Getting Away This Summer To BC's Interior

I realized I had forgotten to post about two great weekends away in June and July to see some different birds in Thompson-Nicola and the Central Okanagan regions. I haven't posted a trip report in some time now and glad to be getting back to it. 

When the birding slowed down in June in Vancouver we decided to head up to see a change of scenery and birds in the interior. Black Terns have sadly really declined and don't appear to be breeding anywhere this year in the southern Thompson-Nicola region. Stump Lake water levels were too high and many of the Red-necked and Pied-billed Grebe nests were sadly flooded out. The water was so high that power lines were immersed in the water, which seemed extremely dangerous. However, we checked out many of the little lakes and ponds off Hwy 5A and saw great birds including Soras, Solitary Sandpipers and these phenomenal breeding-plumaged Horned Grebes. 

Horned Grebe in alternate plumage - Photos: Melissa Hafting

We found a flock of 4 Lewis's Woodpeckers and a nest in Quilchena. It is always enjoyable to see these crow-like woodpeckers. When the light hits them just right their beautiful salmon colours really show.

Lewis's Woodpeckers at a nest in Quilchena - Photos: Melissa Hafting

There was also a very accommodating Clay-colored Sparrow on Douglas Lake Rd. Singing Veerys and Mountain Bluebirds dotted the valley. There was several Swainsons' Hawks. We found a nest with 2 dark-morphs near Nicola Lake as well. Beaver Ranch Flats was full of Eared Grebes, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Redheads and every local Waterfowl and plenty of American Coots and babies. We also got Black and Vaux's Swifts. Perched on the wires were Say's Phoebes and Meadowlarks and singing Vespers. Sadly no Black Terns but not surprised as the water level was too high. 

Male and Female Mountain Bluebird in Quilchena - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Clay-colored Sparrow in Quilchena - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Several endangered Burrowing Owls in the region had to be moved due to human disturbance which is very upsetting. Photographers were apparently messing with their perches for the perfect photo op and walking too close to them and stressing them out. Not cool when a rehabilitation program is trying to reintroduce the species in appropriate habitat. Also it is not cool as it gives ethical owl photographers a bad name. Hopefully the new locations will give the owls peace and a fighting chance.

Anyways we drove on towards Mitchell Lake to look for the Tufted Duck that was found by young birder Isaac Nelson. As we drove out there we saw and heard 5 singing and displaying Horned Larks which is always fun. They have such a pretty song. 

It was really weird to have a Tufted Duck in July! These Siberian ducks should not be anywhere near Kamloops at this time.  The bird wasn't on the lake but the area was full of great birds including Bullock's Orioles, Western and Eastern Kingbird and all 3 Teals. We decided to check a lake I noticed on the drive in, on nearby Scott Rd. Within a few minutes of searching we had the Tufted Duck in our scope. He was hanging out with a large group of Lesser Scaup and several Redheads. He was far from the road and the light was harsh. We came away with this dreadful shot.

Tufted Duck in Kamloops - Photo: Ilya Povalyaev

We then drove on up into the boreal forest and found a begging fledgling Boreal Owl. I had never had a Boreal owlet before so that was a thrill. Until now I had only ever seen adults!.

The next morning we drove to Philpott Rd burn to look for Black-backed Woodpeckers. The birding here was fantastic with a huge diversity of species from Townsend's Solitaires, to Calliope Hummingbirds to Red Crossbills to Lazuli Buntings and MacGillivray's 
Warblers. The area had Hairy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers. We were lucky to find an adult male, female and fledgling Black-backed Woodpecker here after almost 2 hours of searching!. I rarely see these woodpeckers so it is always a thrill to find one, much less a family group!.

Adult female Black-backed Woodpecker in Kelowna - Photo: Ilya Povalyaev

Fledgling Black-backed Woodpecker in Kelowna - Photo: Ilya Povalyaev

We were also blessed to see a Common Poorwill nest (with 2 eggs) which I have never seen before in my life. I had never seen a Common Poorwill in the day before this magic moment. Nightjars are declining so we did not stay long with this beautiful bird.

Common Poorwill nest in the Central Okanagan

Next we went birding and found a Western Wood-Pewee nest, Veerys, Nashville Warblers, Dusky Flycatchers and the list goes on. It was full of birds everywhere. However, when we came across this roosting Flammulated Owl our day was made. I very rarely see them in the day so this was magical. How much magic can a few people have in one day?!.

This cute Flammulated Owl was roosting in the sunshine. He had a nest with babies - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Our next stop we decided was to drive down Kane Valley Rd. There we found over 6 Red-naped Sapsucker nests! It was just crazy. Columbian Ground-squirrels and Deer dotted the roadways. We found a Barred Owl down here, Cassin's Vireos, Creepers, Spotted Sandpipers, Mountain Bluebirds, Mountain Chickadees. We also saw several Common Loons with one large chick each. Glad 1 out of the 2 survived.. good odds for Loons.  

Speaking of Common Loons several have been found with beaks full of fishing line and hooks caught in their face this year in the area. This is painful and can kill the loon. Discarded fishing line is a real problem in lakes. Some fishermen leave them on the side of the bank and it ends up in the water entangling birds. Sometimes their beaks become shut and they can't feed. At least 3 were badly affected at a nearby Thompson-Nicola lake and a group of volunteers and friends went out at night to rescue them. Sadly only 2 were successfully rescued. It is a stressful thing to capture a loon in the dark (the technique uses a spotlight) but necessary. It would be so much better for the loons' well-being if people weren't so careless and properly disposed of their line. We need to have recycle bins for fishing lines in every park like they do in many US states. Loons and boaters/anglers have lots of problems. Sometimes a loon will catch a fish that the angler has and won't let go so they look for a quick fix and sadly cut the line making the problem much worse. Loons and chicks have also been killed by boat propellers and collisions. 

Back to my report.. Kane Valley Rd is one of my favorites to drive on in Thompson-Nicola. The beautiful lush greenery and small lakes and singing birds is so special. We watched Osprey, looked at the tadpoles and minnows in the lakes, and found a Northern Waterthrush, American Kestrels, Tanagers, warblers,  Marsh and House Wrens and Veerys among other goodies. It was such a nice reprieve from busy Vancouver. It felt so relaxing and peaceful to be among these amazing birds in peace and quiet. For most of my trip I didn't see a single soul except for my friends I met up with. The grasslands were full of singing Vesper, Chipping and these dainty Savannah Sparrows. 

One should always be grateful to an obliging Savannah Sparrow - Photos: Melissa Hafting

The last pond in Kane Valley had some accommodating Ring-necked and Ruddy Ducks. One of the ponds were surrounded by yellow flowers that made the water appear fairy-like and magical.

Female Ruddy Duck in Quilchena - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Male Ruddy Duck in Quilchena - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Female Ring-necked Duck in Kane Valley - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We went camping one weekend in July to celebrate my bday at Peter Hope Lake. I love this first-come first-served campground. We got a beautiful campsite where we could look at the lake by day and by night look up at all the beautiful stars and Common Nighthawks flying over. At night we had a calling Great Horned Owl as well. In the very early morning a Spotted Sandpiper landed and began singing on our tent. He did so like a rooster-- it sure woke us up. Croaking Red-necked Grebes also were an early morning alarm clock. 

We went down to Douglas Lake where we found 7 American White Pelicans fishing and some Horned Grebes. We also went down to Nicola Lake where we saw the rare Arctic Tern that had been hanging out in the area for 4 days straight! 

Arctic Tern in Quilchena - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We searched hard at Beaver Ranch Flats again for Black Terns but the best bird we could turn up was 8 Wilson's Phalaropes. Watching the Eared Grebe babies riding on their parents backs here was really special. There had to have been over 100 of them and at least 800 coots!.

We went for a drive to Tunkwa Lake and on one of the forest service roads we saw a strutting Ruffed Grouse. On one of the nearby little ponds we also found a Solitary Sandpiper. Type 4 Red Crossbills  were also eating salt off the road. We decided to drive to Kamloops where the temperature was boiling hot. We went for a drive on Shuswap Road hoping for Bobolinks but that colony appears to have failed this year unfortunately. The young birders and I saw them last year you may remember. You can read a refresher hereThis time we found several Clark's Nutcrackers, Dusky Flycatchers, Pewees, Nashville Warblers, tons of Lazuli Buntings, Gray Catbirds, Eastern and Western Kingbirds and a Black-headed Grosbeak as highlights.

Ruffed Grouse at Tunkwa Lake - Ilya Povalyaev

We stopped for slurpees as the heat was now 38 C and then went to Rattlesnake Bluffs. There we quickly got a Rock Wren singing away, some Say's Phoebes and a beautiful rare Prairie Falcon flew right over our heads, which was a delight!. One of my fave things about Ord Rd is looking for Chukars and despite the heat we were able to find 2!. The male was calling and clucking it was fun to see. In years past I've had Canyon Wren here but they haven't been reported at this location for 3 years now.

Prairie Falcon in Kamloops

Male Chukar in Kamloops - Photo: Melissa Haftting

We then traveled on to Tranquille Marsh where we saw some Great Blue Herons and 2 American White Pelicans. We scanned the cliffs nearby and were happy to see 20 stiff flying White-throated Swifts. These are definitely the most pretty swifts we get in the province I just never tire of seeing them. Rick Howie told me they have not been regularly seen at this location in some years so glad they are nesting here again.

It was now time to make our way home. It was a memorable time once again in BC's interior and it was so nice to get away for a little while from the hustle and bustle of Vancouver.


  1. Lots of great birds and pics! Nice that you could get away. Sounds like a beautiful place for birding.

    1. thank you so much it really is a great place to bird.

  2. What an amazing array of birds you saw in the beautiful okanagan. I don’t know which one is my favourite picture, but I’ll go with the owl!


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