Young Birder Trip to Kamloops

Great Gray Owlet aka Puffball - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We had a great trip to Kamloops this past weekend. Kalin joined us from Kelowna, newbie Nick from Pender Island and the rest Bridget and Ian from Metro Vancouver. Sadly, Isaac from Kamloops was away from the city this weekend and couldn't join us. He was having a great time in Wells Gray Park though!.  The main reason we had initially booked this trip was to be a photography trip at Lac Le Jeune. We had planned to go by boat and photograph Common Loons and their chicks riding on the backs of their parents but sadly River Otters had predated all nests and chicks at the lake. So I arranged to do a Kamloops birding day instead. It turned out to be a fantastic alternative.

We started off in the boreal forest where I hoped to find an American Three-toed Woodpecker nest I knew about but sadly (for us) they had fledged. We then went to Goose Lake where we found a Horned Grebe in breeding plumage and many other good birds like a winnowing Wilson's Snipe. 

Horned Grebe in breeding plumage at Goose Lake - Photo: Ian Harland

We also had Cassin's Finches and Pine Siskins eating grit from the road. We also saw a Willow Flycatcher, tons of Ruddy Ducks in breeding, Gadwalls, a couple Blue-winged Teal, Barrow's Goldeneyes and their young, Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaup and House Wrens just to name a few. There were also young Common Ravens kicking up a row and some Spotted Sandpipers. We were hoping to find some Black Terns in the area but didn't. It doesn't seem they have nested in the Thompson-Nicola area now sadly for a few years. We saw quite a few Swainson's Hawks both light and dark morphs, American Kestrels, Ospreys and Bald Eagles on the raptor front during the day.

Willow Flycatcher in Kamloops - Photo: Kalin Ocana

We then drove to Separation Lake where we had come a few years ago, as a group, to see the rare White-faced Ibis. Today there was an American Coot and many Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Bank and Cliff Swallows.  We then made our way to Pritchard. Here along Kamloops-Shuswap Rd we hoped to see the Bobolinks that had been breeding in the area recently. They were only discovered at this location in 2018!. Most people from Vancouver go to Osoyoos to see Bobolinks but now there is a much closer option. We ended up seeing 3 birds for sure (possibly 4) in a field with cows. It was a real thrill to see these cool unique birds!.

Male Bobolinks in Pritchard - Photos: Melissa Hafting

We also found Swainson's Hawks with 3 fledged young nearby crying out for food and a Western Wood-Pewee nest and Mountain Bluebirds. The male Mountain Bluebird was so brilliant blue!. We also had Western and Eastern Kingbirds, Vesper Sparrows and Savannah's along this road. The Western Wood-Pewee nest was especially cool being so full frontal for us. It was the first time any of the youth had found a Pewee nest. We had to thank Nick for spotting it for us!.

Western Wood-Pewee on a nest in Pritchard - Photo: Bridget Spencer

Close up (taken with zoom) of the Western Wood-Pewee nest in Pritchard - Photo: Melissa Hafting

On the way out we were sure we saw a Gray Catbird but due to brief views didn't count it.We did however see tons of Cliff Swallow fledglings perched on the wire fences!. Boy are they cute!. It was also fun to drive over the single lane bridge nearby and see tons of cute Alpacas by the river.

Fledgling Cliff Swallow chicks in Pritchard - Photos: Kalin Ocana

The young birders also got to see a Coyote chasing a young deer and tons of Yellow-bellied Marmots, which was neat.
Female Mountain Bluebird in Pritchard - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We then went to look for Burrowing Owls and ended up finding one out of the corner of my eye. He was well hidden but I could see the little cutie looking angrily at us. They always have such cute but angry looking expressions. Seeing the Burrowing Owl was a real highlight for the youth and some said it was their favorite bird of the trip. Here we also had a singing Clay-colored Sparrow.

Burrowing Owl in Kamloops - Photo: Bridget Spencer

Burrowing Owl peeking through the grasses - Photo: Melissa Hafting

The fun was far from over and we decided to go looking for more species for our list. In our search we ended up seeing a family of Great Gray Owls. Seeing these wise-looking owls was the highlight for most of us. It certainly was mine. The adults were calling softly to their two young. They would then fly in silently carrying voles which the babies would devour in a few gulps!. One of the chicks was taller and more developed. He obviously hatched before the runt. The youth and I named the runt "Puffball." He was so adorable and all feathers! The ethics the youth demonstrated around the nesting owls and frankly all birds during the trip was wonderful to see.

Great Gray Owlet (above) and adult female Great Gray Owl (below) - Photos: Kalin Ocana
Great Gray Owl hunting from its perch - Photo: Melissa Hafting

A Great Gray Owlet looking cute in his mossy branch habitat - Photo: Bridget Spencer

Great close up of this handsome male Great Gray Owl - Photo: Kalin Ocana

This amazing moment though! Baby Owlet eats vole - Photo: Ian Harland

Kalin Ocana was able to capture a video of the adults feeding a vole to one of the young!. It was such a cool interaction glad he got it on film!

 After a heavy rain shower (actually a downpour) we decided to leave. One of the owlets looked thoroughly drenched!. 
Great Gray Owlet in the rain - Photo: Melissa Hafting

It sure was a funny day weather-wise in Thompson-Nicola. We had rain, thunder and sun all day. Funny enough it seemed to only rain when we would be ready to leave a  location and be sunny while we birded; so it was pretty perfect and we were very much blessed. 

We then started to make our way back to Vancouver but only after searching in Merritt for some Williamson's Sapsuckers. The nest I knew about there was supposedly active this year. It was where we had them on a previous young birder trip to Merritt. However, this time it was really windy and we dipped or the birds had fledged either or. We did find a nice consolation prize though when Kalin spotted a female Anna's Hummingbird. This is a rare bird for Merritt. We also had a Lazuli Bunting on this road and many Red Crossbills but didn't find a Pygmy Nuthatch as we have in other years. After this, we even got to see 3 Common Loons in beautiful breeding plumage as we drove home!.

Anna's Hummingbird (rare for Merritt) - Photo: Kalin Ocana

It was so nice meeting Nick for the first time and laughing our heads off at Kalin's jokes. Everyone talked about their exciting upcoming vacations to Vermont, Yukon and Africa and Arizona. I told Bridget how much I am going to miss her next year as she goes out of country for University. They are certainly growing up and I'm so happy and proud of them. Hearing what they all want to do with their futures in the car this weekend was inspiring. We had fun discussing this and the recently discovered first BC breeding record of Whimbrel and plant-eating Salamanders over our dinner at Dairy Queen in Merritt. I had dropped Kalin to his bus home and after he boarded I forgot to get a group photo so sadly he isn't in it but here is a shot of three of the youth. I want to say a big CONGRATS to Kalin on getting into Beaverhill Bird Observator's Young Ornithologist's Worskhop in AB! He will be going this august!  More info on the program can be found HERE.

Young birders (minus Kalin :( ) after a fun trip to Kamloops - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We ended up seeing 81 species!. It was a great and very full day around the Kamloops area! Thanks to all the young birders who made this trip so special!.


  1. Amazing photos and great to see young bidders out together!!

  2. Awesome you guys got a lot of species

  3. Once again, you were able to come up with an outstanding plan B. Lucky kids!

  4. Congrats on such a great trip and finding so many birds! I have not seen a Bobolink for many decades. Awesome program with the young birders!

    1. thanks so much brian means a lot! if you want help seeing the kamloops or osoyoos bobolinks just shoot me an email! cheers

  5. Your Young Birder work/trips are so investment that will make a difference to many for years - and what rewards on this trip GGOW family is Awesome!!


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