Back on Highway 97 heading north we may stop at Inkaneep Provincial Park, a deciduous riparian picnic area or carry on to the north end of Vaseux Lake where we will spend a pleasant hour or two exploring the marsh boardwalk and then MacIntyre Creek Road up the arid slope east of the lake. White-throated Swifts, perhaps a passing Golden Eagle, Chukars, Rock Wrens, and Canyon Wrens make this an especially interesting spot, and a highlight of the tour.

If we have time, we will tour the Shuttleworth Ck and Venner Meadows that climb high into the forested slopes on the east side of the valley.

After a stop at Okanagan Falls for ice-cream at Tickleberries, we will briefly inspect the falls to the south end of Skaha Lake for American Dippers and Barrow’s Goldeneyes, though it’s late in the season for both of these birds. Once through Penticton we will pull over to scan the western slopes north of Summerland for Mountain Goats to add to our mammal list which by the tour’s end may include 15 species or more. The tour will end at the Prestige Vernon Hotel in time for conference registration at 5:00PM.