Birds Korea, Canada (Salmon Arm)
On Tuesday, May 7th, the Birds Korea Birdathon landed in Canada!! Russ Cannings, Tanya Seebacker, Logan Lalonde and I headed out for a Birds Korea Birdathon in support of the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the mini-documentary being filmed to support this species. We had a great day, hitting 135 species overall – a nice total given that many migrants have yet to return. Three of us ended up with lifers (sorry, Russ), which just added icing on the cake. Our efforts were located in the province of British Columbia, between the North Okanagan (around the city of Vernon) and the Shuswap (around the city of Salmon Arm).
Here’s a summary of the day:
We hit the road with spotlights in hand just before 1:00 am, and had our first species sitting on a wire in the form of a Great Horned Owl by 1:30 at Kekuli Bay near Vernon. We heard a Western Meadowlark singing, and found an Osprey sitting atop its nest as well. A quick trip to Kalamalka Lake Park netted us a Common Poorwill, then it was up to Silver Star Mountain for the next four hours where the search for owls would continue.
Another night-time singer greeted us on our way up, this time a Song Sparrow, then it was up to Sovereign Lake cross-country ski area, where migrants called overhead in the dark, such as Savannah Sparrow. Our first big bird of the day was Boreal Owl, giving its array of calls next to the parking lot. As dawn approached, we were surprised to hear numerous Fox Sparrow singing, joined by the more common Varied and Hermit Thrush, as well as a Horned Lark seen dropping onto a dirt patch. As we headed out, an American Three-toed Woodpecker added its drum pattern to the morning chorus, and Russ heard a Spruce Grouse give its two wing-‘claps’. An American Pipit called as it flew over, then it was on to Silver Star Village, which is a downhill-skiing hill near Vernon.
Best bird up there as the sun came up was calling Dusky Grouse, while our first raptor of the day was a Sharp-shinned Hawk. We then descended the mountain, stopping at a few points along the way, picking up birds such as Townsend’s Solitaire, Cassin’s and Warbling Vireo, Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Nashville and Townsend’s Warbler, Dusky Flycatcher and Red-naped Sapsucker among others. By 7:00 am we were at 50 species and were feeling great!
The more common migrants abounded at all the sites we hit heading north to Salmon Arm, while Swan Lake did not disappoint in the waterfowl department. Numerous Common Loon were spotted as well as Eared, Red-necked, Horned and Western Grebe. Bonaparte’s Gull were added to most other common ducks. We then stopped at L & A Cross-Road where we found two Long-billed Dowitcher and a calling Long-billed Curlew, our only one for the day.
As we headed over to Otter Lake between Vernon and Armstrong, we heard Wilson’s Warbler singing in some roadside bushes, while our first Swainson’s Hawk of the day circled overhead. A singing House Wren proved to be our 100th species, at around 10:00 At Otter Lake we found no evidence of shorebirds other than some more dowitchers, but in a flooded field just north of there we had even more dowitchers, Least and Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and single Wilson’s Phalarope. At the lake itself we added Yellow Warbler as well as the first of many calling Sora for the day.
Moving through Armstrong and Enderby netted us a surprise Lewis’ Woodpecker at the Back Enderby Road bridge area, then it was on to Salmon Arm Bay, where the water proved too high for good numbers of shorebirds but we were pleased to find a single Caspian Tern circling the bay. Other good birds here were Cliff Swallow, Clark’s Grebe, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plover.
A quick trip up to the Larch Hills area led to Say’s Phoebe, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker and our only Brown Creeper and Pacific Wren for the day. Later, up on Inch Logan Road just below Enderby Cliffs we had a calling Clark’s Nutcracker and numerous White-throated Swift along the cliff edge.
We had to wait until 4 pm for our first bluebird – Mountain Bluebird was found at Allan Brook’s Nature Center back in Vernon, then Western Bluebird was seen at Rose’s Pond, along with our only Hooded Mergansers of the day.
By now it was 4:30 and we were sitting at 128 – time to head to Kelowna! We had some big misses by this point – Blue-winged Teal, Western Tanager, Pileated Woodpecker, Pygmy Nuthatch etc, and hoped to find some of them at the hot spots around Kelowna.
First stop was Robert Lake, where we easily found American Avocet and then Western Sandpiper. We then headed over to Munson’s Pond, adding only Cedar Waxwing to the list, then on to Sutherland Hills Park, where three young Great Horned Owl were a treat to see sitting up in a tree and bobbing their heads. We were shocked to not hear one Western Tanager here, though we did add Pygmy Nuthatch to our day list.
From there it was back to Robert Lake, where our day ended with a Virginia Rail right out in the open, and a Spotted Sandpiper as our last new bird of the day – for a total of 135 species!
A big thanks to our sponsors who have already pledged money to support us and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper cause. If you are reading this from outside South Korea, and wish to be a sponsor yourself, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and thanks, team, for a great day!