Young Birder Trip To See Flammulated Owls And Poorwills!

We had a great trip this weekend. We drove up to the Okanagan via Hwy 3 and our first stop was Manning Park. We stopped to stretch our legs at the park and we hoped to see some Hummingbirds. Sadly not a single hummer feeder was up, which is a real shame because sometimes you get Calliopes here. We saw a Clark’s Nutcracker and then were on our way to Nighthawk.

At Nighthawk we quickly found a singing Sage Thrasher. We then went on to Osoyoos where we hoped to see Canada's first breeding Lesser Goldfinches along Kruger Mtn Rd. The breeding record was just confirmed a few days ago by David Bell. Well Cole quickly found a male Lesser Goldfinch but it took 2 hours for the rest of us to find another male who gave us good looks!. He sat there and was singing his heart out. While waiting for him to show up we saw tons of good birds! 38 species in fact including Black-chinned and Calliope Hummer, Say's Phoebe, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, Gray Catbirds and the like!.

We then went to a nesting tree I knew of where we found the bird of the day a Flammulated Owl. We only stayed briefly with the bird as not to disturb it. This was a lifer for all the youth and they said the highlight of the trip. Seeing a Flammulated Owl is always a thrill for me. The youth were behaved fantastically with the nesting bird. They were all quiet and just watched her and took a few photos before we left. It was a magic moment with a tiny secretive owl that few get to see; especially in the day.

Flammulated Owl in BC - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Male Lesser Goldfinch in Osoyoos - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We then went to Vaseux Cliffs where we found White-throated Swifts, heard Canyon and Rock Wrens and saw a nice posing Osprey. Later that night after a nice dinner at the Burger Patio across from Okanagan Lake, we drove one of the gravel roads at night in Penticton. Here we found some Common Poorwills roosting on the road. We found three and they gave us great views. We used my car headlights to illuminate the bird. We loved listening to the poorwills doing their "poor-will" calls!.

Common Poorwill in Penticton - Photo: Melissa Hafting

The next morning we got up early and went to White Lake. Here we got great views of a Sage Thrasher, a few Grasshopper Sparrows and Brewer's Sparrows. We also saw a Short-eared Owl hunting by the lake which was super cool!. The Short-eared Owl even dive bombed a poor Coyote!.

Grasshopper Sparrow in Okanagan Falls - Photo: Cole Gaerber

Sage Thrasher at White Lake - Photo: Katya Kondratyuk

After this we drove to Road 22 and found some Yellow-breasted Chats singing their hearts out!. Then we were off to the "Throne" aka Haynes Lease Land in Osoyoos. Here we got spectacular views of several Canyon and Rock Wrens, Western Bluebirds, Lark Sparrow, Bullock's Orioles, Western and Eastern Kingbirds, California Quails and White-throated Swifts. It was super birdy here and the wrens were a lifer for all of the youth. Cole also had a Grasshopper Sparrow here but we dipped on Chukar and Gray Partridge which this site is usually good for.
Katya and Nicky looking at White-throated Swifts at The Throne - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Looking up at the cliffs at the Throne - Photo: Cole Gaerber

Canyon Wren at the Throne/Haynes Lease Land in Osoyoos - Photo: Cole Gaerber

Rock Wren in Osoyoos - Photo: Cole Gaerber

Next we drove up to Anarchist Mountain where we found 2 beautiful Williamson's Sapsuckers another lifer for some of the youth. As we left and were coming back into Osoyoos we found a large Bank Swallow colony just off Hwy 3. There was at least 100 birds here with active nests. We could see the babies peeking out and adults coming in to feed them. It was really cool!

Bank Swallows at a nesting colony in Osoyoos - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We next were off to Mt. Kobau where we hoped to track down a Black-backed Woodpecker that Chris Charlesworth had recently found. He has actually found them there two years in a row. The burn up at the top is very large and we didn't find the bird despite finding many Rufous, Calliope Hummers and a Dusky Flycatcher, Lazuli Buntings and a Hairy Woodpecker. However, while we were searching; Cole found a male Tennessee Warbler!. The rest of us were not able to relocate it sadly. Funny enough Dick Cannings had found one the day before near his home.

Tennessee Warbler in Osoyoos - Photo: Cole Gaerber

While we were up there Chris texted me and told me that there was a photo and report of an Alder Flycatcher at Yellow Lake. Many wanted to go but sadly it was an hour back in the wrong direction, so we couldn't go. A few were disappointed but we continued on. We drove to August Lake in Princeton as we drove home to Vancouver. Here we saw Mountain Chickadees, Lewis’s W
odpecker, Sora, Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Barrow's Goldeneyes with their chicks. We didn't see any Williamson's Sapsuckers and were very happy that we had driven up Anarchist Mountain to get them earlier!.

As we were driving through Manning Park, Katya started screaming "Mel Mel look out the window - THERE'S A MOOSE AND BABY!." I immediately pulled off on the shoulder and we got out and saw the cow and calf moose in a lake by the side of the road. A large truck came by and scared them off into the woods but it was a lifer mammal for all the youth.!

Cow moose and calf in Manning Park - Photo: Cole Gaerber

After this we heard that a Black Phoebe was found in Coquitlam. Since we would be driving right by the spot after we dropped off Katya in Langley we decided to stop. Here we found the Black Phoebe quite quickly in spitting rain.

It was a lifer for Nicky. We also got great views of an American Bittern that flew right in front of us. Dozens of swallows and Wood Duck ducklings were out and we also had a calling Sora.

It was a really nice way to end our fantastic overnight trip to the Southern Okanagan.


  1. Sounds and looks from the great photos that you had a wonderful trip. You reminded me that I want to go to a couple of places where Grasshopper Sparrows were seen last year and try for photos.

    1. thank you so much jim! i hope you get to go visit those grasshoppers soon cant wait for your shots!

  2. Wow what an array of birds you guys saw on the trip! Sounds amazing! Fantastic to have seen the moose on the way home as well!

    1. thanks we did really well on our little adventure. i love the energy the kids have! thanks for your nice words the moose really was the icing on the cake.

  3. Wow looks like a fantastic trip, especially seeing almost all of your target birds and more! Excellent photos too!

    1. thanks isaac it really was fantastic i wish both you and josh were with us as i know you two still need flam for lifers. im betting one shows up in your backyard one of these days anyways. thanks again!

  4. Wonderful to see you guys made it up to our neck of the woods! We likely passed you on the roads as you crisscrossed our stomping grounds. Amazing that you got the Lesser Goldfinch on first attempt (albeit two hours) as it took us close to ten trips up for our first look! You covered more ground in two days than we do in a week! Great that you didn’t miss much that is available without a hope and prayer. We haven’t got a Chukar yet this year either. Super that you and the kids got to see the Flam Owl! Would be a lifer for us as well! It’s nice that you got some insight to a specific location. The photos were great! Loving Cole’s Canyon Wren!
    It continues to make us respect and appreciate your focus and dedication to the youth! You have a heart of gold Mel! Thanks again for your account and we will eventually cross paths again.

    1. dear ian thank you so very much for your kind words. it really has touched me and it's so nice to know there are people out there so supportive of young birders and the program i run. hoping you get the flam owl soon if you need any tips always email. hope to see you soon too! cheers my friend.

  5. Again, My hat is off to you melissa, for devoting your time, your dedication and inspiration to all the young birders. You are the definition of "mentor"
    Also, how did arrange for all your target birds to be so cooperative?
    Great trip and photos

    1. thanks ken i'm truly touched it means a lot to me. i paid the birds for their cooperation im starting to go broke as you can see i was low on funds in pemberton haha


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