Once we had finished birding Maplewood the previous evening we drove on, out of Vancouver and into the Coast Mountain Range where our next destination, Manning Park, waited for us. We camped overnight in the mountains, which we initially thought was an inspired decision until the temperature fell to just a single degree.
In the morning the mountains were shrouded in fog, and upon arrival at the park we found that there was still a serious helping of snow, which would make our travelling around the park more difficult. Our key targets here were grouse, but there were many other birds on offer. It has to be said that Manning Park was the most beautiful place we have ever been to, the thick snowfall and mist only adding to an amazing atmosphere. We parked at the visitor centre and then walked up the road and subsequent track on the south side of the road, behind the visitor centre. Once we had birded around that area we drove up the road to the Lightening Lake car park where we hoped to have better access to the woodland trails. Sadly the lake trail was completely inaccessible and the lake itself completely frozen. Much of the park was closed as a result of the snow, so we were unable to access the higher peaks and try to find white-tailed ptarmigan.
By early afternoon the fog had lifted and we were left with bright sunshine. We explored the area around the ‘Beaver Pond’ where we had a few nice species that we had not yet encountered during the trip. We also tried a few other woodland trails to try to find grouse but sadly we did not have any success. We moved on mid-afternoon, in order to make good time for our next site.
Varied Thrush - For such an awesome day it’s difficult to pick highlights, but there is one bird that stands out above the rest. Having seen one yesterday, today we found ourselves surrounded by Varied Thrushes. When we awoke in the mountains, we heard at least five singing in the trees around our campsite, creating the most amazing eerie atmosphere. Then in the park itself we found them extremely abundant, and not shy either, allowing us to really appreciate them. Many birds become hyped up and are disappointing when you eventually see them, but Varied Thrush is absolutely not one of them.
Woodpeckers - Within half an hour of arriving at the park we cleared up on nearly all the woodpecker species we could expect to see in Vancouver. Pileated Woodpecker was the standout, an absolutely enormous bird with an exceptionally loud drum that you could hear throughout the woodland.
Visitor Centre Car Park - It’s hard, with so many species, to pick out highlights, but the birding in the car park alone was exceptional. Steller’s Jays hopped around the lawn, with Varied Thrushes in tow. Red-naped Sapsuckers came and landed on the tourist information boards in the car park. A Clark’s Nutcracker came and drank from a small puddle in front of our car. And the lawn was full of burrows for Belding’s Ground Squirrels. Enjoyable, easy birding! Brilliant!
Barrow’s Goldeneye - Every body of water that was clear of ice in the park had a pair of Barrow’s Goldeneye on it. Just a slither of open water was enough to support them. We even had a pair on a beaver pond in the middle of the forest.
-Belding's Ground Squirrel
Manning Park: Canada Goose, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Harlequin Duck, Mallard, Sooty Grouse, Turkey Vulture, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Merlin, Northern Raven, Northwestern Crow, Clark’s Nutcracker, Steller’s Jay, American Robin, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Western Meadowlark, Oregon Junco, White-crowned Sparrow, Golden-crowned Warbler, Song Sparrow, Audubon’s Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Nashville Warbler, Belding’s Ground Squirrel, Snowshoe Hare, Hoary Comma,
We wrapped up at Manning Park mid-afternoon so decided to make the journey to our next location, the Okanagan Valley, that afternoon. Our journey was long but we arrived in the Okanagan area well before dark so decided to scout out our sites for the following day beforehand. White Lake Grasslands was our best chance for Bluebirds, as well as a number of other grassland species. Although we were only scouting the site, we managed to connect with all the species that we had labelled the site for just from driving along the road adjacent to the reserve. For an hour we drove steadily along, stopping frequently whenever a new species appeared, which they frequently did. Sadly we had to make a hurried end to our visit, when we realised that we were almost out of fuel, and might not have enough to make it to a station.
Mountain Bluebird - One of our most wanted species for the trip was one of the first birds we saw as we drove along the site. Our first sighting was of a stunning male perched on a fencepost adjacent to the road. No photos will truly show just how blue these birds are, it is a colour like nothing we have ever seen. So bright, that my DSLR camera could not cope. We also saw Western Bluebird, but it was not quite as spectacular.
Western Meadowlark - Atop of every telegraph post was a singing Western Meadowlark, their song filling the grasslands with melody. We found this species extremely common among the eastern sites that we visited.
American Kestrel - It was nice to see this small falcon perched along the roadside as we drove, but unfortunately they seemed very skittish and would not allow us close, even using the car as a hide.
White Lake Grasslands: Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Goosander, California Quail, Coopers Hawk, American Kestrel, Black-billed Magpie, Brewer’s Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Western Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, Say’s Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Vespers Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow,