Sunday, June 6, 2010

Spring Trip 2010 - Day 1 - Vaseux Lake, B.C.

It seemed like a logical plan for a trip. Leave early in the season, travel across the southernmost parts of the provinces, heading east, see how far you get, and then, at some point swing north and come home across the northern parts of the provinces. The objective was to have a sort of perpetual spring. We wanted to visit some of our favourite places, such as Writing on Stone, to see what sort of wildflowers were out, but also to check out some new places, Cypress Hills and Grasslands National Park, both in Saskatchewan being the prime objectives.

We accomplished some of our aims - I'd wanted to see Prairie Crocus in flower and boy! did I see Prairie Crocus!!! but Mother Nature grabbed hold of this trip and so all didn't go exactly as planned!
So lets get started.....

We pulled out of our gates just before 9 am on April 22nd, heading through the lush upper Fraser Valley where the Dogwoods and Thimbleberry Shrubs were in full flower. A quick stop in Hope B.C., for fuel for both the truck and us (Tim Horton's Coffee)....and onto #3 - the Crowsnest Highway, heading east. A stop at the lodge in Manning Park where the snow was gone, the grass just showing the slightest hint of green......
There were Robin's galore, and the ground squirrels were out and active. Now Ground Squirrels are going to play a large part in this blog in the future so I need to identify them. I think this is a 'Columbian' Ground squirrel but I will have to verify that in the future.
On the road again, a stop at the Subway in Princeton for lunch and on to Vaseux Lake Provincial Park Campground in the sunny Okanagan. We chose this particular campground only because we had never stayed there before. It is a tiny campground, only 12 sites, squeezed in between Vaseux Lake and the highway and is usually full. Being so early in the season, we found it to only be half full, so were able to find a nice spot on the lake (most of the sites are on the lake). Fee was $16.

This was the view from our campsite, looking north towards Okanagan Falls. There is a board walk and viewing tower situated at the north end of the lake. It was a beautiful sunny day, although with a brisk wind blowing.

From the same spot, this is looking south towards Oliver, B.C.

and here is camp. It was certainly warm enough to sit outside, in fact one of those days where it is a little too hot in the sun but a little on the cool side, thanks to the wind, in the shade. You can see that even April was out there enjoying the sunshine.

Vaseux Lake is an important bird area or IBA and so, of course there were birds. I will do a list at the end of the posting so that you who aren't all that interested can just ignore... The above shows a Magpie nest that was situated in trees at the entrance to our site. I don't think it was occupied yet, but it was being checked out. Magpie nests have at least two openings so that there is an escape out the 'back door' if needed.

Being the Okanagan, there were, of course, a few California Quail wandering about. This is the only Quail picture I got the whole is a female....

After supper we wanted to go for a walk. We had thought we could go to the boardwalk, but it was a bit further away than we'd thought and the only route was along the very narrow shoulder of the very busy highway, so instead we elected to walk up McIntyre Creek Road which took off to the right just past the most northern entrance to the campground.

Just at the start of the road there was a brushy area that was absolutely alive with White Crowned Sparrows......

Here is a closer look at one of them.

and here is the first of many wildflower pictures to come....I think this is a type of Dianthus rather than a Phlox.....

This is the terrain they are found in, growing amongst the sagebrush.....

the sun was getting low in the sky at this point, so we started back down the hill (which was steeper than this picture suggests).

we even had a sunset.... to bring the first night on the road to a close.
Bird List: Am. Coots - 200+ on the lake; Brewer's Blackbirds - 6; Meadowlark - at least 3 on the hillside; Swallows or Swifts - lots but couldn't make out the type; Mallard - 1 pair of 'moochers'; Red Head Ducks - at least 30 on the lake; Lesser Scaup - 20 or so; Ring Neck Ducks - 10 or so; Northern Flicker - 1; Canada Geese - 4; Trumpeter Swans - 2; Magpie - 2; Red Breasted Merganser -1 - think this might be unusual; California Quail - 3; Black Cap Chickadee - 2; Starling - 3; Red Breasted Nuthatch - 2; Yellow Rump Warbler - 1; White Crowned Sparrow - 18 at least; White Gyrfalcon - 1; Bald Eagle - 1; Rock Pigeon - 2; and some gulls or terns so far off we couldn't tell for sure.

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