Monday 30 June 2014

Chilcotin Plateau: Birding with Birders

June 19-25 2014 Puntzi Lake and Vicinity. The Chilcotin Plateau, Central BC

It's an eight hour drive from Cloverdale to Williams Lake and onward to the Chilcotin Plateau. I joined six members of the Langley and South Surrey Field Naturalists for the our annual week long visit to the Chilcotins. On the three previous visits we recorded bird sightings for the BC Bird Atlassing program which has now been concluded and is currently being compiled for publication. This year however we would submit our findings to eBird.
Our first stop for lunch was a fruitful one with sightings of a Wilson's Phalarope and American Wigeon in a small pond near Chasm/Green Lake. By the time we arrived in Williams Lake we were already up to thirty-five species for the day.
As we left Williams Lake heading west we climbed up onto the Chilcotin Plateau where we encountered our first good numbers of Mountain Bluebird and Meadowlark. It was a further 168 kms to Puntzi Lake where we would be based for next six nights.

I brought along the Tamron 150mm-600mm and Nikon D7100 as we would be hiking or driving in cramped quarters with no room for a big lens and tripod. I needed a light rig to take some quick snap shots like the Ruffed Grouse below or in the case of the Townsend's Solitaire after a walk up a fairly steep incline where a heavy lens and tripod would have slowed down the group. I still brought a tripod for those times when I went out on my own. As far as I recollect I shot all these images handheld unless specified in the accompanying cutline.

                                                                             Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)
We were in the lodge's driveway on our way out when we spotted this grouse. Her chicks are hiding in the grass.

After checking into our cabins we went for a walk to stretch our legs, it had been a long but eventful drive. Behind the lodge was a steep hillside, predominately pine forest with a few aspens scattered here and there. The forest was slow to reveal its secrets but as soon as we stopped talking and listened a Townsend's Solitaire song could be heard from high up in the canopy.  At first I didn't recognize the song so I played the call and the bird suddenly showed itself, even though binoculars were needed to identify it.

Townsend's Solitaire (Myadetes townsendi)
Shot from two hundred metres away with the Tamron 150mm-600mm, handheld VR enabled.

Elsewhere in the forest Northern Flickers were feeding young, Chipping Sparrows flitted from branch to branch and brownish coloured mosquitos made their unwelcome presence known. There was fresh bear scat which is when I realized I had left the bear spray back at the cabin. Duh!

Red-naped Sapsucker nests were found in this Aspen grove.

 Puntzi Lake Area.

Below is a very vocal Merlin photographed one morning before breakfast. It had a nest nearby and made its presence known with a series of loud raucous calls. For obvious reasons hardly any others birds were to found in the vicinity.
Merlin (Falco columbarius)
I used a tripod for this shot.
In the grounds of the Kokanee Lodge Resort we found Mountain Chickadees, Chipping Sparrows, Warbling Vireo, Orange-crowned Warblers, Western Tanagers and Ruffed Grouse. Red-Naped Sapsuckers were plentiful everywhere as were numerous species of flycatchers. Spotted Sandpipers worked the shoreline and the wailing of Common Loons could be heard across the lake. Barn, Tree and Cliff Swallows were everywhere, under eaves, in nest boxes and in barns. A Northern Rough -winged Swallow colony was spotted beside the road near Redstone where we had a brief glimpse of a Black Bear and later a Mule Deer.

Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucrphala islandica)

Back at the lodge a small flock of Barrow's Goldeneye flew around our heads looking for a nest box or tree cavity.

A scruffy and worn looking Mountain Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla)

 Puntzi Marsh
Day two was spent exploring the area around the lodge. A small pond set aside by Ducks Unlimited provided great views of Ring-necked Ducks, Spotted Sandpipers and American White Pelicans flying overhead as well incredible views of Puntzi Lake.
As we explored back roads we passed through several cattle ranches where we found Vesper and Savannah Sparrows, Northern Flicker and Brown-headed Cowbirds.
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
It was between the farms, the groves of pine, aspen and open clearings that we saw our first Common Nighthawks. I didn't realize  they fed in the middle of the day. On one occasion we climbed a hill where the added height gave us the opportunity to spot Black Swifts feeding alongside Cliff Swallows. We lunched at the end of Puntzi Lake where Spotted Sandpipers and Kildeer protecting their nests with their 'broken wing' routine. Returning to our vehicles we noticed a Golden Eagle circling on thermals, a 'Lifer' for some on the trip, then a Red-nape Sapsucker flew into a tree beside us to gather insects from a series of sap holes. It took thirty minutes to travel thirty metres as we then encountered two more species of flycatchers. An Osprey flew toward Puntzi Lake and as we returned for supper a Ruffed Grouse held up traffic while giving us great views of its raised crest.

Puntzi Lake 
The next day we spent the morning on the east side of Puntzi Lake. Our target bird was the Three-toed Woodpecker. One of our party, Alice spotted the elusive woodpecker first and therefore bragging rights goes to Alice. A brief glimpse of a Black-backed Woodpecker was also a treat, but far elusive for a photo. No tick for me, I need a better look or even better a decent photo.

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)

As we left I managed to call in a Western Tanager which was nesting nearby and then a bird caught my eye, it was unmistakably an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Olive-sided Flycatcher on the nest.

We enjoyed our lunch under blue skies at nearby Puntzi Marsh where our first sighting was a Vesper Sparrow. Thankfully the breeze kept the mosquitos at bay.
The ephemeral marsh had been receding from perhaps a few hundreds of hectares to less than thirty. It has been a dry year with many of the feeder creeks running dry. Just one deep pond remained, it was occupied by a pair of Northern Shoveler. As we walked around a Mountain Bluebird perched on a log, a Kildeer performed the 'Broken wing' trick and a Greater Yellowlegs flew noisily around despite our group being several hundred metres away from its nest.

Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)

 Central Chilcotin/Tatlayoko Lake/Skinner's Meadow
Another morning began as every morning did, with sunshine. We headed south to Tatla Lake and the Tatlayoko Lake Bird Observatory. The fields were alive with Tree and Barn Swallows as well as Savannah Sparrows and Mountain Bluebird. Check out their website if you want to take part in banding program. We then visited Eagle Lake where we saw only one Arctic Tern and a few American White Pelican, on a previous visit a few years ago there were many more terns but nothing can be guaranteed when birding. We were granted permission to visit Skinner's Meadow which is under the control of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
As we ate our lunch, surrounded by spectacular meadows and snow covered mountains Vesper, Song and Savannah Sparrows could be seen gathering insects and feeding young. Brown-headed Cowbirds were always lurking around to swoop in and lay their eggs. A number of Sora could be heard and we had a very good sighting of a Virginia Rail. Beside the pond a Red-naped Sapsuckers chicks could be heard chirping inside an aspen tree so we backed off and waited until the parent arrived to feed the young. It wouldn't be far off if I said the most common bird on the trip was the Red-naped Sapsucker, they were everywhere we went.

Skinner's Meadows (above) is natural grassland that the first settlers in the Chilcotins recognized as excellent grazing land. Unfortunately only 2% of the grasslands remnants remain, most of it in Canada and Mongolia. Thanks to contributors to organizations like the Nature Conservancy/Nature Trust and others important areas like this are protected with the aim of creating safe corridors for the creatures who have relied on them for many millennia.

Red-naped Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus nuchalis)

Another day began with the short drive to the Ducks Unlimited property just a few miles from the lodge.
It didn't take long for the lakes to reveal their secrets as a pair of Black Tern flew by, albeit quite a distance away for pictures. Again there were Sora, along with Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Tree, Barn and Cliff Swallows. In the hedgerows and on the edges of the wet areas Willow Flycatchers, Cedar Waxwings, Western Tanager added to our ever growing list of species.
Further along the road we visited the Nature Trust's Chilkanto Wildlife viewing area. Amazing scenery and habitat and an old homestead now turned over to the birds and other critters.
We stopped for lunch and rested in the shade of an old farmhouse. There were barn and tree swallows in the air. Some of the birds seemed rather large for swallows, a quick viewing revealed they were Common Nighthawks feeding over the ponds on a recent Mayfly hatch. 

Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)

Walking closer to the lake we passed a pair of Eastern Kingbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwing and amongst the nighthawks were an equal number of Black Terns, also feasting on the hatch. 

Black Tern (Chlidoonias niger)

As the trip was coming to an end we decided to go back along South Puntzi Rd to see if we could relocate the Three-toed Woodpecker, alas there were none but we did spot more flycatchers which provided lots of discussion and puzzlement. We used playback to distinguish species. We also watched a Yellow-rumped Warbler feeding a fledged Brown-headed Cowbird but a picture was impossible due the blocking foliage. Our second stop on day 6 was the road leading to Pyper Lake. Like all the locations they are short distances off Hwy 20.

Distant ID shot of an Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) showing white belly, throat and white patch.
We had seen many flycatchers including Eastern Kingbird, Willow, Olive-sided, Western Wood-PeeWee, Pacific-slope, Alder, Hammond's and now Pyper Road provided us with a Gray Flycatcher, a lifer for most of us. 
The day ended at a road called Chilanko Loop where within minutes we were watching a Northern Waterthrush feeding along the water's edge. I have one fuzzy shot of the bird with two caddis and a  stickleback in its beak. A fish eating warbler, who knew!
Around the bridge where we also spotted Song Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow Warbler, and even more Red-naped Sapsuckers.

Last Day: Scout Island Nature Reserve.
We left for Williams Lake at and stopped off at Scout Island as is tradition with our group.
First up were Yellow Warblers and Willow Flycatchers and out in the bay Caspian Terns could be heard long before being seen. As we made our way back to the car we spotted a pair of Red-necked Grebe floated in a backwater, the male bringing food to the young perched on the back of the female, something I had never witnessed.

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)

The icing on the cake was the last shot of the day before leaving for the Lower Mainland. As we left  our trip leader Gareth Pugh noticed a Northern Waterthrush feeding in the shallows close to the bridge linking the islands. With my camera batteries almost depleted I managed to squeeze off a few final frames before heading back to the car and Vancouver.

Northern Waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis)

So there it is, we ticked off 113 species, had a wonderful time in some glorious countryside and for myself I added Black Swift, Ruffed Grouse, Gray and Olive-sided Flycatchers to my life list.

It's never to late to start birding

John Gordon

I have tried hard to make this account as readable as possible but as I have explained before, management takes no responsibility for any grammatical errors. However positive feedback is welcome!

All Images and Text ©2014 John Gordon Photography

Wednesday 18 June 2014

First Confirmed Breeding Western Scrub-Jays In B.C/Canada.

June 18 2014 Corner of York and 119th Ave Maple Ridge, BC Canada

After first consulting one of Canada's best birders I have been told that these pictures constitute the first record of Western Scrub-Jays successfully breeding in BC.

A pair of Western Scrub-Jays have successfully fledged two young in Maple Ridge. The pair nested in 2013 but lost their young to predators when their nest was built too near to the ground. After overwintering in Maple Ridge they built a new nest in a taller cedar hedge and despite a large number of black squirrels and crows the young have survived. The fledgling seem to be strong and robust albeit a little skittish. The parents have moved them about a hundred metres from the original nest to a holly bush which itself is in a stand of dense evergreen. The birds are in a private garden but do come out to the road where they can be viewed sitting on branches and telephone wires. Meanwhile adult birds periodically return with peanuts, which the adult birds have stashed away in a monkey puzzle tree across the road.

Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica)
An adult feeds one of the two young with a peanut.
I have been told by the property owner that all other birds have been chased away from the garden since the fledglings and adults moved in yesterday.

*A juvenile Western Scrub-Jay looks out toward the street. Behind me would be the Monkey Puzzle tree where the adults could be seen retrieving peanuts. Tamron 150mm-600mm handheld at 600mm D7100 VR enabled. 

Two juvenile Western Scrub-Jay wait for the adults to appear with  food, mostly peanuts.

Technical details:
I used the Tamron 150mm-600mm and D7100 for picture #2, #1 and #3  are on the 500mm F4 and D3s. Pictures 1 and 3 were in the deep shade on (auto ISO 2000) while the other was taken from the road in full diffused light at 1000 ISO. Any remember Kodak 64 and 200, haven't things changed for the better?
Why two cameras? I set one up for the holly bush shots while I wandered around handholding the Tamron which resulted in the extra shots including pic #2 and some of the bird in the monkey puzzle tree.

Stay tuned as I do not have any more details but have been told it is a good 'find' and possibly the first confirmed breeding Western Scrub-Jays in B.C. Cool Eh!

Birding and the World Cup can co-exist, who knew!

John Gordon

Thursday 12 June 2014

Manning Park /End of Road Trip

June 5 2015 Manning Park B.C. Sunny
The last stop of call  before returning to Vancouver was to try out a bit of high elevation birding at the Manning Park lookout. The 8 km paved switchback road climbs through a number of promising birding venues as well as the chance of spotting critters including Black Bear, Mule Deer and Yellow-bellied Marmots. The road to the alpine area was still closed due to heavy snow.

Looking toward the USA from the Manning Park lookout.

Townsend's Warbler (Dendroica townsendi)

*Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris)
*Common Raven (Corvus corax)

I was surprised to find that Ravens are classified as uncommon but I had tried for a while to get a decent shot and the lookout at Manning Park proved the perfect opportunity. The Raven is a large bird with a wingspan of almost five feet or 1.5 metres.

So there it is, a road trip that started on Tuesday June 3 at 4.30 a.m and ended June 5 at 10 a.m
A trip that covered 1448 kms and about 30 hours of actual birding.

*Tamron 150mm-600mm

It's never too late to start birding!
John Gordon

Camp McKinney Rd/ Honey Bear/Tamron 150mm-600mm

June 5 2014 Camp McKinney Rd The Okanagan B.C. Sunny

So it was time was another road-trip test for the Tamron 150mm-600mm. I would be driving with the lens poking out the window held in place with a bean bag. I was also prepared if required to quickly exit the car to get closer to my quarry. The whole idea about by this lens is to snag a few extra shots that I might otherwise miss by using the tripod and big lens.
Camp McKinney Rd is a rewarding drive even if one is not birding, the views of the Okanagan Valley are terrific.
All pictures except Mule Deer taken with the Tamron. Scenics Nikon P7100 Point and Shoot 
Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

Camp McKinney Rd

As soon as I had left the historic Fairview site and had passed through Oliver I was soon into the birds along Camp McKinney Rd. The fence posts held Eastern Kingbirds, Chipping Sparrow,  California Quail and above a Swainson's Hawk patrolled the grasslands below.
On one particular stretch of road was one of my 'target' birds, the brilliantly coloured Lazuli Bunting. I parked the car and walking with the Tamron handheld and slowly approached the bird, eventually using a fencepost to steady the lens. The tiny bird was swaying in the wind as it perched on a stalk of a seeding plant. Eventually the wind died down and I was able to secure this shot with a pleasing background.
Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)

Moving on up from the valley bottom, farmland soon changed to sage and antelope brush. As I climbed Ponderosa Pine took over and eventually Douglas Fir stands predominated. I have to admit not spending too much time in the forested area but as I returned I found a pair of Western Bluebirds. They had to be approached cautiously and the handheld Tamron worked well as it took at least five minutes crawling on my stomach to approach them. I am sure they would have been long gone had I had the tripod set up.
Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana)

Western Bluebird with an insect which it had just caught in the grass.
Western bluebirds are one of the earliest Spring arrivals, even if the weather is adverse. Their early arrival helps them find the best nesting sites either in a tree hole or a nesting box. In the Okanagan European House Sparrows and European Starlings compete for nest sites. There has been as sharp decline in the numbers of all three bluebird species including the Mountain and Eastern varieties. Habitat destruction and the use of insecticides has taken a toll although the provision of nest boxes has helped a great deal to help build up numbers of all three species.

 The scenery on Camp McKinney Road.  Nikon P7100 Compact.

I try to photograph as much scenery as possible on my travels to give a little context especially as the adage "a picture is worth a thousands words" saves the reader having to decipher my clumsy narrative ramblings! For scenics I use a simple but very able Nikon P7100 point and shoot. The lens goes from 28mm-200mm which covers most bases. It does have a little distortion at the wide-angle end but that I am told can be fixed in the computer, I prefer to bird rather than spend too much time on the computer.

Reluctantly I had to leave the Okanagan but before I left I stopped of at Chopaka IBA to see if I could find the elusive Sage Thasher. I scanned everywhere for about thirty minutes but only Western Meadowlark and Vesper Sparrow were showing. As I began to leave and as I passed Elkink Ranch I noticed some movement in one of the gullies. At first I though it was a domestic pig but on closer inspection through the Tamron it turned out to be what I think is probably a two year old Black Bear with a distinctive honey coloured coat. Rather than be out of place the bear blended right in as it dug into the ground perhaps looking for a bees nest, isn't that what Yogi Bear would have done?

Black Bear with honey coloured coat (Ursus americanus) walks in the Chopaka Important Bird Area.

I originally found this bear digging in the ground where it looked like it had found something tasty.

Another road trip was over but I still had a few hours to drive through Keremeos and then Princeton. I spent a few moments in Keremoes looking for the Chukar that I had photographed a few weeks earlier but they were nowhere to be seen. At Princeton I had a quick look around August Lake but the only changes were many of the Lesser Scaup now had young and a Pileated Woodpecker flew right in front of me almost knocking me over. Soon it was time to head for Manning which will be featured in the next blog.

It's never too late to start birding

John Gordon

Disclaimer: The management takes no responsibility for typos and grammatical errors!

Tuesday 10 June 2014

The Okanagan Road Trip June 4-5

         June 3-4 2014 The Deep Creek, Otter Lake and vicinity

Returning from Salmon Arm I turned off at Kamloops and headed south to Vernon. Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds were the most conspicuous while in many of the ponds and lakes healthy numbers of Spotted Sandpipers and Kildeer were apparent.  
My first stop in the North Okanagan was at O'Keefe Pond where only an avid birder could tolerate the raucous call of the numerous nesting Yellow-headed Blackbirds.
I had meant to go to Otter Lake but ended up on St Anne's Rd by mistake. St Anne's Rd reminded me of the Saskatchewan prairies. The first birds high above me were a pair of Brewer's Blackbirds fending off a Red-tailed Hawk. A few moments later another pair of Red tails glided on thermals just out of range for decent photos.
I drove slowly down the road, the Tamron 150mm-600mm balancing on a beanbag ready for any action that might occur. Moments later I noticed something move in the distance, I cut the engine and rolled slowly up to a Western Meadowlark preening on a fencepost.

For those following the non-scientific Tamron 150mm-600mm road test an* appears by photos taken with the aforementioned lens. Shots were taken out of the car window on a bean bag or handheld.

*Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)
A few more metres on a Vesper Sparrow alighted on a fence pole. For the relatively beginner birder like myself sparrows can be problematic to identify in the field.
*Vesper Sparrow (Pooectes gramineus) Note the rufous lesser coverts and complete eye-ring, tell-tale signs in identifying the species.

*A Vesper Sparrow with raised crown had me thinking me it was a Lincoln's but again I had it wrong. I'm learning on the job!

I continued down St Anne's Rd where a recent downpour had created a puddle beside the road. I waited and watched as a parade of birds including a Western Meadowlark, a pair of California Quail and then a Savannah Sparrow came to drink and bathe.
Returning along St Anne's to Otter Lake Rd I came across a pair of California Quail on the bough of an evergreen.

*California Quail (Callipepla californica)

Next up was Otter Lake. A pull-out offers a great view of the lake and a nice picnic site. Eastern Kingbirds were hawking insects while American Goldfinch were feeding on seeding plants while a Chipping Sparrow put in a brief appearance. The Tamron 150mm-600mm was working well so far.
I still think these web images look a lot better on Flickr which i'll post when I have time.

*Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

After leaving the northern part of the Okanagan I left for Okanagan Falls but all the driving was taking its toll,  I just couldn't make it after a long day that began at 4 a.m in Salmon Arm. After checking a few expensive overpriced and noisy provincial campgrounds I eventually turned off into the Banbury RV Park a few kilometres south of Penticton.
What a find it turned out to be. I had the choice of numerous sites (low season for birders, perfect for birding in May and early June) so I chose a waterfront site which also had access to a lakeside trail.
I decided to stretch my legs and use the 500mm F4 instead of the 150mm-600mm. I had barely walked a few metres when a Great Horned Owl flew onto a fence pole behind my campsite. I missed the flight shot as it was so quick and unexpected. The owl was to be one of the several surprises I was to experience on the trip. Eventually it dove into the long grass and never re-appeared. Maybe it had caught something so I backed off and let it be.

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Belter Kingfisher and Northern Rough-winged Swallows nest in these Skaha Lake sand cliffs.

A beautiful sunset over Skaha Lake left me with the feeling that things were going my way.
Next morning before sunrise I was again on the trail behind my campsite. The sandy pathway leads to the small town of Kaleden. 
The first birds up were the Northern Rough-winged Swallows which were nesting in a sandbank. As I watched a Belted Kingfisher flew into one of the nest holes, never to be re-emerge. A mixture of Bank, Tree and Barn Swallows were catching insects over the water. 
As I continued along the trail's more shaded areas I found Wilson's Warblers and various Empidonax flycatchers. I had stopped to photograph the Rough-winged Swallows when a Calliope Hummingbird perched about five metres in front of me.
Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope)
Female Bullock's Oriole (Icterus galbula) I am wondering if this a fledgling or juvenile? Any offers as the plumage looks  a little different to the adult females I have photographed in the past.

By now the sun had risen over Skaha Lake and the sun was burning the back of my neck and so it was time for a hearty breakfast. As I ate, Cassin's Finch, various flycatchers, Bank Swallows, Northern Flicker, House Finch, California Quail, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds, Downy Woodpecker all worked their way in and around my treed waterfront campsite. I finally left the camera alone and enjoyed the moment. Zen and the 'Art of Birding' would be an apt description for the what I was experiencing, the cessation of thoughts and just the natural sights and sounds flooding in. Who could ask more!

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannous)
A member of the flycatcher family, these birds use a favoured perched to fly out and catch insects in midair.

By 8.30 a.m. the sun was so bright and the light was too harsh for decent photography but the show had to go on so I made my way to White Lake. I looked for Sage Thrasher  but they were nowhere to be seen. A howling wind made it difficult to keep the camera and tripod steady so I made my way slowly down the hill to the intersection of Green Lake Rd and Willowbrook Rd where I spotted one of my 'target' birds for the trip, a Say's Phoebe. As I mentioned the light was so harsh that it took a number of attempts to get a half decent shot. A pair are nesting in the pump house and periodically come out to catch insects from the roadside. I am thinking they have learnt to pick up insects struck by passing vehicles. In a similar fashion to the Pied Wagtail in the UK which pecks smushed insects off front grills of parked cars. It's just a thought i'm throwing out there. 

*Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya)
Note the black tail and pale rufous belly.

* This Say's Phoebe waited for passing cars and then picked insects up off the road, a potentially risky occupation but unlike crows it didn't seem to take any undue risks. Rather than hawking insects from the air these birds also dove into the long grass to snags insects.

*Same bird different pose with crest raised.

Only in the Okanagan!

Leaving the area was a hard, there where birds everywhere darting to and fro but it was time to leave for my next destination Beaver Lake Rd which I'll feature in the next blog.

It's never too late to start birding
John Gordon

Sunday 8 June 2014

The Grebes of Shuswap Lake B.C. Canada

June 2. 2014 Two day road trip to Salmon Arm. Sunny with occasional lightening and thunder.
I cannot believe I had never stopped to visit the Salmon Arm waterfront, despite having driven through the town on numerous occasions on my trips to the Rockies. That just goes to show how birding can take you to different places and different times of the year and for different reasons. The ends results can be surprising as I was to find out during this two day road trip.
After leaving Cloverdale I began birding at Hope airport but with little success. I then drove to Merrit to bird at the Laurie Guichon Memorial Grasslands Interpretive Site. There is a pond with waterfowl, an active Osprey nest and a small forested area full of flycatchers, Warbling Vireo, Marsh Wren, various swallows. There were far too many species to list but I always stop off here on my travels as it only a few kilometres up the hill from the tourist information centre. There are extensive back roads into the grasslands which I have yet to explore and interpretive signage to help birders on their way.
Ruddy Duck

Moving on up to Kamloops and on to my primary target, the Western Grebes of Shuswap Lake. I had never been birding in the area so it was a chance to witness for the first time the courtship rituals of the grebes.
Lighting and thunder greeted me as I parked on the foreshore by the public wharf. A few spots of rain turned into a ten minute deluge but soon enough the black foreboding cloud moved over to another part of the valley. Wouldn't it be nice if there were to be some "sweet light" later on!

A pair of Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentals) prepare for courtship ritual.
Soon enough the Ring-billed Gulls returned (B.C.'s largest nesting colony is nearby) then an Osprey caught me napping, hence no photo but where were the famous grebes. Was it too late in the season, had I driven all this way for nothing? Just then I saw a pair of grebes far out in the lake. Still I would need a spotting scope to get a picture. Just then a group of binocular wielding folk turned up and advised me to visit to nearby Peter Jannick Nature Park where there may be a chance to view some of the grebes at close hand.

Shuswap Lake from Peter Jannink Nature Park Nikon P7100.

The chase begins with one of the birds plucking feathers from the rump of the other. I presume it is the male acting in this manner. Correct me if I am wrong.
The light was horrible for photography, the grey sky left the water and birds looking drab but yet there were a dozen or so grebe several hundred metres out displaying. Things were looking up. I left to find a campsite by which time a slither of blue sky in the West meant with a little luck there might be a sunset after all. I decided to return to the park and here are some of the images, still far away but good enough for my purposes. Will I return for some better shots, you bet!

Photographed from a distance, Grebes "dance"across the Shuswap Lake.

5.30 a.m Sunrise on Shuswap Lake: Mallard and clutch and Canada Geese.

 Later in the morning
Salmon Arm public wharf but with morning light.

It's never too late to start birding!
John Gordon