May 31: Red-eyed Vireos can be found in broadleaf forests such as at Summit Creek – a great birding hotspot in the Creston Valley. Since they are mostly camouflaged in the foliage, they are best found by their loud song which is a hurried phase sounding as if they are saying- “here-I-am, in-the-tree, look-up, at-the-top”!!! June and July is their breeding season so they will be singing in the forests the next couple of months!
May 24: The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the most visible and most numerous wood warbler found in open woods and brushy areas. It often perches upright on twigs with its yellow rump exposed, flitting up to catch flying insects.
May 17: A pair of beautiful and very rare White-faced Ibises have been wading in the shallow waters of Duck Lake! Last year, 16 adults showed up for our Bird Festival! These birds stand 23″ tall, with a white border around a reddish face and eye, glossy green and red body, long gray bill, and red legs.
May 10: My favorite “festival find” this weekend was a flock of 30 Long-billed Dowitchers that were feeding in the south mudflats of Duck Lake. What an amazing time to see shorebirds out there! They are all just passing through so make sure you get out there soon to see all these spring migrants.
May 3: Belted Kingfishers can be found along the Kootenay River, in the channels, lakes, and marshes. It likes to perch near the water on branches, wires, or poles where it looks for its aquatic prey. They catch their fish by plunge-diving head-first! Sometimes you can hear it’s harsh rattling call before seeing the bird. It nest in holes excavated in dirt banks.
Photo Credit: Darlene McDowell
April 26: There have been 9 elegant Black-necked Stilts hanging around the south, shallow shores of Duck Lake these last few days to start off the annual shorebird migration! This striking species is very tall and slender with a black and white plumage and long red legs.
April 19: First babies of the year – Great Horned Owl owlets are peeking out of the nest! Territorial hooting begins early, and from late December through March, the males proclaim a territory and attract a mate (sometimes it is a renewed interest!). Courtship vocalization is then heard with bouts of “duetting” or “bill-snapping.” Owls do not build their own nests. Live and dead cottonwood trees with natural hollows are common nesting sites. You can also find them in stick nests made by Red-tailed Hawks, Crows, and Ravens, or on clumps of parasitic mistletoe growing on western larch trees. Fledged owlets will stay with their parents all summer to beg for food. Hunting is from perches bordering open habitats. Sometimes they can be found roosting in farm buildings. (Sourced from Van Damme 2020). Fledged owlets will stay with their parents all summer to beg for food. Hunting is from perches bordering open habitats. Sometimes they can be found roosting in farm buildings.
April 12: Mountain Bluebirds are moving through our valley bottoms. My friend saw 6 of them together on Uri Road, and I sighted 3 yesterday at Baillie-Grohman winery. They seem to like the fence posts on route to the old ferry landing. There were close to 50 of them there last year!
Mountain Bluebirds nest in natural cavities and woodpecker holes but also like nest boxes which can be seen on fence posts. Putting up a nest box is a great way to keep them on your property to watch them feed the nestlings!
April 5: The Greater White-fronted Geese are passing through the valley on their way to the Yukon breeding grounds! Corn Creek Marsh is the best place to look for them. With the Kootenay River so low, also look along the exposed sandbars.
March 29: American Wigeons are very abundant right now in the nutrient-rich waters of Duck Lake and throughout the CVWMA.
Once considered a rare species in BC, the Eurasian Wigeon is now fairly common during the northward migration, according to Linda Van Damme. The first occurrence was in 1976 at Duck Lake with sporadic sightings after that. Since 1996 they have been recorded each year. Currently, there are a few mingling with the America Wigeons in the Corn Creek Marsh with even an American x Eurasian hybrid sighted by Marc-Andre Beaucher.
March 22: Northern Pintails are migrating through the valley right now and there are thousands to be seen at Duck Lake! This species can also be seen on flooded agricultural fields on the Kootenay Flats along with migrant Mallards and American Wigeons. The Wildlife Management Area is a significant staging and migration corridor during this spring passage.
Northern Pintails are a very slender and elegant dabbling duck that prefer shallow waters. It has long, narrow wings, long neck with a white stripe, and a long pointed tail.
March 15: The Western Meadowlark can be heard singing from fence posts near open, grassy habitats. I heard the rich, musical, flute-like song last week on the Kootenay-River Road. The sounds of spring!!
March 8: Spotted Towhees have started to return from their winter vacation and enjoying Creston’s warm weather! These birds are common in drier parts of the valley where there are shrub thickets. Preference to ocean spray, ninebark, mock-orange, saskatoon, snowberry, and wild rose (Linda Van Damme). Towhees are ground-dwelling and will scratch noisily through dead leaves but are sometimes difficult to see. They also enjoy visiting feeders and bird baths. Look for the long tail, dark head, white spots on wings, rufous flanks, and red eyes.
March 1: Wild Turkeys likely showed up in the Creston Valley during the 60’s after they crossed the international border from Washington. They are actually domesticated birds native to the New World.
Flocks can be found throughout most of the valley including within the townsite where they have become a nuisance by damaging gardens, yards, and birdfeeders. They favor open forests, agricultural fields, cattle pens and pastures, and rural properties near wooded areas.
The males will show off their elaborate courtship displays soon (mid-March). Like a peacock, they have a fan-like fancy tail, a bright facial wattle, iridescent plumage, and an exquisite dance.
February 22: Ever wonder what makes those huge rectangular holes in the trees around Creston? Pileated Woodpeckers are found near mature cottonwoods around the Kootenay River, Goat River, Boundary Creek, and Summit Creek. This species prefers the older or dying trees for foraging, roosting, and nesting. In the winter these birds are attracted to suet feeders in town, fruit trees (especially apple), and grapes.
Our largest woodpecker, this spectacular crow-sized species has a prominent red crest with a black back, broad black and white wings, and a long tail.
February 15: American Goldfinch are common visitors in the winter especially at feeders. They are present year-round with flocks forming after the breeding season and remaining intact throughout the winter. Flocks of up to 200 birds have been seen.
February 8: There are numerous Northern Pygmy Owls in the Creston Valley right now! During the winter months, these owls move from forested mountainous slopes to lower elevations where they become more conspicuous, especially because they are diurnal hunters. Watch for them perched on utility wires and poles, in cottonwoods, or on a snag. They could be found near bird-feeding stations hunting prey, or in hay sheds hunting mice.
At the moment, they are vocalizing. Listen for monotonous repeated single or double toots.
It is a small, compact owl (6.75″ in length) with a relatively long tail which is often jerked sideways and short wings. The white throat is obvious on a calling bird. On the back of its head are false eye-spots. The belly has narrow blackish streaks.
February 1: Merlins can be found in the Creston Valley’s residential areas where there are mature conifers and deciduous woodlands. Recently, Karen Douville has seen one near the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Erickson. According to Linda Van Damme’s new book “A Passion for Birds – their life in the Creston Valley”, Merlins will hunt near open fields and can be seen pursuing avian prey such as Eurasian-Collared Doves, Flickers, Robins, House Finch, and Bohemian Waxwings. These falcons are small, compact, powerful, and very aggressive! Look for the dark tail-band and “moustache”.
January 25: A Townsend’s Solitaire can be seen feeding on berries along the Devon Trail in town. This medium-sized thrush (same family as bluebirds and robins) is very dull gray but has a distinctive white eye-ring, buffy wing stripes, and white edges on the tail feathers which are evident in flight. They like to perch upright atop trees and shrubs to advertise their territories and often sit motionless for a long time. Although fairly inconspicuous, their sweet jumbling song is often the best way to track them.
This is the only Solitaire found in Canada.
January 18: The bold and inquisitive Black-Capped Chickadee is the most common species seen as well as heard around town and in birdfeeders. But also look in the woods for the Mountain Chickadee and the Chestnut-backed Chickadee!
Mountain Chickadees have a white supercilium above their eyes with a similar song to the Black-capped but with 3-6 syllables. The “chika dzee dzee” notes are slightly harsher, slower, and often descending. Chestnut-backed Chickadees love coniferous forests and mixed woods. It is our smallest chickadee with a unique dark chestnut back. Calls are generally higher with buzzy notes.
January 11: Crossbills are found in single-species flocks wandering erratically in search of food, mainly the cones of pines, spruces, and firs. Seeds are pried out using the unique crossed bill tip! White-winged Crossbills have been sighted on the Lakeview Arrow Creek Road. They prefer smaller cones mainly larch, hemlock, and spruce. Red Crossbills have been sighted in the forests of Lister, Erickson, and West Creston.
January 4: There are 4 species of Grebes on Kootenay Lake this week:
Pied-Billed: smallest, thick bill, dark eye
Horned: flat-topped head, white neck, red eye
Red-Necked: stocky, heavy bill, thick neck, dark eye
Western: largest, slender with long neck, red eye .
December 28: Northern Shrikes are being spotted throughout the valley.
Photo taken at Leach Lake by Marc-Andre Beaucher during the Christmas Bird Count on December 27th. But they have also been seen in Canyon, Duck Lake, Wynndel Flats, and West Creston Flats
December 21: Goat River Road S. to find California Quail.
This is also a good road to view Christmas lights in the evening. Merry Christmas Everyone – stay safe, healthy, and happy.
December 14: “Hawksview” aka. Kootenay-River Road where you can find Rough-legged Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks!
What to look for: RLHA will have a distinctive pattern of dark wrists and the primaries are always clean white. RTHA adults have the distinctive red tail and a streaked belly-band.
December 7, 2020: The Great-Blue Herons are once again skating and ice-fishing on Duck Lake!
November 29, 2020: Iceland Gull at Kuskanook Harbour. Rare bird alert!!!
What to look for: overall light gray, darker patch on face, all black bill (for a first year), upper flight feathers brownish and darker on mantle.
November 23, 2020: The Short-Eared Owls returned to Duck Lake.