Wednesday 21 June 2017

Quesnel Birding

Quesnel British Columbia June 7-8 2017

My eventual destination Quesnel was an eight hour drive north from Vancouver. To break the journey  I stopped off at Williams Lake to rest, picnic and bird 

There were the usual suspects including the following

Finally it was time to leave for Quesnel where I was to meet up with other birders prior to the British Columbia Field Ornithologists (BCFO) AGM and conference in Tumbler Ridge. Two days of birding in Quesnel had been arranged with group leaders and local birding experts Adrian Leather and Brian Murlands. 
The Quesnel area has a good mix of birds and a variety of habitats to explore. We would not be disappointed. The itinerary included trips to the West Fraser Loop including visits to Soda Creek, Route 26 to Barkerville and Wells as well as the prolific bench lands on West Fraser Road.
Below are some of the birds to be found in the area. Our group, led by Brian Murlands ticked 116 species. 
Combined both groups spotted 129 species in two days. That's more than some of the five day BC Bird Breeding Atlas trips I had been on! 

We birded the road to Barkerville on Day 1 and Day 2 the West Fraser Rd which is across the river (see map) from Hwy 97 and south of Quesnel.

The first bird of the day was this merlin that was looking for an early morning breakfast.

Once some of us learnt to recognize the call of the American Redstart it was easy to locate them skulking in the bushes.

American Redstart.
The road to Barkerville offered up some choice birding locations. One of the best was the historic community of Stanley. It was here we found a good variety of flycatchers, thrushes, crossbills, grosbeaks and warblers. The highlight for many of us was the Tennessee Warbler which popped out of the shrubbery to give everyone a great look.

Tennessee Warbler. 

Another Stanley bird was the Swainson's Thrush which came out of the thick forest to see what all the fuss was about, namely 10 birders waddling around in gumboots and rain gear.

Swainson's Thrush


Photographing a bird in its habitat is usually no problem, most times the subject matter is so far way  that loads of background is inevitably included whether you want it or not.
Often the background is so cluttered with distractions that the resulting picture often ends up confusing to the viewer.
Perhaps this picture is a compromise and different enough from the close-up field guide pictures which most photographers are obsessed with. The snipe was a long way off so I had a chance to carefully plan the background by moving my original position. I'm not too sure if it works or not but as I have plenty of close-ups of Wilson's Snipe already I gave me the opportunity to try something different.
Wilson's Snipe and marshland.

The area around historic Stanley had numerous species of flycatcher including allow, alder and least.

As mentioned earlier, backgrounds are so important when photographing birds. There were other opportunities to photograph the species but I chose this one because of the dark background which I knew would set off the light coloured bird against the dark shadows in the background.

Least Flycatcher.

I really like the painterly quality of the image below. The pastel colours blend well with the bird's plumage.
A Song Sparrow carries an insect to the nest.

The road to Baskerville and Wells provided plenty of opportunity to photograph warblers including Blackpoll, Wilson's, Yellow, Tennessee and Northern Waterthrush.

Spruce Grouse.
Finally after ticking off over one hundred species and just as we were leaving for the day we bumped into Adrian Leather's group who had spotted a Spruce Grouse high up in a tree. The bird posed for us before moving to a better perch where it continued to feed on spruce buds about twenty metres from the ground.

This is what birders look like when they find a good bird. Some call it warbler neck others just get a pain in the neck.


Day 2

West Fraser Rd offers the opportunity for some great birding and exceptional scenery.

 Northern Mockingbird, a rarity for the area. 
One of the group (who wants to remain anonymous) spotted this Northern Mockingbird, a rarity for the area at the Dunn Levy Ranch, 5845 Soda Creek, MaCalister Rd, Mcleese Lake, BC.

Willow Flycatcher

The two days passed way too quickly. I plan to return to make some sound recordings as the West Fraser Road in particular is quiet.
 I would like to thank Brain and Adrian for hosting and herding the flock from place to place and to the BCFO who originally hatched the idea of two days birding prior to AGM and Conference.
Finally, I am already planning a return trip to the area later in the summer.
"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada


  1. Brian and Adrian are great bird trip leaders had great fun with them in Creston glad you had a great trip I love the barkervile area

  2. Thanks, the area is amazing, I can't wait to go back, perhaps for the fall colours. Thanks for looking.

  3. Great photos from what looks like a great trip John. Have to get up there someday. Although we have been to Barkerville we have never birded it.

  4. Hi Len,
    Pretty much anywhere along the Quesnel to Barkerville Rd is good for birding, quite amazing really, the trick is to take your time and let the birds come to you.