Thursday 12 June 2014

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!


  1. Isn't the honey bear amazing, I have never seen one that colour a black bear would have stuck out like a sore thumb against the sagebrush.