Out and about or ‘South, for a last time’…

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Yes, you are meant to sing this posts’s title’s last five words — à la Johnny Horton!

Okanagan South map.pngApril 11, 2017: With strong assurance that we had a sunny day at last, Nana and I set out for White Lake and Osoyoos hoping to discover whatever we could. There’s less disappointment with such vague objectives, you know….

Truth be told (and shouldn’t it always?), we were looking for Mountain Bluebirds (Sialia curricoides), Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta), and Nature-willing,  Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata). Won’t keep you in suspense — we found ’em all right, yet came home with not one decent photo of any of ’em. Not the right day. Nice to see, but far too far off to fotograph!

Click the map at left (or any graphic where the cursor turns to a pointing hand) to enlarge it….

Before you start commiserating, however, let me finish. We did not return empty-memory-carded! At White Lake, right off the bat, I got some decent shots of a Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana). Actually wished later that I’d spent a little more time there, right across from the parking lot, but we had our targets and figured they were down the trail. We had some fun with meadowlarks, but they were smarter than we. As for the warblers, found that we could do better at home….

Click on any photo in the cluster to enlarge them all….

Violet-green Swallow
(Tachychineta thalassina) female in the stone foundation of our condo, Kelowna.

We didn’t linger long at the lake. Instead we headed south to Osoyoos and famous Road 22 which crosses the Osoyoos River floodplain just north of Osoyoos Lake. At this time of year we can expect to see Ospreys freshly returned from their winter homes in the States, as well as a few other migrants navigating northwards. As we crossed the river and turned south onto the dike road, we saw a flight of Violet-green Swallows (Tachychineta thalassina), a couple of hundred I’d guess, swarming around the bridge area. As we have these at home, we didn’t take time to shoot any….

We did enjoy some success with the Ospreys, however. There are three nests in the floodplain that I’m aware of, and pairs occupied each one . We focused on the largest and most colourful nest, perhaps in the whole Okanagan Valley, maybe in BC, maybe even the world, (!) not that it matters. I’ve provided just three Osprey shots here but if you want more, click this link….  To enlarge the photos, below, click on the —oh, you know…!

On our way back to Oliver, we chose to take the Nimkip Road through Osoyoos Indian Band lands (the road is provincial). Near the junction of Rd. 22 and Sage Rd. sits an old barn and, across the road, some other sadly deteriorated ranch buildings. There we enjoyed great looks at some Say’s Phoebes (Sayornis saya), which seem to be in abundance through their BC range this year. Came away with one acceptable photo.

Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya).jpg

From Oliver, we drove to Vaseux Lake and up McIntyre Rd. (which Google insists on calling Dulton Creek Rd. Apple Maps, for once, gets it right!)  This area is collectively referred to as McIntyre Bluffs (or sometimes Vaseux Bluffs). See map above.

It’s home to a variety of wildlife, both avian and four-legged. We saw (and interacted again) with meadowlarks (still denied the quality shots we got last year).  We saw four mule deer, which, after spotting us, turned their attention to a predator they could see, but we couldn’t. Although they stayed put, the here was giving it undivided attention. As the Mulies were too far away to photograph, we didn’t.

On the way up to the ranch on McIntyre Bluff, we stopped to appreciate a rather thin and tired looking California Bighorn ewe. Nana wanted to go look for the rest of the herd, but that came later on our way home….

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
Turkey Vulture at the ranch above Vaseux Lake near Oliver, BC.

After turning around, a km or so past the ranch, we were startled on our way back down, just as we approached the feedlot, to find a wake of Turkey Vultures (nine altogether) mostly on the ground but also flying in and out. Must admit that I was struck with vulture fever! Stopping the car as close as I could on the opposite side of the road (with no traffic, that was a mistake!), I rolled down the window and attempted to shoot between strands of the barbed wire fence. While the opportunity was fabulous, the fence was a foil. To get the results I wanted, I had to get out and hope that in their frenzy, the ol’ buzzards would stay put and let me shoot. Alas, not happening on this day! While I got the closest ever to TUVUs, the images produced are not nearly as good as they should be. Were I doing it again, I’d drive to the wrong side of the road close to the fence; I think the TUVUs were oblivious to the machine but not to the man…. One of those situations where one is seen exulting and beard-muttering at the same time!

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).jpg
Sort of what I felt like doing when I got such a feeble result!

On the way down the highway, located “our Ewe” again, and observed her and 21 others in the herd, by Nana’s count. There may have been more. No rams, however…. To enlarge any photo below, click on it!

Vaseux Lake Bluff.jpg
The view of Vaseux Bluff from McIntyre Bluff. Can you spot “Ewe”?
California Bighorn ewes and lambs.jpg
Ewe is a sweetheart!
California Bighorn ewes and lambs (1).jpg
One dozen of the herd. Nana counted 22 in all….

Finally,  from the new tower-blind at the Vaseux Lake “Important Birding Area” (a lot more on this fraud some other day!), one last look at Vaseux Lake and Bluff.

Vaseux Lake from the IBA blind.jpg
Vaseux Lake from the beautiful new tower-blind. Sadly, the same old lousy birding spot!

For the post on Osoyoos Ospreys only, click this link….


4 thoughts on “Out and about or ‘South, for a last time’…

  1. hi Keith;
    I enjoyed reading your great day in the South.
    We stuck a bit closer to Penticton on a first sunny day in a while. Went to Max Lake on the west side of Penticton which has an elusive Virginia Rail but did not have the patience to wait for it to show but got good quality shots of some common birds. The road needs an SUV with good clearance to drive is as far as the lake.
    Then there is an osprey nest at the Penticton airport where they are rebuilding the nest that had 3 fledglings last year. Hoping they have the same success this year.
    The meadowlarks are singing everywhere but remain elusive even at White Lake; your pic gives me hope of finding a good shot of one out there this year.
    The turkey vultures have been at the feedlot for a while, saw one March 25th.
    I am surprised you did not swing into downtown Penticton to catch the Great Horned Owlets at Gyro Park; there are 3 that are crowding the nest.


    1. Thanks for commenting, Conrad! I appreciate your updates on some key spots in your area and the tip on the feedlot. Regarding the owlets, I saw ours at the Kelowna Courthouse last year, wasn’t sure where they were in Penticton, and chose to take our time in the areas we went to on Monday.
      Should add that we’ve had owls hooting on the roof of our neighbouring condo through the winter and even a couple of nights ago. Nana was able to spot one of them in the moonlight. So we have them nearby; I just need a few good days to get out and find them…. Good birding to you and Susan! Again, thanks for taking the time!


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