Day 1 – Late afternoon arrival in Kelowna. Spend evening in local hotel and go for dinner.
Day 2 – We’ll head out this morning, bound for Robert Lake, a shallow lake, excellent for waterfowl including Barrow’s Goldeneye, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Green-winged Teal, Cackling Goose, and perhaps an early migrating Tundra Swan. Lingering shorebirds including Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpiper, or Long-billed Dowitcher could be present. During the fall, raptors could be seen at any of the locations we visit including Robert Lake where we will watch for Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, and perhaps an early Rough-legged Hawk. Northern Shrike should also be arriving at this time so we could see them as well in the open habitats around the lake.
Next, we’ll explore the Beaver Lake Road area, where grasslands covering the first few kilometers of the road, are also excellent for raptors. Over these rolling grasslands, we often see Golden Eagles, as well as American Kestrels and perhaps a few late Turkey Vultures. As we climb higher into the forests we should begin seeing birds like Red-breasted Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadees, Varied Thrush, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Hairy Woodpecker, and if we’re lucky more uncommon species such as Ruffed Grouse, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Pine Grosbeak and Gray Jay.
This afternoon we’ll return to Kelowna and we’ll make an afternoon visit to a quirky winery in the East Kelowna area, where we’ll enjoy a late lunch and indulge in a wine tasting. Night in Kelowna.
Day 3 – This morning we’ll explore an area south of Kelowna that is excellent for Northern Pygmy-Owls. These tiny owls breed in the mountains of the Okanagan, and by early October they begin descending to the valley bottom for the winter. Other species we should be on the lookout for this morning include Pygmy Nuthatch, Townsend’s Solitaire, Clark’s Nutcracker, and perhaps an early group of Bohemian Waxwings or Common Redpolls, the latter of which is an irruptive species. California Quail is a common species in the Okanagan, often seen along roadsides.
We’ll cross Okanagan Lake on the Bennett Bridge and make another birding stop, this time at Gellatly Bay in West Kelowna. Where Power’s Creek empties into Okanagan Lake, we’ll scan the sand bar for gulls which at this time of year could include Herring, Thayer’s, Glaucous-winged, Ring-billed and California gull and perhaps something even rarer. The Okanagan is great for gull watching, with rarities such as Iceland, Lesser Black-backed, Slaty-backed and Sabine’s all on the local list. Out on Okanagan Lake at Gellatly Bay, ducks often gather with Redhead, Lesser Scaup, Canvasback, Common Goldeneye and Ring-necked Duck all possible. Common Loons, Horned, Pied-billed, Red-necked and Western grebes are found here as well.
Next stop on the agenda will be one of West Kelowna’s hidden winery gems, where we’ll enjoy lunch and partake in a wine tasting before carrying on south along Highway 97 to the city of Penticton, where we will spend the night. Before we call it a day we will scan the beaches and lakeshore of Okanagan Lake in Penticton, a proven rarity trap over the years that, at this time of the year, could produce anything from Ancient Murrelet, to Red Phalarope to Black Scoter. At any given time there is a nice assortment of waterbirds here, and perhaps the first Tundra and Trumpeter swans will have arrived.
Day 4 – Our first birding stop today will be near the Penticton Yacht Club at the Esplanade where trails through lakeside riparian habitat are often home to a nice variety of birds. Here, birds that should have already migrated south, often attempt to spend the winter, or at least the fall. We should see Yellow-rumped and perhaps a lingering Orange-crowned warbler, as well as Pacific Wren and perhaps the newly established Bewick’s Wren. Cedar Waxwings, Spotted Towhee, Western Bluebird, Varied Thrush and Purple Finch are also all species that show up during the fall.
From Penticton we will make our way south to Okanagan Falls, where we will search for American Dippers along the rushing waters. We’ll then turn our attention to the towering cliffs at Vaseux Lake, home to Canyon Wrens, groups of introduced Chukar, Golden Eagles and a herd of California Bighorn Sheep. The view of Macintyre Bluff to the south is fantastic. At Vaseux Lake itself we’ll pull out the scopes and scan for birds which could include a wide range of ducks, geese, grebes, loons, gulls and maybe even a late Osprey. Marshes should have the ubiquitous Song Sparrow, as well as less common Marsh Wrens and perhaps Virginia Rails. The Black Sage area between Oliver and Osoyoos is home to dozens of wineries and we’ll visit a couple of them this afternoon, before checking in at our hotel in Osoyoos for the night.
Day 5 – This morning we’ll explore the Road 22 area, where the Okanagan River, along with its oxbows and hayfields, provides excellent habitat for birding. Brushy areas along the dykes here are excellent for flocks of migrating sparrows, with White-crowned, Lincoln’s, Song, Savannah and Chipping sparrows possible, along with the potential of something rarer like American Tree Sparrow or Harris’s Sparrow. Along the river a nice selection of waterfowl is often present, while again we’ll keep our eyes on the skies for raptors.
On our way north, we’ll pop in another winery, before exploring the White Lake Road area, where sagebrush and Ponderosa Pine habitats are featured. A few Mountain Bluebirds could be lingering, along with a Western Meadowlark or two. White-breasted Nuthatch, Red Crossbill, Townsend’s Solitaire and Cassin’s Finches are possible near Mahoney Lake, which could also provide us with views of ducks like Barrow’s Goldeneye, American Wigeon or Ring-necked Duck.
We’ll wrap up our tour of the birds and wines of the Okanagan Valley late this afternoon back in Kelowna.