Wildlife Highlights 2023

Here are some photos of wildlife in British Columbia from my various trips and home sightings.

All photos © Alan Burger

Winter 2023

In 2021 huge tracts of forest around Logan Lake and Tunkwa Park were burnt. One of the few wild animals that benefited from this devastation was Black-backed Woodpecker. I found this female near Tunkwa Park on New Year’s Day 2023, but later also found some in the Logan Lake ski trails burnt forest.
White-winged Crossbills are far less common in our area (Logan Lake & Merritt) than Red Crossbills, but in the high forests around Paska Lake near Logan Lake they can often be found. Photo: © Alan Burger
This chubby little Meadow Vole made a home in our compost bin and spent the winter feasting on bird feeder leftovers. There was a boom in rodent numbers (both voles and deer mice) throughout 2023 in the southern interior of BC. Photo: © Alan Burger
Mountain Chickadees are the most common chickadee in the forests around Logan Lake. Their cheerful calls can liven up the most dismal winter day. Photo © Alan Burger
We have a little Mountain Ash tree in our back yard which in January 2023 was still loaded with berries. But on 12 January a flock of wintering Bohemian Waxwings descended and within 3 minutes it was stripped.

Spring 2023

As our lakes and rivers start to open up from the winter ice cover, waterfowl are quick to return – here Canada Geese and Mallards on Nicola Lake on 12 March 2023.
Mountain Bluebirds (male on the left) and Cassin’s Finch (female on the right) are among the first migrants to return to our area in spring.
In April the Nicola Naturalist Society monitors the migration of Sandhill Cranes through the Douglas Lake Plateau near Merritt. In 2023 we counted over 10,000 cranes but since we were up there only a few days the actual number of cranes using this migration stop-over was likely over 20,000 birds.

For more photos and information on the 2023 crane surveys click here

The area around Logan Lake is slowly recovering from the intense forest fire of 2021.
In a moist meadow above our town spring wildflowers are blooming in profusion. Survivors of the fire, they are getting extra fertilizer from the ash on the ground. These are Dark-throated Shooting-stars (Primula pauciflora).
More spring wildflowers emerging from the blackened soil: Yellow Fritillary (Fritillaria pudica; left) and Arrow-leafed Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata; right).
Snowshoe Hares are common in our area, but not often seen. This one was near Paska Lake. Pure white in winter they change to brown in summer but retain white paws and belly. Photo © Alan Burger
A Red-necked Grebe – one of a pair nesting on Tunkwa Lake in May 2023.
Lewis’s Woodpecker is one of our less common woodpeckers. It has some decidedly un-woodpeckery habits, such as catching flying insects from a high open perch. This one was doing just that near Nicola Lake.
Savannah Sparrows are common in the grasslands of the BC Interior. The yellowish eye-stripe is a recognizable feature.
In April I was honoured to be invited by the Upper Nicola Band to release one of the Burrowing Owls at their restoration site. Captive-bred owls are released into prepared nesting burrows to help boost the numbers of this endangered population. The little owl is obviously not impressed by the procedure.


A large herd of Bighorn Sheep can regularly be found along Hwy 8 near Spences Bridge. Notice the healed injury on the hind leg of the sheep on the left – a failed cougar attack or an encounter with a barbed wire fence?
Bighorn lambs cavorting and being goofy.

In 2023 I became more interested in contributing to iNaturalist, especially with organisms that are less commonly photographed – like insects.

A White-shouldered Bumble Bee (Bombus appositus) on a red clover flower in our garden.
A Bedstraw Hawk Moth (Hyles galllii) in the same clover patch in our garden. Notice the coiled tongue used to extract nectar.
A robber fly, probably Neomochtherus willistoni. These flies are fast-flying predators of smaller insects which they catch with their strong legs. The blue object it is sitting on is our washing line, 4 mm in diameter.
Two butterflies getting moisture and salts from mud along the shore of Mamit Lake – notice that they both have extended tongues. Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis; left) and Anicia Checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona/anicia; right).
A female Yellow-horned Horntail Wasp (Urocerus flavicornis) in our yard. The intimidating black stinger-like appendix is actually the ovipositor used to lay eggs within wood. The wasp first bores into the wood with the yellowy “horn” on its tail and then swings the ovipositor down to drill down further into the wood. The larvae that hatch from the eggs spend many months chewing tunnels through the wood before changing into adult wasps and emerging through the bark. This is a large insect 4-5 cm in length.
Red Turnip Beetle (Entomoscelis americana) in our back yard. We don’t grow turnips but our neighbours do.
Within a couple of days of putting up this nest box on our carport it was occupied by a pair of Violet-green Swallows. Over the next few weeks we watched from our living room as they incubated eggs (just the female) and then raised four chicks (both parents feeding) – all fledged successfully. Hopefully they will return next summer.
I found this Common Nighthawk sitting in the middle of the road in Kane Valley in late June. I was on my way to do a nightjar survey in that area, but didn’t expect to find one quite so easily.
Least Flycatchers are not readily identified by sight, but have a distinctive call. This pair was on the edge of Kane Valley.
On a hike in early July to the Zupjok ridge near Coquihalla Pass we found this family of White-tailed Ptarmigans. The male (on the right) usually plays little role in raising the chicks, but he does hang around to keep an eye on the family. There were five chicks following the female.

Fall 2023

Kayaking around our local lakes is a great way to see and photograph wildlife. For wildlife photos from the lake I most often paddle in click here: Mamit Lake

Tunkwa Lake is another excellent spot just a 15 minute drive from our home …..

Several pairs of Wilson’s Snipe breed along the shores of Tunkwa Lake. Their long beaks allow them to find worms and other invertebrates deep in the mud.
Long-billed Dowitcher is another shorebird adapted to finding prey deep in the mud. But unlike snipes they are not local breeders – they breed in the high arctic tundra but pass through the BC interior on their fall migration and often linger here for many days. Tunkwa Lake, 22 September 2023.
Pectoral Sandpiper is another high arctic breeder that we see on the fall southward migration. Tunkwa Lake, 22 September 2023.
Marsh Wrens are common breeders in the cat-tails and reedbeds in our area.
This Short-tailed Weasel ran across our path as I was walking our dog in our neighbourhood. Fortunately it was very focused on watching the dog so I could get a couple of pics with my phone.
This colourful beetle is a Banded Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus investigator). Sextons are church officials and one of their duties in days gone by was to dig the graves. These beetles use their well-developed antennae to find carcasses of rodents or small birds. A male and female then pair up to mate and bury the dead animal; the female then lays eggs on the carcass and the resulting larvae feed on it until they are ready to metamorphose into adults. Our neighbour at the time was killing many mice and voles in his veggie garden and probably keeping these beetles busy.

In August and September 2023 I made two trips to Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island to help with seabird surveys. This is a familiar research area for me, beginning when I lived in Bamfield for three years in the 1980s. But I hadn’t been back on the water here for over a decade so these were very special occasions.

Barkley Sound was full of gulls, in this case the resident Glaucous-winged Gulls, feeding on schools of young herring and sand lance.
Two other common fish-eating seabirds in Barkley Sound: Common Murre on the left and Rhinoceros Auklet on the right.

In addition to loads of birds we also had some excellent mammal experiences ….

A Grey Whale diving.
Male California Sea Lions are common on the BC coast but do not breed here.
Harbour Seals are abundant in Barkley Sound and along most of the BC coast.
Sea Otters were exterminated from Canadian waters over 100 years ago. After re-introductions they are slowly expanding their range and numbers. Sea Otters were never seen in Barkley Sound until about 20 years ago but are now regularly found there. This one is wrapped up in kelp to have a nap.
I encountered this family of River Otters scampering across the beach from the ocean at Green Point in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Despite their name River Otters regularly forage in the sea in BC.

Every fall and early winter our town is invaded by hundreds of Bohemian Waxwings. These are wintering visitors from breeding grounds in the northern boreal regions. Flocks of 200-300 swirl around town descending on any trees that have berries or fruit. After about a month they have depleted all these foods and they move on.

Bohemian Waxwings in our neighbourhood, 2 November 2023.
A Bohemian Waxwing eating fruit in Logan Lake.

Winter again 2023

Northern Three-toed Woodpeckers proudly showing off their three-toed feet. These woodpeckers are uncommon across BC but like to forage in burnt conifers – and there are plenty to choose from around Logan Lake after the intense 2021 wildfires. These are both females (males have yellow foreheads).
A Red Squirrel in a small Cottonwood tree.
This Common Grackle was discovered in Merritt during the annual Christmas Bird Count. I managed to find it again a few days later. Grackles are rare in southern BC and at this time of year they ought to be in Florida or Texas.
Logan Lake town is infested with Mule Deer. We have a 7 ft fence to keep them out of our yard and veggie garden. But I couldn’t resist photographing this handsome buck just beyond our garden fence.
This Mule Deer doe appears to be quite enamored with the Christmas buck – Logan Lake, November 2023


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