Thursday, 28 July 2022

A non-birder goes birding



Big Bar Ranch Birding 

 -  June 24 to July 1, 2022

Story by Tineke Goebertu

Photography John Gordon


After a two year hiatus, Gareth’s Pugh's annual birding trip was on again …. and I was invited to join. Most participants are avid birders. I am a nature lover and enjoy a bird or two.

Big Bar Ranch


Savannah Sparrow.
Dropping provide nutrients for the lichen.


Birders being chased by mosquitos.

Dreamy Duskywing.

The Big Bar Ranch is in the Cariboo between Clinton and the Fraser River; ranches, grasslands, lakes, and last but not least the dramatic Fraser Canyon. There was spectacular scenery all around.




Arriving at our cabin, we were welcomed by the Mountain Bluebirds and Cliff Swallows that were nesting right there. Amazing to see them so close-up sitting at our porch, a true birder’s cabin. 


Mountain Bluebird were nesting in the cabin eaves.

After our first homemade dinner of chilli, the evening program was birding. All 9 of us jumped on board with our binoculars and went to a pond we had seen on the way up. As soon as we left our vehicle the mosquitos attacked us, and we were not prepared for them at all. 


There were a pair of Sora and several thousand mosquitos at the pond. 

Within 5 minutes we were all in the car again, and from then on, we made sure that we "Deet-ed" ourselves thoroughly. It was a M&M Memorable Mosquito trip, coming home I had more dead mosquito bodies on the inside of my windshield than on the outside.

Four-spotted Chaser.

This has been one of the very few trips I was not the first one up in the morning. Birders rise early, and birding happens from the early morning into the late evening (nightjar survey). After the first day of stop and go with our cars on a route of Gareth’s choosing, I was exhausted. 


Spotted Sandpiper

A lot of bird species were recorded, and I enjoyed a “lifer” *of my own; the Few-flowered shootingstar. Big pockets of them. It has also been cooler and wetter than usual in this area, and we hit it right with the wildflowers. Together we tallied over a one hundred (plant) species, and in very large numbers.


*Lifer as in a new plant.

Cutleaf Anemone
(Anemone multifida)

Yellow-bellied Marmot pups

Birders use a lot of gadgets, obviously binoculars, scopes, and cameras. But also, their phones to either let it record and tell you which birds it hears, or to play a bird call. In the evening, the many birding books were put to good use when the discussions got heated over the true identity of some birds. Consensus was always reached in the end.

Horned Grebe


I appreciate how they love to share their knowledge and enthusiasm and are only mildly disappointed when you don’t share the same excitement over a certain species….  



Common Raven


Churn Creek Day Trip

Our day-trip to Churn Creek on the west side of the Fraser River was memorable. A very warm day in and around the Fraser Canyon which is out of this world beautiful and to my surprise so little known.

LFN Members take a break to photograph the scenery leading toward Churn Creek.


California Bighorn Sheep. There are 300-500 in the area.


 With a few stops on the way to bird, to admire “wild” horses, to take in the breathtaking landscape and to celebrate the first flowering Brittle Prickly Pear Cactus, of which we later did see patches and patches, we arrived at the bridge to cross the Fraser River to Churn Creek. 

Prickly Pear Cactus

Western Kingbird pants in the hot weather.

It was an extremely hot lunch break in between the fields of flowering cactus. After, we descended to the river and found a few new bird species. I loved the vibrant yellow of a pair of Bullock’s Orioles higher up on the hill. 


Blacktail Deer keeps an eye on the group.

Vesper Sparrow.


 The Secwepemc Sacred Rock


Sacred Rock.

The rock was moved to Vancouver without permission and repatriated back to Churn Creek in 2012.


That evening we enjoyed 1 of our 4 variations of chicken-with-rice dinners we had that week.


Just after leaving the ranch the next day, we did spot a Sandhill Crane family with 2 colts. So gracious.

Sandhill Crane, the rest of the family were close-by.


 Big Bar Lake was our destination. Another gorgeous day in a beautiful place. But before we got to see the lake, we spent 30 minutes in the parking lot… birding…. but so worth it as a Northern Waterthrush was heard and then seen. We hiked part of the Otter Marsh Loop: sun, birds, and flowers. It does not get any better.


A closer view of the Northern Waterthrush.


The calm before the storm.



Indeed, it got worse the day after with soggy rain. But I learned that you can also go birding in the rain, and that is what we did. We boarded our dusty cars and came back with muddy cars instead. We found the reward for our perseverance though: American Avocets with chicks that were not recorded before in this area. I now know what a Scottish lunch is; eating your lunch in the car on the side of the road while it is pouring rain outside. 

Red-naped Sapsucker

Our last day was another trip into the Fraser Canyon, the road to the decommissioned Big Bar Ferry. We found out that we were traveling mainly on OK Ranch land when talking to the owners. They did not mind us as long that all we did was birding. Here I did see my first Lazuli Bunting, what a colourful bird! 

Lazuli Bunting


After yesterday’s rain, the sandy roads were so slick which made us decide to turn our cars around and enjoy lunch in the sunshine looking at the landscape and the raging muddy waters of the Fraser River. 

A very wet Ruffed Grouse following a downpour.

Undeniably, birding is rubbing off on me. On the way home I spotted an owl sitting on a post along the highway. After a U-turn it appeared to be a Stoic Owl 😊

Tineke Goebertus


Saskatoon Berry




We recorded the following number of species:

125 birds

101 flowers

12 mammals

18 butterflies

3 dragon flies

3 bees

8 beetles

2 reptiles

5 lichens

8 fungi


"It's never too late to give up the writing duties"

John Gordon

Langley /Cloverdale 

BC Canada




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