Young Birder Trip to Princeton - July 14/18

Young Birders in Princeton, BC - July 14, 2018 - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We started out our young birder tour with 5 young birders and it was the first trip with 15 year old Sasha Fairbairn. We started out at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack to see the long staying Black Phoebe. It was a lifer and BC bird for a few of the youth . Here we also were greeted by the sweet songs of Yellow Warblers, Black-headed Grosbeaks and Red-eyed Vireos. It was also fun to watch the Eastern Kingbirds fluttering around and a lone Vaux's Swift.

Black Phoebe in Chilliwack - Photo: Bridget Spencer

Next we were on our way to Princeton. We were hoping to see Williamson's Sapsuckers at August Lake as our main target. As we drove on the dirt road to the lake Katya Kondratyuk and Daniel Beeke called out "Lewis's Woodpecker!". It was sitting on a stump right beside our van. We pulled over and hopped out and got beautiful views of it as it flew from tree to tree quite like a crow except for when it would bank and reveal it's hidden green-sheened back! Next we drove straight to the lake and saw a lake that was alive with nesting birds. We found a family of 6 Pied-billed Grebes and 11 Common Goldeneyes and some American Coots. A Marsh Wren was also present chattering in the reeds. We also found a very agitated and close approaching Solitary Sandpiper which was a highlight. We suspect she had a nest nearby but didn't want to disturb her too much. It is uncommon for them to be nesting that south but there are records of them nesting in the area at some high elevation lakes.They also nest sometimes in the nest of abandoned Robin nests so it it highly unlikely that we would ever find it.

Solitary Sandpiper at August Lake - Photo: Kalin Ocana

Other birds present on the lake were male and female Ruddy Ducks in their glorious breeding plumage. Female Barrow's Goldeneyes, Mallards, Lesser Scaup and a lone female Bufflehead were also present. As we began to wander around the lake we saw Bald Eagles, and Red-tailed Hawks and watched at least 3 American Kestrels swoop and dive down hunting their prey. The kids loved watching the Kestrels put on their show.

We walked into the woods and found a couple White-breasted Nuthatches! One was so cute making their unique calls and walking up and down the base of the tree trunk allowing for some great photos. We also saw many Pygmy Nuthatches who were feeding their fledged young. Their cute voices and funny antics were fun to watch especially since most of the youth except for Kalin who lives in Kelowna do not see them often. We also found a few Red-breasted Nuthatches rounding out our 3 nuthatch species! Many Mountain Chickadees and Western Wood-Pewees were also singing.

White-breasted Nuthatch at August Lake - Photo: Bridget Spencer

As we walked towards a farmer's field we saw 2 Western Kingbirds hawking for insects and making a racket. As we walked back into the woods we had a male Western Tanager come down and perch on a mossy perch right in front of us! Of course I didn't have my camera ready but some of the youth did thankfully.

Male Western Tanager in August Lake - Photo: Kalin Ocana

We also found a nest cavity with Lewis's Woodpeckers inside. The fledgling was making so much noise it was easy to find. We watched the 2 adults religiously come and go with a mouth full of berries and bugs. All of the youth rarely get to see these birds and funny enough Kalin who lives in Kelowna was happy most of all.

Lewis's Woodpecker with food for a fledgling at August Lake - Photo: Bridget Spencer

Other woodpeckers seen were a family of Northern Flickers, 2 beautiful Pileated Woodpeckers and a Red-naped Sapsucker that Bridget Spencer found and least but not last some Downys. We never did see a Williamson's Sapsucker but it wasn't due to lack of trying. We tried hard in the baking heat in several different areas even different roads like Copper Mountain Rd. However, since they nest earlier and because the young have fledged and dispersed this is why they were apparently impossible to find in mid July.That's ok though we had a great time regardless.

We delighted in watching a few pairs of Evening Grosbeaks that were calling and chasing each other around. They are such stunning birds. We also got to see a single Cassin's Finch which was a target for many of the youth who rarely see them living in Metro Vancouver. Even though it was really hot and now midday the House Wrens were constantly singing. Kalin Ocana found an Olive-sided Flycatcher, a few Pine Siskins flew over and Ilya spotted a beautiful male Lazuli Bunting singing away, giving us good views. Chipping Sparrows with food littered the roadway, Yellow-rumped Warblers filled the trees and we heard a Warbling Vireo. We were amazed at the high number of Common Ravens too we saw at least 16 and even more later on at the community landfill.

We had a great visit at August Lake and after lunch and eating Kalin's delicious Okanagan Cherries (Thanks Kalin!); we packed up and headed out to Swan Lake. At Swan Lake since we were at lower elevation was just baking on the way there as I said earlier we stopped at the community landfill where I knew they could pick up one of their targets an American Crow! After nabbing the crow and more Ravens than the eye could see we pulled into Swan Lake. As soon as we got out of the car we were overwhelmed by the number of Vesper Sparrows. We walked through the pretty wildflowers into the Ponderosa pine forest. Here we saw our only Western Bluebird of the trip; it was a beautiful male too! We found many Mountain Bluebirds carrying food and saw nesting Tree Swallows and House Wrens. It was a day full of many nesting birds which was great! As we hiked down to the lake as we stopped by a little pond the youth looked for salamanders under rocks to no avail. However, we did find some baby American Coots and at least 10 pretty Yellow-headed Blackbirds making not so pretty calls. We also saw an Eastern Kingbird posing on beautiful perches. One of the highlights of the trip was an animal with no feathers! It was a Mule Deer Doe with a spotted fawn that could barely walk. He was suckling the mother and came quite close thrilling the kids. The fawn was truly adorable! Bridget also found a Bullock's Oriole as well!
We found an Osprey on a nest and one Osprey also flew over us. At the lake a male Ruddy Duck was doing his bubbling courtship display. His advances were not tolerated at all by the female, who kept racing at him in a very angry fashion. We were surprised to see a male displaying this late in the year. Lesser Scaup and Red-winged Blackbirds were also present. Western Meadowlarks were singing their wonderful songs in the fields and the trees were full of Western Wood-Pewees and some American Robins and Cedar Waxwings. The youth had fun photographing multiple Butterflies and Dragonflies here and enjoyed reading the park's many interpretive signs.

Male Mountain Bluebird with food at Swan Lake - Photo: Bridget Spencer

1 of many Butterflies seen at Swan Lake - Photo: Bridget Spencer

As we left very happy, we decided to check out the Evergreen Motel for a Calliope Hummingbird like clockwork a nice female came into one of 3 feeders for us giving us fantastic views. Thanks to Randy Dzenkiw for that tip! We also saw 2 stunning Mule Deer stags and picked up Brewer's Blackbirds and Rock Pigeons here.

Young stag in Princeton - Photo: Kalin Ocana

On the way home in Princeton we saw some Northern Rough-winged Swallows and some Clark's Nutcrackers but we did not see a Black-billed Magpie which was my first time dipping on this species in that city! Oh well, we could not complain! It was a great day with some great youth.

See you next month at our trip to Pemberton!


  1. Sounds like an amazing trip!! You guys always seem to find lots of birds, glad you had fun!!

  2. Great Adventure, the birding youth certainly got a lot of neat species. Nice poses from a lot of the birds making for top notch photo ops. Thanks for sharing your trip.

  3. Sounds like a great trip and some good species too, some would have been lifers for me!
    Awesome photos everyone!!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Wow, it looks like it was a good day!
    glad you guys all had fun!!

    1. thanks marnix wish you were with us hope you are feeling better!

  5. Sounds so awesome! Great all these trips you are doing with the youths, they are the ones to help change the world!

    1. they sure are! thanks mario they inspire me everyday and bring me a lot of joy. they have changed my life for the better.


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