Pre-Conference Extension Trip Okanagan Valley June 7-9, 2023

Pre-Conference Extension Trip: the Okanagan Valley from South to North

Registration is on-line only and opened at 9 a.m. April 1, 2023 and is limited to 12 participants, first come first served.

Membership in BCFO is required first. If you are not a member, join or renew here:

Payment & registration for the Vernon Annual Conference and AGM is required next. Conference registration & payment page available here (sign in with the BCFO password which members receive via email):

Cost for Extension Trip: $160.00 per person, not including meals and accommodation. Register & pay for the Extension Trip here (sign in with the BCFO password which members receive via email):

A waitlist will be kept for Extension Trip registrants beyond the first twelve.

The tour will begin in Osoyoos where participants will meet the leaders on Tuesday June 6 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 Wednesday June 7th.

Pre-conference Tour Details – 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. 

Lark Sparrow at Sage & Sparrow Grasslands: photo by Krista Kaptein

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. 

American Coots at Madden Lake: photo by Krista Kaptein

 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.

Lazuli Bunting at Mt Kobau Road: photo by Krista Kaptein

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 5:00 PM.