Sunday 18 May 2014

Cloverdale to Princeton and Back

May 15 2014 Sunshine Valley/Manning Park/Princeton B.C.

 4.15 a.m The very early start was soon forgotten when at the Hope Airport we came across the first bird of the day, a mountain chickadee.
Just past the Hope Slide at Sunshine Valley, birding buddy and wide awake driver Raymond spotted a flock of red crossbills feeding in a popular tree. As luck would have it, a dozen birds hung around for fifteen minutes or so and allowed us to frame a few shots before a pair of evening grosbeak landed in the same tree and spooked the smaller crossbills. Continuing on and near the West Gate we came across a young female black bear and numerous mule deer.

 Female Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra)

Male Crossbill
The next stop was Lightening Lake at Manning Park where a three chipping sparrows and a pair of savannah sparrows were busily feeding in the picnic area as were a pair of yellow-pine chipmunk.

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
Also present, along with the booming of sooty grouse were five co-operative gray jays looking for a handout. Back at the Manning Park Resort several clark's nutcrackers were easily photographed as was a stealer's jay and numerous Columbian Ground Squirrel.

Columbian Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus columbianus)

Columbian Ground Squirrel. This one is gathering nest material.

Clark's nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana)
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
A quick stop off at Beaver Pond produced numerous rufous hummingbirds, common yellowthroat, American robin and a hairy woodpecker.
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Leaving Manning Park we soon approached Princeton which straddles the coast Mountains and the Okanagan Valley.  The landscape changing from wet deciduous to Pondorsa Pine.There are birds here that we rarely see on the coast. Each switchback brought us incredible vistas and more than once we stopped to view birds on lakes and mountainsides. The Similkameen River was beginning to rise as the snowmelt filled the many tributaries.
Our first stop in Princeton was at a feeder where we found rufous and calliope hummingbirds. Nearby a lewis's woodpecker flew from tree to tree to what looked a like a nest hole but too high up to photograph. A cassin's finch was another surprise bird but soon it was bullied off the feeder by a flock of noisy brown-headed cowbirds.

Cassin's Finch (Carpodacus cassinii)
An uncommon bird of open dry pine forests.
Our next stop was A&W not the usual McDonald's. With caffeine coursing through our veins we  headed up Copper Mountain Road in search of our target bird the williamson's sapsucker and anything else that might present itself. Passing a number of small lakes we spotted cinnamon duck, mallard, pied grebe, lesser scaup, bufflehead and American coot but no sapsucker. There were deer everywhere.
Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides)

The next stop was August Lake where we immediately came across a pair of mountain bluebird and a mountain chickadee. Soon however the "wave" of birds moved on leaving us to survey the lake with its selection of miscellaneous duck and lone killdeer.
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli)
As with many of these picture an effort is being made to show at least a little of the habitat rather that crop too tightly. It is harder than it seems.

Finally we caught a fleeting glimpse of the endangered William's Sapsucker. This record shot was at the end of the day and was a "Lifer" for both of us.
A very distant shot of the Williamson's Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus thyrodeus)
The bird is designated as endangered in Canada (COSEWIC 2005) and is listed under schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act. The entire Canadian breeding population occurs in British Columbia.

By this time the light was beginning to fail, it had been a long day and the drive back was filled with good storytelling and a few belly laughs.
As we left Princeton a majestic dark morph red-tailed hawk swooped down in the valley below, it came to rest on a pine tree, surveying the grasslands below, no doubt looking for a meal. We watched in awe and counted our blessings that we live in such an amazing part of the world. At times like these the camera is best left well alone.

 So there you go, another great day of birding. 

We finally arrived back in Cloverdale at 11.55 pm

Below is a complete list (51 Species) of our sightings for the day. We did spot a few sparrows that may have been brewer's but they vanished into the undergrowth before we could photograph them.  As for bird song we could have added quite a few more had our birding skills been a little sharper.
American Robin
Song Sparrow
Mountain Chickadee
Orange-crowned Warbler
Rufous Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Tree Swallow 
European Starling
Swainson's Thrush (heard)
Pileated Woodpecker
Canada Goose
Red Crossbill
Evening Grosbeak
Brewer's Blackbird
Bald eagle
Pine Siskin 
Gray Jay
House Finch
Chipping Sparrow
Common Loon
Hairy Woodpecker
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Common Yellowthroat
Clark's Nutcracker
Stella's Jay
Brown-headed Cowbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Raven
Lewis's Woodpecker
Purple Finch
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Pied Grebe
Lesser Scaup
American Coot
Cinnamon Teal
Red-tailed Hawk 
Red-tailed Hawk dark Morph
Barrow's Goldeneye
Sharp shinned Hawk
Mountain Bluebird
Pileated Woodpecker
House Sparrow 
Common Merganser


  1. John, what a wonderful, but long, day of birding! An incredible number of species for one day! Cheers!

  2. Great shots! Sounds like it was a fun trip! I was in Princeton and the southern Okanagan Valley this past weekend and I and other young birders from around BC did a big day. We ended up with 133 species pretty much just inside the Vaseux Lake Christmas bird count circle, after almost 22 hours of nonstop birding from 2:00 AM to almost midnight.

  3. congrats on the lifer. I really love your bluebird shot.

  4. Hi Everyone,
    We went again except we started at 4.30 a.m.
    More red crossbills same area but the highlights were better shots of the Williamson's Sapsucker plus Chukar and Brewer's Sparrow.
    Pix to come. Congrats Lion on the Big Day count, amazing.
    P.S. Loved your Cape Scott account, especially the flying puffin shots.