Exciting birding in spectacular mountain scenery and seascapes!
Birding in BC is an exciting experience among spectacular mountain scenery and seascapes. We encounter a wide range of species, including Barrow’s Goldeneye, Spruce (Franklin’s) Grouse, Canyon Wren, Harlequin Duck, Bald Eagle, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Flammulated Owl and Pigeon Guillemot, all amidst marvelous scenery! We have a good chance at seeing several species of mammals, from Yellow-bellied Marmot, California Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats to Elk and Pika. Our tour takes us to the shorebird habitats of the Fraser River delta, through the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley and the Coastal Mountain range, and into the arid Okanagan Valley, an area of coniferous mountains and dry valleys. A leisurely yet exciting and rewarding tour.
• Relatively easy and productive birding among the most scenically impressive and diverse of areas
• Lots of mammals, from Bighorn Sheep to Elk, Mountain Goats and Pikas!
Day 1: Arrival
Our tour begins after dinner in Vancouver. Our leader(s) will meet the group around 7:00pm to discuss the tour itinerary and other logistics, and to answer any questions that you may have. Night in Vancouver.
Day 2: Vancouver and surroundings
We start the day high in Cypress Bowl Provincial Park, where several look-outs should offer a spectacular view of Vancouver (weather permitting), and we may find feeding flocks of Vaux’s and/or Black Swifts whizzing by. If luck is with us we’ll hear and perhaps see a displaying male Sooty Grouse, while more obvious songsters include Olive-sided and Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Cassin’s Vireo, Pacific Wren, Western Tanager and Black-headed Grosbeak along with Varied, Hermit and Swainson’s Thrushes. Next we head down to another beautiful park, this time in the lowlands near Langley. Here, at Campbell Valley Regional Park, we continue to concentrate on Pacific Northwest specialties such as Hutton’s Vireo, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Bewick’s Wren and Spotted Towhee, along with other forest and meadowland birds such as Pileated, Downy, and Hairy Woodpeckers and Willow Flycatcher. Chestnut-backed Chickadees are so tame they may even land on your head!
From Campbell Valley, we head for Tsawwassern as this is usually the best place for over-summering “rocky shore” specialties such as scoters, Harlequin Duck, Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants, Black Oystercatcher, and Pigeon Guillemot. The famous Reifel Refuge will be our last scheduled stop of the day. This sanctuary is renowned for great birding year-round, and we’ll be concentrating on adding to our waterbird list. We may luck into a roosting owl, as Barn, Barred, and Great Horned Owls all breed in the area. Night in Vancouver.
Day 3: Transfer to Osoyoos
Today is a travel day, so we will break it up with fantastic birding sites. At the west gate of Manning Park, Red-breasted Sapsuckers are fairly reliable, along with other common coastal forest species such as Steller’s Jay, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Townsend’s Warbler. Once we climb into the centre of the park, several side roads provide access to true boreal forest. Up here we hope to catch up with a nice mix of birds including Sooty Grouse, Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, American Three-toed Woodpecker and perhaps Boreal Chickadee. As we head east from Manning, the landscape turns from thick wet forest to drier open grassland and ponderosa pine woodland. We plan to stop at a few duck ponds around Princeton, and then drive to our accommodation in Osoyoos, via the gorgeous Similkameen Valley, stopping along the way to marvel at the views and pick up a few new birds! Depending on time and weather, there will be an optional outing after dark to try for Flammulated Owl and Common Poorwill in the surrounding hills. Night in Osoyoos.
Day 4: Okanagan Valley
Today is our first full-day in the spectacular Okanagan Valley. In addition to warm weather and impressive vistas, it also boasts incredible bird diversity (over 200 species recorded nesting) thanks to a variety of habitats. We start our Okanagan tour with a visit to rich riparian bottomlands at Road 22. Targets here include breeding Long-billed Curlew, Least Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Chat and the enigmatic Bobolink. Next we head up into the nearby hills to the Haynes Lease Ecological Reserve, which should offer fantastic views of the southern end of the valley. The rocky cliffs that make up the impressive outcrop known locally as “The Throne,” offer an opportunity to find Okanagan specialties such as Chukar, White-throated Swift, and both Rock and Canyon Wrens. In the surrounding antelope brush grasslands we hope to hear the jumbled song of the striking Lark Sparrow, and the insect-like trill of the rare and declining Grasshopper Sparrow. We will keep our eyes on the skies as both Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon nest nearby, and Prairie Falcon is always a possibility. After a bagged-lunch in Oliver, our next birding area will be the ponderosa pine forests along the McKinney Road on the east side of the valley. This is the area where White-headed Woodpeckers were reliably seen in 2001, 2009, and 2010. Here there are several goodies, including all three species of nuthatch, Townsend’s Solitaire, Western Bluebird, Red Crossbill, and Cassin’s Finch. One of the toughest ID challenges in North America is the sorting out of Empidonax flycatchers - here, Hammond’s, Dusky and Gray Flycatchers are all locally common along this route so it should be an interesting lesson for those new to the west. We return once again to the valley bottom to look for species missed up to now. Tonight is our owling night. Weather permitting, we try for Flammulated Owl and Common Poorwill, and there is also a chance of Great Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Western Screech-Owl, and Northern Saw-whet Owl. Night in Okanagan Falls.
Day 5: Okanagan Valley
Today should be a great showcase of the Okanagan’s diversity, as we start high in the boreal forest of the Okanagan Plateau, before working our way down through a variety of forest, wetland, and grassland habitats, and finally reaching the valley bottom around lunch-time. In the high forests we look for Northern Pygmy-Owl along with northern specialties such as Spruce Grouse, American Three-toed and Black-backed Woodpeckers, Boreal Chickadee and Pine Grosbeak. Lower down we visit some remnant stands of larch where Williamson’s Sapsuckers are the specialty, with many more birds possible such as Red-naped Sapsucker, MacGillivray’s and Townsend’s Warblers, Mountain Bluebird, Townsend’s Solitaire and Evening Grosbeak. Down the hill in drier open country, where evidence of the 2003 fire is still striking, we should find the unique Lewis’s Woodpecker, Lazuli Bunting and Nashville Warbler. After lunch, we’ll explore the cliffs and marshes around the picturesque Vaseux Lake, then visit a few other local hotspots to clean up on riverine specialties we may need such as Veery, Gray Catbird, Yellow-breasted Chat and Black-chinned Hummingbird. If time permits, we’ll have an optional evening outing to the sagebrush grasslands of the White Lake Basin where sparrows will be the focus; Lark, Brewer’s, Vesper, and Grasshopper Sparrows. Night in Okanagan Falls.
Day 6: Richter Pass and back to Vancouver
This morning’s birding will depend on what we’re missing for the trip. We may stop by Vaseux Lake and White Lake for one last time to soak in the beautiful scenery and nice birds, and then we return to Vancouver, planning to arrive in the late afternoon where we’ll tally up the final bird and mammal list.
Day 7: Departure
We leave for the airport to catch our flights home.
Featured Birds & Mammals:
Spruce (Franklin’s) Grouse
California Bighorn Sheep
Date: June 10 - 16, 2015
Duration: 7 days
Limit: 12 people
Price: t.b.a. (2013 was $2,230 USD + 2.5% GST, $2,175 CAD + 5% GST, single supplement $410 USD + GST, $400CAD + GST)
Tour Starts and Ends: Vancouver, BC
• Moderate walking , some hiking
• Highly variable weather, possible snow in sub-alpine regions
• Good quality accommodation
• 4-8 participants with one leader, 9-12 participants with two leaders
• One or two 15-passenger vans
Our daily travel schedule will vary to account for weather, tides and reported bird sightings. You can expect some early morning, before-breakfast walks as well as late evening viewing, including one or two optional owling expeditions for those interested. Walking conditions are easy to moderate; most birding is done from roads and well-marked trails. We occasionally traverse low brush, swampy and uneven terrain, and there is some hill hiking. During these times, we stop frequently to observe fauna and flora. When we have two leaders, we sometimes split into “faster” and “slower” groups. Around noon time we stop for a picnic lunch. The weather in British Columbia can be highly variable, from cool and rainy near the water to sunny and warm in the Okanagan Valley. Biting insects are essentially non-existent at lower elevations around Vancouver; at higher elevations and in deep woods some insects will be present, so insect repellent is recommended. In the evening, we usually arrange to go to a local restaurant. During this time we discuss the day’s activities and review the list of birds seen and heard. For the most part, June is very comfortable and a lovely time to visit the province.
Previous checklists from our British Columbia tour: