British Columbia 30th May – 13th June 2004

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT

Participants: Steve Arthur



My wife Rachel and I were on our first birding trip to British Columbia. We had our two young children with us, so our time in the field was limited, and when out we probably missed quite a bit through being noisy and frequently distracted. We still managed to see plenty of birds, but we could definitely have done with a third week, for a more relaxed pace, and the chance to look at more sites. We didn’t want to come home, in other words!

We flew Gatwick - Vancouver on Zoom Airlines — a Canadian equivalent of Easyjet, but we found them pretty good. The practicalities of birding in Canada are easy — good roads, plenty of accommodation etc.

For site information we used "The birders guide to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland" published by the Vancouver Natural History Society, ISBN 1-55285-207-5. This is good, but doesn’t cover sites outside the Greater Vancouver area.

For further afield, we relied for ideas on trip reports, tour group itineraries and other information from the internet, and contacts made through and A big Thank You to those who emailed me, and to those who take the trouble to write trip reports. I hope this one helps someone too.


May 30th
— Arrive Vancouver, where we will be based until the 4th. No birding aside from a brief stroll around nearby Vanier Park, opening the account with Bushtit, Bald Eagle, Wilson’s Warbler, American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird…

May 31st. Stanley Park. Lakes, tall forest, and coast (inc. cliffs with breeding Pigeon Guillemots) — all in the middle of town. The Aquarium is good too — as long as you don’t have a problem with the ethics of keeping cetaceans in captivity. Highlight — a close Red-breasted Sapsucker.

June 1st. Jet lag belatedly kicks in, and the planned morning at Reifel Refuge is abandoned. Instead we spend the afternoon at Iona Island sewage works and vicinity. A good site, and reputedly outstanding during wader passage, but note the "birders’ gate" has a combination lock. We were lucky in meeting another birder (and you don’t see many) who was just leaving and gave us the combination (now forgotten). Others would be advised to ask a local birder for the combination before they visit, as the best pit isn’t visible from the road. Outside the sewage works, there’s a lake that’s good for ducks and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, amongst other things.

June 2nd A morning at Cypress Provincial Park. Forested mountainside, still snowy at the top. The viewpoint (large car park halfway up entrance road) deserves a special mention as its very good for scanning the treetops — plus our only Anna’s Hummingbird was here. Further up, Blue Grouse were heard but not seen.

June 3rd
Minnekhada Regional Park — forest and wetlands about an hours drive east from Vancouver. A lovely place, but it was a very hot day, so we didn’t get very far round it, and probably didn’t do it justice. On the way back we called at the Maplewood Conservation Area, which is the best site for Ospreys and Purple Martins in the Vancouver area. Both nest on wooden structures out in the estuary.

June 4th
caught the ferry from Tsawwassen to Schwartz Bay (Vancouver Island).
The sea is quiet for birds in June, but there were plenty of seals and a sea lion.
Checked various seawatching sites around Victoria’s coastal "scenicommondrive" in the afternoon (see, but none was better than the one nearest to the town centre — Clover Point. Our first Harlequins!

June 5th
Clover Point again, then Beacon Hill Park. The latter was mainly for the kids but has some birding potential. In the afternoon we drove through the rain to Port Renfrew — quite a contrast — huge forest and wild coastline. And when the rain stopped it was magical — Ospreys, Bald Eagles, divers, scoters, murrelets, Harlequins and a Caspian Tern in the bay.

June 6th
— Botanical Beach, nr Port Renfrew. We found the famed rock pools a slight anticlimax, and the trail down through the woods was quiet. But we had great views of an otter on the beach, Steller’s Jays, and the only Common Murres of the trip. Later we drove back to Sidney, in preparation for catching the return ferry on Monday morning.

June 7th — returned to the mainland and drove east to Manning Park. With hindsight, it was a mistake not to have a look at Boundary Bay before leaving the Tsawwassen area — it was our only decent chance of seeing some shorebirds. Instead we opted to scan the south side of Burns Bog — but failed to find the bog, let alone any Sandhill Cranes (there are apparently easy resident Sandhill Cranes at Reifel Refuge, but they sound of dubious tickability). We stopped for lunch in Hope, where we saw our only Raccoon of the trip.

Manning Park Resort is a slick commercial operation that (ahem) won’t be to everyone’s taste. But it is the only accommodation within park boundaries (and the park is huge, perhaps as big as Dartmoor?), and there are plenty of good birds in the immediate vicinity e.g. very tame Clark’s Nutcrackers around the picnicommontables. There are plenty of trails to explore. For birders, Beaver Pond is essential, otherwise take your pick, and try not to surprise a bear.

June 8th. Spent the morning at Manning Park, then drove approximately another 200km
east to Osoyoos in the Southern Okanagan Valley. The area has wetlands, thickets, open dry conifer forest, mountain and desert habitat — as well as a lot of vineyards and fruit farms. Birders could easily spend a week here. There were quite a few sites we didn’t have time for (e.g. the Camp McKinney Road out of Oliver, which was recommended).

June 9th. Birded in the Osoyoos area — mainly Road 22 and the dykes leading off from it (about 5km north of the town — essential) and Haynes Park (tiny but quite good, on the south side of town). Highlights — a Beaver lumbering across the track, lots of Orioles, Catbirds and Bobolinks (proper male Bobolinks, mind, not the dowdy skulking things that turn up on the Scillies), and the general variety and ease of birding, which came as a relief after coniferous forests, which can be tough going.

June 10th. We were in a semi-desert region — so of course it rained for most of the day. Visited the north end of Vaseux Lake — renowned as an excellent area, but the adjacent forest has been damaged by recent fires. Later, stopped at Okanagan Falls for American Dipper, which duly appeared in under 5 minutes, and drove up to White Lake (like a Sagebrush version of moorland), where we saw Western and Mountain Bluebirds, but no Long Billed Curlews.

June 11th. Morning around Osoyoos, including at "The Throne", a big rocky outcrop at the end of Road 22 (take Meadowlark Rd to a small car park). Then drove back to Manning Park. Stopped en route at the Rocky Mountain Goat viewpoint between Hedley and Keremeos. No goats (probably on higher pastures by June) but had excellent views of a Common Nighthawk flying about calling, at 3 o clock in the afternoon.

June 12th. Morning at Manning Park. Returned to Vancouver in the afternoon.

June 13th. A final morning at Stanley Park, spent mainly in the playground. Lowlights — the Totem Poles, because a) it was an overcrowded tourist trap, and b) I didn’t get my bins onto the large woodpecker that flew over (almost certainly a Pileated, given the habitat); also, England’s last minute defeat to France in Euro 2004, which happened just as we arrived at the airport.

Species list

SP = Stanley Park
CP = Clover Point, Victoria
PR = Port Renfrew
MP = Manning Park
Ok = Okanagan / Osoyoos area
VL = Vaseux Lake

Pacific Loon Gavia Pacifica 2 CP, 1 PR

Common Loon Gavia immer fairly common around coast.
Also 1 calling on Osoyoos lake

Pied-billed Grebe - various sites

Red-necked Grebe - several pairs on large lakes in Ok. Not seen elsewhere

Western Grebe - 5 on Osoyoos Lake, from Haynes Pk

Double Crested Cormorant - some on sea at Iona, some Clover Point

Pelagic Cormorant - common

Great Blue Heron - common near coast but not in Ok valley

Mute Swan - SP only

Canada Goose - common

Wood Duck - common

Mallard - common

Blue Winged Teal - several Iona and SP

Cinnamon Teal - 2 at Iona , also seen Road 22

Shoveler - plenty at Iona, not seen elsewhere

Gadwall - common

Redhead - several at Road 22 , VL

Ring-necked Duck - 1 Iona, several on VL

Lesser Scaup - 1 Iona

Harlequin - a pair at Clover Point, half a dozen at PR, odd ones on rivers inland

Oldsquaw (aka Long-tailed Duck) - 1 Minnekhada

Surf Scoter - fairly common offshore

Barrows Goldeneye - 2 at lake en route to MP

Common Goldeneye - female with chicks at MP

Common Merganser (Goosander) - common

Ruddy Duck - common

Turkey Vulture - 1 PR

Osprey - common

Bald Eagle - common, and tame by large raptor standards. Around coasts, in SP etc.

Northern Harrier - 1 Iona, 1 Road 22

Coopers Hawk - 1 Cattle Point, Victoria, another probable at Maplewood Conservation Area

Red-tailed Hawk - common

Golden Eagle - A pair near Osoyoos

American Kestrel - common in Ok, not seen elsewhere

Ring-necked Pheasant - heard only , Ok

Blue Grouse - a male by the roadside at Manning Park . Heard at other sites e.g. Cypress Pk

California Quail - common in Ok

American Coot - widespread but far less common than European Coot is at home

Semipalmated Plover - 4 at Iona

Killdeer - common

Black Oystercatcher - common on rocky coasts

Spotted Sandpiper - common

Whimbrel - 1 at Tsassawen ferry terminal

Snipe - 2 Road 22 — is this "Wilsons Snipe" ?

Mew Gull - A few at Iona

California Gull - CP, and Osoyoos lake

Glaucous-winged Gull - common

Caspian Tern - Fairly common offshore. Biggest concentration was at Iona

Common Murre - Some offshore at Botanical Beach, PR

Pigeon Guillemot - common

Marbled Murrelet - odd ones offshore from Vancouver Isl. Small, and difficult to get good views of from land .

Rhinoceros Auklet - plenty offshore from CP

Rock Dove - Ok (+ plenty feral pigeons in Vancouver)

Band tailed pigeon - a few in forest areas, but not common

Mourning Dove - Common in Ok

Vaux’s Swift - most at Lost lagoon, SP and Iona

White-throated Swift - VL and The Throne, Ok

Common Nighthawk - 1 at Mountain Goat viewpoint , Keremeos

Black-chinned Hummingbird - Ok

Anna’s Hummingbird - 1 Cypress Pk. Meant to be resident in Beacon Hill Pk, Victoria, but none found there.

Calliope Hummingbird - fairly common in Ok

Rufous Hummingbird - common

Belted Kingfisher - widespread, half a dozen sightings

Lewis’ Woodpecker - 1 at VL. We were told these are much scarcer than usual this year.

Red-naped Sapsucker - common in Manning Park

Red breasted Sapsucker - Fairly common around Vancouver

Hairy Woodpecker - widespread. A pair nesting in MP Lodge picnicommonarea allowed very close views.

Three toed Woodpecker - Several sightings in MP

Northern Flicker – common in drier, more open habitat

Western Wood Pewee - MP and Ok

Willow Flycatcher - MP and Ok. Also saw various flycatchers we could not identify

Hammonds Flycatcher - MP

Say’s Phoebe - 1 Road 22

Western Kingbird - common in Ok

Eastern Kingbird - common in Ok

Purple Martin - a small colony uses nestboxes at Maplewood . Not seen elsewhere

Tree Swallow - common

Violet Green Swallow - common

Northern Rough-winged Swallow - Iona, MP, and doubtless elsewhere

Bank Swallow riparia riparia - Iona, and a colony at the Desert Heritage Centre, Osoyoos

Cliff Swallow - widespread but not as common as tree or violet-green swallow

Barn Swallow Hirondo rustica - common

Gray Jay - 2 at Strawberry Flats car park. Very tame.

Steller’s Jay - 2 PR, 2 VL

Clark’s Nutcracker - Plenty around MP Lodge, and a few sightings in Ok

Black-billed Magpie Pica Pica common in Ok

North-western Crow – common at coast

American Crow – common in Ok — but looking more or less identical to Northwestern to me. I heard the different call, honest.

Raven - common

Black-capped Chickadee - common

Chestnut-backed Chickadee - common

Bushtit - common in Vancouver parks, but not seen in forests

Red-breasted Nuthatch - calling birds widespread, but only seen twice

Brown Creeper - common

Rock Wren - "The Throne" only

Canyon Wren - heard only, at The Throne

Winter Wren - many wrens heard, but only one seen - in SP

Marsh Wren - not the commonest but the easiest to see

American Dipper - 1 at Ok Falls

Golden Crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa- A family in SP. 1 MP

Ruby crowned Kinglet - widespread but difficult to see well

Western Bluebird - several in Ok. Easiest way to see this species is to look for distinctive slotted nest-boxes.

Mountain Bluebird - 2 males and several females/immatures at White Lake

Townsend’s Solitaire - 3 , MP

Swainsons Thrush - widespread but not easy

Hermit Thrush - widespread but usually at higher elevations than Swainsons

Veery - 2 singing at VL, one conveniently in a bare tree. The song is quite strange, like something you’d hear in a tropical rainforest.

American Robin - abundant. The most frequently seen passerine

Varied Thrush - eerie song widespread in wet forests. Only 2 seen, both in Cypress Pk

Cedar Waxwing - common

Starling - common

Orange crowned Warbler - 2, PR

Yellow Warbler - 1 MP , common in Ok

Yellow-rumped warbler - 2 MP, 1 Beacon Hill Pk

Black-throated Gray Warbler - SP, Cypress Pk

Townsend’s Warbler - 2 , both in MP

Yellowthroat - fairly common. An excellent bird.

Wilson’s Warbler - widespread — possibly these were late passage migrants ?

Nashville Warbler - 1 in Ok

Western Tanager - 2 Minnekhada, 1 VL

Black-headed Grosbeak - fairly common

Lazuli Bunting - 1 singing male at the Throne

Spotted Towhee - common

Chipping Sparrow - MP, Ok

Lark Sparrow - 1 Black Sage Road, Ok

Savannah Sparrow - Minnekhada, Road 22

Song Sparrow - common. The easiest sparrow, found near water

White-crowned Sparrow - fairly common

Dark eyed Junco – common in mountains

Bobolink - Road 22

Red-winged Blackbird - common

Western Meadowlark – common in Ok

Yellow-headed Blackbird - Iona , and common in Ok

Brewers Blackbird - common

Brown headed Cowbird - common

Bullock’s Oriole – common in Ok. Very striking

Pine Grosbeak - several sightings in MP

Purple Finch - around Vancouver

House Finch - common

Pine Siskin - flocks in Cypress Pk and MP

American Goldfinch - Iona, and common in Ok

Evening Grosbeak - 1 in MP, which landed in a tree next to the playground, much to my delight

House Sparrow - common


Green-backed Heron - silhouette of small heron in flight seen at Stanley Pk

American White Pelican - back view of a dozen v large white birds flying over Osoyoos lake, when I didn’t have my bins on. Drat.

Greater Scaup - group offshore at Iona, just a bit too far away to confirm

Vesper Sparrow - Ok. Views inconclusive.

Pileated Woodpecker - large woodpecker f/o in SP


We don’t really know our mammals but the list below will give you a rough idea. N.B. there are plenty of companies offering Orca-watching trips from Victoria, but we didn’t pursue this.

Black Bear - MP, nr Beaver Pond.

Beaver - Road 22

Muskrat - Road 22

Porpoise Sp - from ferry

Seals - common

Sea lion sp - very large, with beige body , from ferry

Various chipmunks and squirrels

Ground Squirrels - abundant and tame around MP Lodge

Snow-shoe Hare (?) - rabbits with white legs and feet, anyway, in MP

Another Rabbit sp - Victoria

Otter - Botanical Beach

Raccoon - Hope

Mule Deer – common in MP

Other deer sp (White-tailed?) - Ok, VL

Yellow-bellied Marmot - MP and Ok

Other Wildlife

Monarch, and misc. other nice large butterflies
Purple Sea Urchins etc – common Botanical Beach
Rattlesnake - being radio tagged at Desert Centre , Osoyoos
Film Crews on location - 3 in 2 weeks. They must have a lot of channels to fill in Canada

Conspicuously absent from the above list.

Owls — lots of species possible, but had neither the opportunity to search for these at dusk, nor the detailed gen required to find daytime roosts.

Shorebirds — again, made no serious efforts to find these, but the few mudflats we scanned held nothing but herons and gulls in June. Going in spring or autumn would be a very different story.

Vireos — don’t know if they are scarce or just inconspicuous, but I was surprised that we didn’t see any.

Ah well, we’ll be back someday.