Wayne C. Weber contopus at shaw.ca
Fri Mar 29 09:54:09 PST 2002


Sunday, March 24 was a sunny and very warm day-- the temperature
reached a high of 18 degrees C in Kamloops. I spent most of the day
birding in the Nicola Valley. As expected, there was a massive influx
of birds into the valley, especially waterfowl. The highlight of the
day for me was bumping into 3 other carloads of birders at the west
end of Nicola Lake in mid-afternoon: Wendy Marshall from Lac des
Roches (near Bridge Lake), Dave Whiting from Kamloops and his brother
Chris, and Sasha Lees and Phil Heal from Kamloops. We spent quite a
few minutes scanning the waterfowl, comparing notes, and just enjoying
the early spring. I guess the word is getting out that this is a good
birding place!

The areas I covered included Lac le Jeune and vicinity, Shulus (7 km W
of Merritt on Highway 8), the Sunshine Valley Road west of Lower
Nicola, Merritt itself (briefly), Nicola Lake (with emphasis on the
west end, the Quilchena area, and the Nicola River mouth and
vicinity), and Guichon Flats (Beaver Ranch Flats). Nicola Lake was
about 60% to 70% open, much as it was a week earlier (the north end
and most of the west end were frozen); Guichon Flats was more than 90%
frozen, but the small amount of open water at the south end was choked
with waterfowl.

Because I saw so many birds during the day, I'll have to boil it down
to just the highlights. In terms of migrant species or flocks, the
following were noteworthy:

Tundra Swan-- 23 at the west end of Nicola Lake, 2 at the Nicola Lake
rest area, 5 near Quilchena, 9 in fields with geese about 1 km E of
Quilchena, and 25 at Guichon Flats

Canada Goose-- more than 1400 seen in total, about 700 of which were
in fields 1 km E of Quilchena

Green-winged Teal-- 30 at Guichon Flats, 10 in fields near Quilchena,
2 on the Nicola R. west of Lower Nicola

Northern Pintail-- 900 in fields E of Quilchena (with geese), 100 at
Guichon Flats, 150 in Nicola Lake off the Nicola R. mouth, smaller
flocks elsewhere

Northern Shoveller-- A pair at a pond near Quilchena-- rather early

Gadwall-- A pair in fields near Quilchena, another pair at Guichon
Flats-- first of the spring

Eurasian Wigeon-- 2 males (with about 100 Am. Wigeon and 900 Pintail)
in fields near Quilchena

American Wigeon-- 110 in fields near Quilchena, several small flocks
of 20 or less elsewhere

Canvasback-- 8 at the west end of Nicola L., 5 in the lake near the
Nicola R. mouth, 5 at Guichon Flats

Redhead-- About 20 in Nicola Lake near the Nicola R. mouth

Ring-necked Duck-- 9 in Nicola Lake near the river mouth

Lesser Scaup-- 100 at the west end of Nicola Lake, 200 in the lake
off the river mouth, 150 at Guichon Flats

LONG-TAILED DUCK-- Male (in good winter plumage) among goldeneyes at
Guichon Flats-- found by Dave and Chris Whiting (as Dave mentioned in
an earlier note) and still there when I arrived about 6 PM. Only my
3rd spring record for the valley, by far the earliest (the others were
in May), and an odd location for a sea duck!

Common Goldeneye-- 61 at Guichon Flats, 24 in Nicola Lake near the
river mouth, few scattered elsewhere

Barrow's Goldeneye-- 10 at Guichon Flats

BARROW'S X COMMON GOLDENEYE-- 1 male in the Nicola River at Lions
Memorial Park in Merritt, exactly where I saw it on March 17!

Ruddy Duck-- 5 in Nicola Lake off the river mouth, 2 (1m, 1f) at
Guichon Flats-- first of the spring (later than usual)

American Coot-- 50 in Nicola Lake off the river mouth (first ones
seen in the valley since Feb. 3)-- attacked by a Bald Eagle!

Killdeer-- 2 near Merritt, 2 at Mameet Spring (5 km W of Merritt), 2
at Shulus, 6 at the W end of Nicola L., 18 at and near Quilchena, 4 at
Flats, a few other scattered in various spots

COMMON SNIPE-- one probing in mud at Mameet Spring-- my earliest ever
for the Nicola Valley by 4 days.

Violet-Green Swallow-- 5 seen at Shulus, plus 1 at Canford (west
junction. of Sunshine Valley Road & Highway 8)-- first of the year

Mountain Bluebird-- 3 along the Sunshine Valley Road

Varied Thrush-- One near the Nicola R. at Canford-- first of the year

American Robin-- Shockingly few for this time of year, when there
should be many hundreds; the only flocks seen were 27 at the E
junction of Hwy 8 and the Sunshine Valley Road, and 9 in fields near

Spotted Towhee-- One at Shulus, one along the Sunshine Valley Road

Western Meadowlark-- Numerous birds, widely scattered, but far fewer
than expected in late March.

Other birds, not obviously migrating, that were of interest included:

Trumpeter Swan-- 20 at and near the west end of Nicola Lake (present
here all winter)

Mute Swan-- 1 with Trumpeter Swans

Bald Eagle-- One ad. on the nest near Nicola, one imm. attacking
(unsuccessfully) on Nicola Lake near the river mouth

Northern Harrier-- one in fields near Quilchena

Merlin-- One on a telephone pole near Quilchena, with a dead Starling

Pileated Woodpecker-- one seen at Lac le Jeune, another at Shulus

Gray Jay-- Two at Lac le Jeune, and one more along the old road to
Kamloops about 2 km north of there

American Dipper-- One seen along the Nicola River near the west
Sunshine Valley Road junction (10 km W of Lower Nicola, another near
the east junction (4 km W of Lower Nicola)

Pine Grosbeak-- One in the forest along the Sunshine Valley Road

Red Crossbill-- A flock of 10 of the Ponderosa Pine form ("chip-chip"
calls) near Exit 286 on Highway 5 (south Merritt exit)

White-winged Crossbill-- One heard calling about 2 km north of Lac
Jeune-- the first I've had in this area since last fall

Common Redpoll-- 2 heard calling in forest along the Sunshine Valley

Mammals for the day: 3 YELLOW-BELLIED MARMOTS in rocks along the
Nicola River at Canford (fewer than expected for the date), and 4 RED
SQUIRRELS heard calling at and near Lac le Jeune.

At Lac le Jeune (altitude 4200 feet), although everything was still
frozen up tight and wintry-looking, there were some "spring arrivals":
at least 10 AMERICAN CROWS were flying about, cawing loudly, and a
flock of 10 RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS was making a racket in lakeside
shrubbery near the fishing lodge.

A great day of birding, and hopefully a foreshadowing of even better
birding to come in the next few weeks!

Wayne C. Weber
Kamloops, BC
contopus at shaw.ca

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