The scenery on our tour nearly equals the birds—and both are spectacular. Photo: Gavin Bieber
For many of us, the Canadian province of British Columbia evokes images of huge conifers towering over a dense understory of ferns and moss-covered logs, while in the near distance the Pacific thunders among rocky headlands and exhausts its strength on narrow sandy beaches. This lovely image is indeed in the offing on this tour, but we’ll also explore the boreal forest, crystal blue lakes, and alpine tundra of the magnificent Coastal Range; the drier interior valleys of grassland, pine, and sage; the basalt cliffs of the Okanagan; and such picturesque cities as Vancouver and Victoria. Out on Vancouver Island the introduced Skylarks should be in full and glorious song over grassy fields, American Dippers will swim in cool rocky streams, and we’ll enjoy some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere.
Our tour covers the Okanagan Valley, Manning Provincial Park, Vancouver, and Vancouver Island, all at the season when resident bird populations are near their peak.
Day 1: The tour begins at 6:00 pm in Vancouver. Night in Vancouver.
Day 2: We’ll spend our morning visiting a few of Vancouver’s lovely parks and the surrounding mountains, seeking Band-tailed Pigeon, Vaux’s Swift, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Black-headed Grosbeak in forests of fir, hemlock, and cedar. If the tides are conducive, we may also stop along the coast to have our first views of mixed gull flocks and some migrant shorebirds. In the afternoon we’ll depart Vancouver and head east into the Coast Range en route to Manning Provincial Park. Night in Manning Provincial Park.
Day 3: Just north of the international border and North Cascades National Park, Manning Provincial Park is characterized by glacial landscapes and extensive forests of pine and fir, interspersed with alder- and willow-lined streams, beaver ponds, and alpine meadows. Manning is an excellent place for such mountain forest species as Red-naped Sapsucker, Pileated Woodpecker, Clark’s Nutcracker, Boreal Chickadee, Townsend’s and MacGillivray’s Warblers, Pine Grosbeak, and even possibly White-winged Crossbill. We’ll look here too for Black Swifts coursing over a tranquil lake in the late afternoon sun and for breeding American Three-toed Woodpeckers, which often are active around the spruce forests near the hotel. Three species of grouse—Spruce, Sooty, and Ruffed—occur in the park, and we have a particularly good chance of seeing Sooty as we drive up toward the alpine meadows north of the hotel. Night in Manning Provincial Park.
Day 4: After some morning birding we’ll leave Manning Provincial Park to head east toward the Okanagan Valley, where we’ll spend the next two nights. On the way we’ll pause in the Princeton area, where open forest, lush meadows, and small lakes support Barrow’s Goldeneye, Pygmy Nuthatch, Black-billed Magpie, and Mountain Bluebird. The Okanagan Valley is located in the rainshadow of the Coast and Cascade mountain ranges; parts of the valley receive as little as ten inches of precipitation a year, creating a semi-arid steppe climate unique in Canada. Canada’s “Pocket Desert” is a place of mesmerizing beauty, with huge rocky outcrops, large lakes, sagebrush, riparian woodland, and dry ponderosa pine forest at lower elevations and spruce and fir forests higher up. Species of interest here include Chukar, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Calliope Hummingbird, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Hammond’s and Dusky Flycatchers, Say’s Phoebe, Canyon and Rock Wrens, Lazuli Bunting, and such “eastern” species as Veery and Bobolink. We’ll spend the late afternoon becoming acquainted with the more common birds of the lower valley, such as California Quail and Eastern and Western Kingbirds, before we head to one of the area’s many wineries for a delightful dinner. Night in Osoyoos.
Day 5: For our full day in the Okanagan Valley we’ll ascend some of the many logging roads that stretch through the dry Ponderosa Pine forests up to higher forests of spruce and fir. On the lower slopes we’ll seek out the unique Lewis’s Woodpecker, which regularly sallies out to flycatch passing insects. In brushy well-watered canyons Nashville, Yellow, and Orange-crowned Warblers should be in full song, and with some searching we’ll locate a wide variety of flycatchers, including Gray, Dusky, and Olive-sided and Western Wood-Pewee. Hummingbird diversity reaches its Canadian peak here, with the diminutive Calliope Hummingbird and a few Black-chinned Hummingbirds joining the more widespread Rufous Hummingbirds at banks of flowers. With some luck we’ll also locate some of the region’s rarer woodpeckers, such as Black-backed Woodpecker and Williamson’s Sapsucker. In the evening we’ll strike out after dinner to look for Common Poorwill sitting along mountain roadsides. We’ll also search for one of the most enigmatic owls on the continent: the tiny Flammulated Owl, which can be surprisingly common in the forests of the southern Okanagan Valley. Night in Osoyoos.
Day 6: We’ll spend the early morning in the Okanagan Valley region visiting a towering basaltic cliff and adjacent arid slopes a few miles north of Osoyoos. Here we should encounter both Rock and Canyon Wrens as they sing from the boulder fields near the base of the cliff. The elegant White-throated Swift breeds on the cliff face and in the early morning often flies quite low overhead. Lazuli Buntings should be calling from the adjacent brush, and with some luck we’ll encounter Chukar lurking around the slopes or crossing the road. We’ll then drive back to Vancouver, with stops along the way for any species we may have missed. We should arrive in Vancouver with time to visit the shores of Boundary Bay, an internationally important stopover site for shorebirds. Although the peak of fall migration is in September, there will already be hundreds of returning (or over-summering) birds along the shoreline at high tide. We’ll sort through the identification features of Western, Semipalmated, and Least Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and whatever else we happen upon. After dinner we might also have an opportunity to look for Barn Owls in the agricultural area of the delta. Night in Vancouver.
Day 7: After early birding around Vancouver we’ll board a mid-morning ferry to Vancouver Island, a scenic route providing views of countless Bald Eagles and our first species of auks (likely Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, and Rhinoceros Auklets). In Active Pass, a deepwater pass between two of the San Juan Islands, we’ll look for Brandt’s Cormorants, which are not often seen from land during the midsummer months. Once on Vancouver Island we’ll seek out Skylarks near the Victoria Airport. A small but stable population of this introduced songbird persists in a few locations on the Saanich Peninsula, and their ebullient song is one to remember. Male song tends to decline by mid-July, but we have a good chance of hearing this species’ lengthy repertoire. Afterward we’ll continue on Victoria, where we’ll explore this handsome city’s lovely parks and woodlands in search of Anna’s Hummingbird, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Hutton’s Vireo, and Bewick’s Wren. Night in Victoria.
Day 8: Not unexpectedly, Victoria is an ideal place for waterbirds, and we’ll search Clover Point for Pelagic Cormorant, alcids including Marbled Murrelet, gulls possibly including Mew and the lovely Heerman’s, rocky-coast shorebirds such as Black Oystercatcher, and the omnipresent Northwestern Crow. The itinerary for the day is flexible, allowing us to chase down any remaining species of interest. It will also be possible for participants to take the afternoon off to explore the attractive city of Victoria or perhaps tour the famous Butchart Gardens or take a whale-watching trip in search of Orcas. Night in Victoria.
Day 9: The tour concludes this morning in Victoria.
Updated: 14 September 2012
- 2013 Tour Price : $3,550
- Single Occupancy Supplement : $610
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a modest discount. Details here.
This tour is limited to five participants with one leader.
Note that this tour begins in Vancouver and ends in Victoria. Transportation from Victoria back to Vancouver Airport is available for an additional charge.