British Columbia: Spring 2020

Spring 2020: 1 Mar–31 May

Chris Charlesworth

Recommended citation:

Charlesworth, C. 2021. Spring 2020: British Columbia. <> North American Birds.

An upper ridge began building offshore by mid-March, gaining strength through April. The resulting cool, dry northerly flow led to depressed temperatures and precipitation, although stations east of the Rockies picked up some new snow the latter half of March. Interior valley snowpacks were late melting, mostly gone by the third week of April. The ridge broke down early in May allowing the westerlies to resume, especially over the southern half of the region which saw the greatest precipitation. Temperatures were near normal for the month.

Observers: JA – Jimmy Abbott; RB – Ryder Bergerud; ABo – Anthony Bosecke; AB – Andrew Boycott; ABa – Alan Barnard; DB – Dave Beeke; DBe – David Bell; MB – Michael Bentley; JBe – Joachim Bertrands; DBl – Daisy Blumensaat; KB – Kaiden Bosch; LB – Lauren Bruneski; ABu – Alan Burger; JB – Julia Burger; DC – Darlene Cancelliere; RC – Richard Cannings; CC – Chris Charlesworth; PC – Paul Clarke; CCo – Carolee Colter; ChC – Christopher Coxson; CCr – Catherine Craig; IC – Ian Cruickshank; BD – Bobby Dailey; SD – Sharon Dailey; DD – Denis Dean; WD – Wayne Diakow; CD – Christopher Di Corrado; DDo – Daniel Donnecke; AD – Adrian Dorst; CDr – Chris Drysdale; BDu – Blair Dudeck; JD – Jeff Dyck; NE – Nathan Earley; KE – Klaus Emmaneel; JF – Julia Flesaker; WF – Warren Flesaker; MF – Michael Force; CG – Cole Gaerber; GG – Gord Gadsden; JG – Jamie Gadsden; TG – Teresa Gagne; JGa – Jeremy Gatten; MG – Martin Gebauer;  DGi – David Gibson; CG – Cam Gillies; PG – Prayitno Goenarto; RG – Rebecca Golat; DG – Douglas Graham; EH – Eric Habisch; MH – Melissa Hafting; SH – Sharon Henry; KH – Kim Heltman-Fichter; MHo – Mike Heobel; LH – Larry Hooge; TH – Ted Hillary; CH – Carl Hughes; LI – Liam Irwin; DI – Derek Isbister; BK – Barry Kinch; SK – Sandra Kinsey; EK – Ed Klassen; HK – Helga Knote; KK – Katya Kondratyuk; LL – Logan Lalonde; RL – Rob Lyske; LM – Lyn Macdonald; KM – Kevin Mammel; DM – Don Manson; BM – Barbara Maytom; NM – Neville Maytom; TM – Tonette McEwan; MM – Mike McGrenere; CM – Catherine McLean; GM – Guy Monty; JM – Joan Moore; GN – Geoffrey Newell; EN – Eric Newton; RN – Raymond Ng; MO – Michelle Ogilvie; LP – Lucie Parker; MP – Monica Penner; IP – Ilya Povalyaev; CP – Cindy Powell; EP – Evan Pye; PR – Phil Ranson; KR – Keith Riding; AR – Aaron Roberge; WR – Wendy Roberts; CS – Craig Sandvig; JS – Joel Schmidt; GS – Gaelen Schnare; RS – Ryan Schultz; SSP – Samuel Simard-Provencal; LS – Liam Singh; SS – Sachi Snively; BS – Bridget Spencer; BSt – Brian Starzomski; GSt – Gordon Stewart; MS – Moose Stoffregen; NS – Nick Swan; ST – Scott Thomson; MT – Mike Toochin; JT – James Turner; DU – Debbie Upton; NV – Neill Vanhinsberg; IV – Ivan Van Veen; BVi – Brad Vissia; JV – John Vooys; BV – Brian Vroom; JW – Jody Wells; EW – Emily Williams; MW – Mark Wynja.


The only report of a Ross’s Goose in the province during this period was of a single bird in fields along Larson Road in Vanderhoof, 19 Apr (JGa). In Burnaby, a male Tufted Duck was at Piper Spit at Burnaby Lake, 23 Mar–15 Apr (TG, m. ob). A female Long-tailed Duck successfully wintered at College Oxbow in Castlegar, until at least 19 Apr (CS, m. ob). Rare anywhere in British Columbia, apart from Shuswap Lake where small numbers often breed, a Clark’s Grebe was at West Beach in White Rock, 28 Apr (IP, m. ob.). Another Clark’s Grebe was seen from the Maude Roxby Bird Sanctuary in Kelowna, on Okanagan Lake, 17 May (DBe, m. ob.).  Calliope Hummingbird is rare in coastal sections of the province, where a male showed up at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver, 2 May (RL). Another Calliope Hummingbird was on the Sunshine Coast, at a private residence in Gibsons, 1 May (EH). Yellow Rail is unusual in British Columbia, outside of the Peace River area, so one photographed along Matthew Creek in Kimberley, in the East Kootenay, 24 May, was noteworthy (DD).

As seems to be the norm in recent years, Black-necked Stilts were spotted in numbers in southern British Columbia this Spring. In Revelstoke, a Black-necked Stilt was present 26 Apr (DM, m. ob.). Two stilts were at the airport ponds in Revelstoke, 6 May (DM). In the Okanagan Valley, four Black-necked Stilts were in Oliver at Tucelnuit Lake, 26 Apr (BK). At Kelowna’s Robert Lake, up to a dozen Black-necked Stilts were present 25 Apr–9 May (BVi, m. ob.). In Salmon Arm, nine Black-necked Stilts were present along the foreshore, 19 Apr–2 May (TH, m. ob.). Four Black-necked Stilts were at Nakusp, along the shore of Upper Arrow Lake, 4 May (JF). In Creston, up to nine stilts were present at Duck Lake, 12 May (CCo, m. ob.). In the Thompson-Nicola area, three Black-necked Stilts were at Beaver Ranch Flats near Quilchena, 5 May (ABu) and two were at Tunkwa Lake near Merritt, 25 May (ABu). The only report of Black-necked Stilt from a coastal location came from Vancouver Island, where one was seen at the Englishman River Estuary near Parksville, 22 Apr (DI, m. ob.).

An American Avocet, rare on Vancouver Island, was seen at the Courtenay Airpark in Courtenay, 23 May (CP, m. ob.). In the Peace River area, where American Avocet is also a rarity, four were along 255 Road near Fort St. John, 7 May (ChC). On Vancouver Island’s west coast, a Snowy Plover was a great find at Comber’s Beach near Tofino, 26 May (AD, IC). A rare migrant in the Southern Interior of British Columbia, a Whimbrel was along the shore of Upper Arrow Lake, at the mouth of Burton Creek, near Nakusp, 17 May (CM, et al.). A Marbled Godwit found along the shore of Osoyoos Lake at the Highway 3 bridge in Osoyoos, 4 May, is one of just a few records of this species for the Okanagan Valley. Near Prince George, at Eaglet Lake, a Marbled Godwit was also a great sighting, 10 May (SK). A Hudsonian Godwit was also found near Prince George, in a flooded field at Giscome, 25 Apr (EW). A somewhat rare spring migrant in the Southern Interior of the province, a Sanderling was at the mouth of Mission Creek in Kelowna, 18–20 May (LL, m. ob.).  Also, a rare spring migrant in the Southern Interior, a Short-billed Dowitcher was at Robert Lake in Kelowna, 25 May (NS). A Willet continued from the winter period at Boundary Bay between the foot of 88th Street and the foot of 104th Street, until at least 11 Apr (IP, m. ob.).

Parasitic Jaegers are rare spring migrants in the interior of the province, where a light morph adult was found flying low over Okanagan Lake at Rotary Marsh in Kelowna, 31 May (DBe). Perhaps the same bird, but maybe a different jaeger was seen later in the day on 31 May, flying south over Okanagan Lake at Seclusion Bay near Peachland (CC). Reports of Sabine’s Gulls came from a variety of areas. One was seen along the Coquihalla River at Thacker Park in Hope, 21 May (GG). A non-breeding plumage adult was at the mouth of Mission Creek in Kelowna, 20–23 May (DG, DBe, m. ob.). In the East Kootenay area, a Sabine’s Gull was at Jimsmith Lake Provincial Park near Cranbrook, 26 May (JT). In northeastern British Columbia, a Sabine’s Gull was at the south end of Charlie Lake near Fort St. John, 20 May (EP). Most intriguing, however, was a flock of 54 Sabine’s Gulls seen from Maplewood Flats in North Vancouver, 22 May (RL, m. ob.). Just one Lesser Black-backed Gull was reported in the province during the spring. The bird, an adult, was found on the beach on Tla’amin Nation Reserve lands in Powell River, 25 Apr (IV). Lesser Black-backed Gulls, when they do show up in British Columbia, tend to appear on larger lakes in the Southern Interior, so this bird, which provides a first record for the Sunshine Coast, is noteworthy. An adult Slaty-backed Gull was photographed on the east side of Vancouver Island at Royston, 7 May (LS).


Yellow-billed Loons, while not particularly rare along the coast of Vancouver Island, were noted at several locations. All sightings were of single birds, with one at the Trent River Estuary in Royston, 6 Mar (DB). Another was seen from Hardy Bay Road in Port Hardy, 20–21 Mar (GM). A Yellow-billed Loon was at Miracle Beach Provincial Park, at Black Creek, on Vancouver Island, 24–27 Mar (BDu, m. ob.), and an immature was found at Salmon Point in Campbell River, 8 Apr (GSt). Reports of single Great Egrets came in from several coastal locations. One was at Iona Beach in Richmond, 29 May (WD, m. ob.), and another was at Blackie Spit in Surrey, 26–28 May (MG, m. ob.). A Great Egret was on Vancouver Island at Nanaimo, in a marshy area at the Living Forest Campground, 1–2 May (DBI). Also on Vancouver Island, a Great Egret was at Oyster Bay in Campbell River, 9–11 May (SM, m. ob.). An out-of-range adult Black-crowned Night-Heron was found at Scout Island in Williams Lake, 30 May (PR).

The spring of 2020 brought an invasion of White-faced Ibis to the southern portion of British Columbia, where this species is considered a rare migrant. In Creston, at Duck Lake, 16 White-faced Ibis were present, 11 May (PF, m. ob.). Six White-faced Ibis were in marshy field near Wardner, 11–14 May (ABa, m. ob.). Near Fernie, a single White-faced Ibis was at Maiden Lake, 19–21 May (RS, m. ob.). On the lower mainland, up to twenty White-faced Ibis were at the Iona Island Sewage Ponds in Richmond, 12–23 May (WD, PC, m. ob.). In Surrey, three White-faced Ibis were feeding in ponds at Serpentine Fen, 18–26 May (KK, m. ob.). A single White-faced Ibis was at the Squamish River Estuary, 22–23 May (JA, m. ob.), and in the eastern portion of the Fraser Valley, a single White-faced Ibis was in fields along Prest Road in Chilliwack, 22 May (DB).

Broad-winged Hawks have long been thought of as a bird found east of the Rocky Mountains, but in British Columbia their occurrence in both spring and fall migration is on the rise. A single Broad-winged Hawk was seen over Porcupine Peak in Kelowna, 30 Apr (LL). Also in Kelowna, an adult Broad-winged Hawk was photographed over the Kelowna Memorial Park Cemetery, 9 May (MF, DBe). In the West Kootenay, an adult Broad-winged Hawk flew over Highway 6 between Cherryville and Fauqier, 7 May (JB). On southern Vancouver Island, a Broad-winged Hawk was found at the corner of Lochside Road and Claremont Avenue in the Cordova Bay area near Victoria, 25 Apr (MM). A Broad-winged Hawk was observed over Mount Tolmie in Victoria, 15 May (GN). Several reports of single Swainson’s Hawks came in from southern Vancouver Island, where the species is a rare migrant. One was over Saanichton Bay in Central Saanich, 3 May (DD). Another was over Old West Saanich Road in Saanich, 8 May (JGa). In Parksville, a Swainson’s Hawk was seen over Little Mountain, 9 May (MW, SSP). Near Victoria, a Swainson’s Hawk was observed over Mount Tolmie, 9 May (GN), and another was over Panama Flats in Saanich, 12 May (CH). An immature Swainson’s Hawk was at Pendray Farms in Sidney, near Victoria, 15 May (JW).

An out-of-range male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was a nice find in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, at Third Beach, 16–18 Mar (NV, m. ob.). Another male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was at a private residence in Coquitlam, 20 Apr (MS). Normally not found in coastal areas, a male Red-naped Sapsucker was found at Cecil Green Park in Vancouver, 21 Apr (KR, m. ob.). In Richmond, a male Red-naped Sapsucker was at Garden City Park, 18 Apr (MH, IP, m. ob.). Lewis’s Woodpeckers are generally considered rare visitors to coastal locations in the province. A Lewis’s Woodpecker flew overhead at the East Beach mudflats, near the Dollarton Highway in North Vancouver, 3 May (RL). In Pemberton, a Lewis’s Woodpecker was noted along Pemberton Meadows Road, 7 May (TE). An immature Gyrfalcon was seen along Fadden Road in Abbotsford, 9 Mar (RN), and a report, also of an immature bird in Abbotsford along Vye Road, 7 Mar, could involve the same bird (GG, m. ob.).

An Ash-throated Flycatcher made a brief appearance, just barely north of the 49th Parallel, on the West Bench at Osoyoos, 23–24 May (LP, et al.). Records of Gray Flycatcher are scarce once you look beyond the Okanagan Valley, where the species has a stronghold in the province. In Vancouver, a Gray Flycatcher was found at the McCleery Golf Course, 3 May (BS). Another Gray Flycatcher was at the airport in Hope, 12 May (GG). In the West Kootenay area, a Gray Flycatcher was at the Sunshine Bay Wetlands in Harrop, 13–14 May (SS, m. ob.). Both the West Kootenays and the Okanagan Valley recorded single Black Phoebes this spring, a species that is extremely rare in British Columbia, away from the coast. Cottonwood Creek in Nelson hosted a Black Phoebe, 26–28 Apr (BM, NM, m. ob.). The first photographed Black Phoebe in the Okanagan was found along the Okanagan Rail Trail at Carney Pond in Kelowna, 14–15 May (MF, m. ob.). It was a phenomenal spring for Loggerhead Shrikes in southern British Columbia, with 5 different individuals reported. A Loggerhead Shrike, at Colony Farm in Coquitlam, was seen by just one lucky observer, 4 Apr (AB). At the Hope Airport, a Loggerhead Shrike was discovered on 9 May (LH, EK, JV, JS). In the interior, a Loggerhead Shrike was at Separation Lake near Kamloops, 12 Apr (LM). Another Loggerhead Shrike was in Castlegar, at the Selkirk College Trails, 3 May (CS, m. ob.). In Edgewood, in the West Kootenay, a Loggerhead Shrike was seen along Ferret Road, 9 May (JF, WF, m. ob.).


A Clark’s Nutcracker, a bird that rarely strays to coastal locations in British Columbia, was at Mount Tuam on Salt Spring Island, 5 Apr (RB). Single Blue Jays appeared in Surrey and on Vancouver Island at Saanich. The Surrey bird was found at Boundary Park, 22 Mar (fide CG).In Saanich, a Blue Jay remained from the winter period until at least 14 Apr (BSt, m. ob.). Rare in coastal areas, a Black-billed Magpie was along Churchill Street near the North 40 Dog Park in Delta, 23 Apr (ABo, m. ob.). Also in Delta, and on the same day, another magpie was found at Centennial Beach, 23 Apr (DU, m. ob.). In Vancouver, a Black-billed Magpie was at Prospect Point in Stanley Park, 30 Apr–9 May (MT, m. ob.). Another Black-billed Magpie most likely did some island hopping before it landed on Galiano Island, at a private residence, 18 Apr (MHo). A female Western Bluebird in an abandoned vineyard on Columbia Valley Road near Chilliwack, 6 Apr, was a nice find as this species is rare away from the Southern Interior (JV, EK, m. ob.).

Sage Thrashers popped up at several locations in southern British Columbia this spring. The species, which is normally only found in the south Okanagan Valley, is a rarity elsewhere. In Revelstoke, a Sage Thrasher was at the airport, south of town, 26 Apr (MP, CCr, m. ob.). A Sage Thrasher was at the Captain’s Village Marina in Scotch Creek, in the Shuswap area, 2–3 May (AR). In Cranbrook, in the East Kootenays, a Sage Thrasher was at the Spray Irrigation Fields, 8 May (BD). On southern Vancouver Island, a Sage Thrasher was a great find in Jordan River, along the shoreline, near the Cold Shoulder Café, 5 May (MB). Also well out of range, a Sage Thrasher was at a private residence along Harry Road in Gibsons, 8 May (EH, m. ob.). Single Northern Mockingbirds were noted at four locations in southern British Columbia this spring. One was at the west end of the airport in Hope, 12 May (GG). Another Northern Mockingbird was in Nelson, near Taghum Hall, 22 Apr (CDr). In Cranbrook, a Northern Mockingbird was at the Spray Irrigation Fields, 9 May (HN). On the Sunshine Coast, a Northern Mockingbird was at a private residence in Powell River, 24 May (IV).

There will be a time, in the not-so-distant future, where reports of Lesser Goldfinches in British Columbia are no longer noteworthy. The species appears to be colonizing southern parts of the province, where it has been confirmed breeding in the Okanagan Valley at Osoyoos. A female Lesser Goldfinch was at a feeder at a private residence in Chilliwack, 16 Apr (JG). In Coquitlam, a female Lesser Goldfinch was also at a feeder at a private residence, 10 May (MS). On Vancouver Island, a female Lesser Goldfinch was at Mount Tolmie in Saanich, 15 May (GN). At Robert Lake in Kelowna, a Lesser Goldfinch was discovered 28 Apr (DBe). Penticton’s West Bench area hosted a male Lesser Goldfinch at a feeder, 14 May (EN), and another was near Mahoney Lake, west of Okanagan Falls, 24 May (RC). The 13th Green-tailed Towhee to appear in British Columbia was in Nakusp, in a private garden along 9th Avenue Northwest, 5–6 May (JF, m. ob.). While Brewer’s Sparrows are locally common in some parts of the province, they are rare migrants in coastal regions. At Richmond’s Iona Sewage Ponds, a Brewer’s Sparrow was found, 9 May (CG, m. ob.). In Hope, a Brewer’s Sparrow was at the airport, 14 May (RN), and at Duck Lake, in Creston, a Brewer’s Sparrow was present, 8 May (CS). In Sooke, on Vancouver Island, a Brewer’s Sparrow was at Whiffin Spit, 9 May (LS, JBe). At the marina in Gibsons, on the Sunshine Coast, a Brewer’s Sparrow was found 31 May and remained into the summer period (KB, m. ob.).

Single Vesper Sparrows, a noteworthy species on Vancouver Island, were at Uplands Park in Oak Bay in Victoria, 12 May (GN), and at McIntyre Reservoir, at Martindale Flats in Central Saanich, 12 May (MM). At Longview Farms Bulb Fields in Saanich, a Vesper Sparrow was present, 26 May (RG, MO). On the west coast of Vancouver Island, a Vesper Sparrow was a nice discovery at Ucluelet, 23 May (IC). In Nelson, a Lark Sparrow was found along the Taghum foreshore, where the bird remained from 19–21 May (GS). Better yet, a LeConte’s Sparrow was found at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, near Nelson, 18 May (GS, m. ob.). Lingering Harris’s Sparrows were noted at several locations. One bird, an immature, was at a private residence in Lumby, 22–23 Apr (ST, et al.). An adult Harris’s Sparrow was at a private garden along 11th Avenue South in Cranbrook, 30 Apr (WR). On Vancouver Island, a Harris’s Sparrow was at the Cedar Hill Golf Course in Saanich, 12–16 Mar (KE, m. ob.). Rare on Vancouver Island, a Yellow-breasted Chat was at Blenkinsop Lake in Saanich, 21–27 May (MM, m. ob.). In the East Kootenays, a male Baltimore Oriole was at Fairmont Hot Springs, 30 May (DGi). A male Black-and-white Warbler was north of Brackendale, along railway tracks, near the Squamish River, 4–6 May (CD, m. ob.). At the Richmond Nature Park in Richmond, a male Black-and-white Warbler was seen, 5 May (LB).

One of the best sightings of the spring was a male Prothonotary Warbler, found during a big day, along the Okanagan River, south of Road 22, near Osoyoos, 17 May (NE, m. ob.). The bird provided British Columbia with its 10th record of the species. A male Chestnut-sided Warbler was found along Lohbrunner Road in Saanich, 31 May (CH, m. ob.). At Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver, a male Blackpoll Warbler was seen, 13 May (PG). Along the Selkirk College Trails in Castlegar, a Palm Warbler was present 3–4 May (GS, m. ob.). Another Palm Warbler was along Colvalli Road in Wardner, 29 May (BD, SD). A male warbler identified as a hybrid Black-throated Gray x Townsend’s Warbler in Jericho Park in Vancouver, 25 Apr, was a stunning bird (LI). British Columbia’s eighth Summer Tanager was photographed at a private garden in Invermere, in the East Kootenays, 8 May (CG). A male Black-headed Grosbeak visited a garden along Salmon Valley Road in Prince George, 24 May, providing one of a very few records of that species so far north in the province (KH). A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was at a private garden along Edward Street in Revelstoke, 25 May (DC, et al.). Another male Rose-breasted Grosbeak patronized a feeder in Riske Creek, 20–24 May (SH, m. ob.). Near Prince George, a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was found along the Chief Lake Road, 27 May (JD). A male Indigo Bunting was seen along the Jack Point Trail at Duke Point near Nanaimo, 6 May (BV, m. ob.). In the Fraser Valley, at Agassiz, a male Dickcissel was seen in a private garden, where it visited a feeder 12–13 May (JM).

Report processed by Alex Meilleur, 7 Mar 2021.

Photos–British Columbia: Spring 2020

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