Monday 30 March 2015

From Kamloops to Osoyoos

March 27-28 2015 Kamloops to Osoyoos, The Okanagan Valley BC
Sun and Clouds 16c in the Valley 3c in the Mountains.

With high expectations five of us Roy, Daniele and Brian, myself and our fearless leader Mel left cloudy Vancouver and headed to bird various locations between Kamloops to Osoyoos. 
There are plenty of great birding spots around the Kamloops area, many of which can be found in Russell and Dick Canning's book Birdfinding.
One particular bird I didn't expect to see was a Burrowing Owl. 

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Note the tags.

These particular Burrowing Owls are re-introduced birds and much hard work has gone into giving them a chance to re-establish in the grasslands. The owls migrate south in the winter and return in the spring. The birds are free to go as they please so the re-introduction can so far be considered successful. Hopefully the birds will now breed and their numbers will increase with time. 

The Burrowing Owl nests underground usually in disused badger dens of which I don't think there are any. Instead man made burrows have been built to offer shelter and nesting.

The sounds of the Meadowlarks call carrying across the grasslands was breathtaking. Fleeting views of a Northern Shrike and Vesper Sparrows were just a taste of what is to come. Soon Horned Larks and Clay-coloured Sparrows will arrive en masse.
Western Meadowlark (
We made our way back toward Kamloops and on to the Tranquille area. At Rattlesnake Bluffs we searched for Canyon Wrens but no luck, we were however visited by an accommodating Say's Phoebe.

Rattlesnake Bluffs
Nature Conservancy of Canada Property
Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya)

Sunlight reflected off the canyon walls lights up the wings of dainty flycatcher. This is a good place for Chukar, Canyon Wren and nesting White-throated Swallows.
Say's Phoebe feed on insects and can be very vocal and are easily approached compared with some species.

Bighorn Sheep at Vaseux Lake.

Chukar  (Alectoris chukar)
Tamron 150mm-600mm
Across and just before Rattlesnake Bluffs is a railway track where trains pass on a regular basis. Chukar feed grain spilt on the railway tracks, only flying away when a train is almost on top of them. Introduced from the Middle East feral populations are found in the Kamloops area, the Okanagan and in the Princeton area.

Leaving for Kelowna we looked for less travelled areas where we spotted both Western or Mountain Bluebirds hawking insects. Many were already populating nest boxes. Soon the Lazuli Bunting will  be arriving adding to the colourful display.

Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea)
Tamron 150mm-60mm handheld

In the trees Pygmy Nuthatches were excavating nest holes and squabbles between Northern Flickers and European Starlings provided an entertaining distraction from looking for owls. On a previous trip I found one particular tree with all the above three species nesting within feet of each other.

Moving on we had a tip from a local birder that a Western Screech Owl had been seen so we searched  and found a spot with enough "whitewash" to indicate an owl had indeed used the tree to roost. We returned at ten o'clock that night and after an hour and applying a few calls a Western Screech Owl flew into a closeby branch. Having never photographed owls at night I had no idea to expose for the shot so my images are dismal...... to their credit Brian and Roy got some nice images. We got back to our hotel at 2 a.m completely knackered.


Next day working on another tip we tried another spot but again no owl. We moved on deciding to return later in the day.
We left the balmy weather of the Okanagan Valley with blue skies and cherry blossom for the high mountain logging roads where it was cold and grey. Our search for woodpeckers was fruitless, we could hear them but had to settle for flocks of Mountain Chickadees, a bird I haven't seen too much of and was quite happy to photograph. I would have liked to have stayed longer but birders don't hang around like photographers. I must be a hybrid because I can do both but not at the same time!
Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gamble)
This picture was taken up at the snow line where snow lined the logging road and the temperature was a chilly 3c.

Western Screech Owl (Otus kennicottii)
Finally an owl in daylight, something I could manage and after blowing the shot the night before I felt a lot better,  finally I have a decent image of species that I had only seen once before.

Eventually the two day photo expedition came to an end. A huge thanks from all of us should go out to our fearless leader Mel who went way beyond the call of duty to make sure we had an interesting 
itinerary. We covered 1300 kms from Vancouver to Kamloops and Osoyoos and back but without the effort we wouldn't have had such an amazing experience.

As an aside I will be trying out the new Nikon P900 24mm-2000mm bridge camera in the next few weeks. It might make a great birding lens for those who don't want to lug around too much gear and just want to post on Flickr and not be bothered with exhibition quality images. It even has a birding mode where it takes a high sequence of frames.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon

Management takes no responsibility for grammatical errors.


  1. Fantastic post and even more gorgeous images. It sure was a fantastic trip and we saw so many amazing birds and animals including big horn sheep. We did see a woodpecker on the high mountain road though we saw some Northern Flickers and one Hair woodpecker ;-)! Also in Kamloops we got a rare Lewis' woodpecker which was extremely early.

    The day roosting Screech owl was the highlight of my trip and listening to the beautiful Canyon Wren in Vaseaux singing its song.


  2. Wow sounds like a great couple of days John. You guys put on some miles on that trip; good for you guys. Thanks for sharing some of these amazing birds that I have never seen before. I look forward to the feedback on the P900 crazy zoom on that one.
    Well done John.