Swan Lake: Artifacts

Photo: Swan Lake Artifacts
Photo by ?

Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists’ latest field trip took place at Swan Lake Sanctuary, the little jewel situated just north of Princeton that consists of a kettle lake, riparian zone and rolling grasslands. Twelve members and guests spent two hours on the trails circling the lake, searching this culturally significant site and observing the wildlife. We were rewarded with sightings of twenty species of birds, including a Common Nighthawk, Mountain Bluebird, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Kingbird, many young American Coots, a family of Ruddy Ducks with six babies, and Yellow-headed Blackbirds. We spotted a few Mule Deer, some of which appeared to be standing guard over fawns, so we gave them wide berth. The morning was cloudy and mild, thus butterflies were not plentiful, but we did manage to capture the image of a Blue Copper.

This was yet another rewarding outing hosted by VFFN, where we were able to enjoy the beauties of nature as well as the company of like-minded people. Come join us on future field trips for a similar experience!

Seven Half Diamond Ranch

Photo: Seven Half Diamond Ranch
Photo by Cathy Lahaie

We chose one of the hottest days of the season (35 degrees!) to go birding with the Nicola Valley naturalists, but what a success it was!! On Sunday, June 5th, 12 Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists joined 16 members of the Merritt club at Seven Half Diamond Ranch, where we had been given permission by owners Jim & Heather O’Connor to meander. We spent 3 ½ hours roaming the trails and admiring the scenic landscape, where rolling ranchland is dotted with ponds and marshes. Led by ornithologist Alan Burger, we observed 46 species of birds, highlights of which were Kildeer, Sora, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Swainson’s Thrush, Cinnamon Teal and Blue-winged Teal. Goslings and ducklings were prevalent, including Mallard, Bufflehead and Barrow’s Goldeneye babies. We also spotted a couple of Western Terrestrial Garter Snakes in Batstone Lake, a Columbia Spotted Frog, and numerous Western Toad tadpoles and “toadlets” (one-year-olds).

Although the day was warm, we found a shady spot by one of the ponds for our lunch break, where the mosquitoes weren’t too pesky! Halfway along our walk we were entertained by a group of steers who raced towards us as if expecting food, then galloped away at full speed, perhaps realizing their mistake. A few of us were privileged to have a tour of the main house before we left this spectacular site, and we thank the O’Connor’s for their gracious hospitality. It was a splendid day!

Header photo by Janis Wright

Wolfe Lake with Langley Field Naturalists

Photo: Wolfe Lake
Photo by Janis Wright

Ten Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists were delighted to host 20 birding members of the Langley Field Naturalist Club on an outing to Wolfe Lake, Saturday, May 7th. Led by Tip Anderson, our group was so large we did a head count every half hour! We began our trek after signing a giant thank-you card to Pat Parsons, who graciously hosted us, in absentia, once again. Then we crossed Wolfe Creek, heading east, and hiked along narrow trails through dense deciduous growth and marshy grasses, all the while listening and watching for birds. We were not disappointed, with a count of 30+ species, including Belted Kingfishers, Buffleheads, a Golden Eagle, a Spotted Sandpiper and a Mew Gull. We made our way past a beaver lodge, and spotted several turtles basking on a log in the lake. Beyond the bush, we traveled through older coniferous growth and made our way to more open territory as we circled the lake. The visiting naturalists were charmed by the beauty of the area and entertained by the tall tales told by Tip. It was a hot day, and most of us sought shade when we returned to the picnic area after our 7 km. trek. Despite the 32 degree weather, we roasted a few wieners over a campfire! It was lovely to relax and mingle with our very amiable guests. These visiting birders were in Princeton for the weekend, and were shown other “hot” birding spots by Cathy and Ed Lahaie, our own local experts. We hope to meet with our new friends again soon!

Red Bridge to Pine Park

Photo: Red Bridge to Pine Park
Photo by Mary Masiel

Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists continued our trek along the old VV&E (Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern) railway bed on Saturday, April 16th. We had walked a stretch of it between Princeton and Hedley earlier this month, and on this occasion started at the Red Bridge, west of Keremeos. Six club members cycled a longer route than that of the eleven walkers, but we all started together and were once again blessed with blue skies and warming sunshine. As we headed eastwards we passed through fragrant, new riparian growth along the river, and eventually were surrounded by aromatic, beautiful blossoms of the fruit trees in the many orchards of the area.

It was a lovely morning, and along our route we encountered a sweet alpaca guarding a herd of sheep, a foal frolicking with its mother, thousands of turkeys and an impressive selection of birds. We observed 20+ species, among them Wood Ducks, Cliff Swallows, Eurasian Collared Doves, a Belted Kingfisher and California Quail, while one of our avid birders spotted 3 flocks of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead! Once into Keremeos we walkers continued along the river dyke, and met up with the cyclists at Pine Park (which we had to ourselves), where we relaxed and enjoyed our lunches. Once again we parted as each group headed back, somehow managing to arrive at our vehicles at approximately the same time! The walk was just under 10 km, whereas the cyclists incorporated some of the village’s quiet side roads in their extended “Tour de Keremeos.”

VV&E Walk

Photo: VV&E Walk
Photo by Janis Wright

It was a near crowd that attended VFFN’s most recent field trip on April 2nd! Led by Rika Ruebsaat, nineteen of us, plus the requisite dog, walked along a portion of the old VV&E (Vancouver, Victoria and Eastern) Railway bed, that lies south of the Similkameen River. We began our walk a few kilometers west of Hedley, headed east, and eventually arrived at a large grassy clearing that led to the river, where remnants of the railway bridge still remain. The skies cleared by the time we stopped for a snack break, so that we were able to sit alongside the water, bask in the rays and enjoy the spectacular scenery. We admired newly blooming wildflowers as we ambled, and observed a variety of birds, including Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Downy Woodpeckers, White-throated Swifts and 8 Hooded Mergansers. We took 2 ½ hours to walk 4+ kms, with Rika providing historical commentary along the way. We extended this delightful excursion with lunch at the Hitching Post, as we Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists are nothing if not sociable!

Snowshoeing at Lightning Lake Loop

Photo: Lightning Lake Snowshoe
Photo by Janis Wright

Seven spirited club members took part in one of this season’s last snowshoe outings on Saturday, March 12th, when Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists trekked the half loop at Lightning Lakes, a distance of 4.5 km. It was snowing heavily as we set off on the trail, which lent a hushed and tranquil quality to our first half hour, especially as there were still several feet of snow on the ground. Soon, however, the sun began to shine brightly on the lake, filtering through the evergreens and onto our path, which cut across steep banks above the water. The diverse shades of green were striking as we hiked through the woods, mosses and lichens combining with an assortment of conifers, and we were enticed to make a number of photo stops. This trail is rated moderate in its level of difficulty, and is an interesting walk. We had numerous large, fallen trees to climb over as well, a tricky maneuver with snowshoes and poles to consider! We crossed at Rainbow Bridge and made our way back to the day use area, where we enjoyed our lunch. The picnic tables were buried in snow, so we stood in the sunshine and watched as Gray Jays boldly attempted to steal our food. This trek took just over 2 hours, and we met a few friendly folk on the trail, mostly people who had traveled from the lower mainland for a day’s outing. We in Princeton are privileged to have Manning Park in our own “backyard” – this scenic spot is a true treasure!

Secret Lake Snowshoe

Photo: Secret Lake Snowshoe
Photo by Janis Wright

Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists were once again favoured with sunny skies and sufficient snow on our most recent snowshoe outing, Saturday, Jan. 30th. Barb Anstie and Myra Quadling led 17 members and guests along a newly formed trail to Secret Lake, a secluded little spot concealed between Chain and Link lakes. We started up a bald hillside which eventually led to a forested area, through which we followed the winding track as we made our way to the frozen lake. This little piece of paradise features two beaver lodges, which we explored as we enjoyed the rays of the sun, unobstructed in the clearing. There were many tracks to be found in the woods, those of snowshoe hares and moose being most prevalent. The only bird life noted was a bald eagle which gracefully circled above us as we returned to our starting point. Our two-hour trek ended with a cozy gathering around a hearty fire which was personally delivered by local fire chief, Rob Miller! Special thanks to Barb, Myra and Lynne for their leadership and hospitality on this fun-filled field trip!

Snowshoeing at China Ridge

Photo: China Ridge Snowshoe
Photo by Janis Wright

The hills of China Ridge are a virtual winter wonderland right now, as Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists can verify! Fourteen of us, members and guests alike, delighted in a three hour snowshoe outing on Saturday, Jan. 16th, that initially took us uphill from the longhouse for 1 ½ hours. We journeyed through the woods where the trees were laden with snow, and ever higher to a viewpoint, where we looked far south across the Similkameen Valley. John Henry and Mary Masiel led this field trip, and conditions were perfect: the day was calm, temperatures just below freezing, snow soft and slightly packed, just over 2 feet deep at the lookout. Conveniently, there is a picnic table and fire pit close by, and John quickly started a vigorous fire, which effectively kept us warm as we ate our lunches and enjoyed the opportunity to relax. Glimmers of sunshine tantalized us on our return trip, which took us to an east-facing viewpoint, where the old T-bar once operated, and we were able to view Hedley’s Mascot mine. We felt as though we were part of a picturesque Christmas card as we trooped through the snowy forest, feeling the sun shine upon us fully when we returned to our vehicles, exhilarated once again by our fresh air fix!

Swan Lake

Photo: Swan Lake
Photo by Janis Wright

Tip Anderson led a group of 15 Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists along the trails of Swan Lake on Saturday, Dec. 5th, a calm and cloudy morning with the temperature hovering around zero. The lake gleamed with a skiff of ice as we walked through the rolling grasslands for an hour and a half, working up our appetites for a hot lunch! Two small but vigorous fires, smokies, cinnamon buns, hot chocolate and coffee waited for us as we returned to the newly erected Kelly Noon Gate. The gate references the “noon” bird blind which is situated nearby.

This sturdy and attractive gate is named in honour of fellow naturalist and Rotarian, Frank Kelly, who, sadly, left us earlier this year. The new gate, located at the southwest entrance to the wildlife sanctuary, can be credited to the Rotary Club, local businesses, and a few private citizens, including Frank Turner, Glen Sellers, and Tip Anderson. Our group increased in size to more than 35 as friends, naturalists and Rotarians gathered to pay tribute. Frank Turner explained how the gate came to be, Joan Kelly offered a thank-you speech, and members of the Kelly family were on hand to unveil a plaque. Frank Kelly is missed by many! We mixed and mingled while enjoying lunch and keeping warm by the fires, fondly reminiscing and fighting a tear or two.

KVR North: Otter Lake to Frembd Lake


Photo: KVR North to Frembd Lake
Photo by Janis Wright

Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists took to the trail again on Saturday, Nov. 21st, when Joan Kelly led 18 of us along the Kettle Valley Railway in the Tulameen area. We began at the south end of Otter Lake and walked northward along the path, which is wedged between the eastern shores of the lake and steep mountainsides. The temperature was a cool –10 degrees, but the sun was shining and there was little wind. We were an eclectic group, with ages spanning four generations and a couple of dogs to complete the mix. We walked 4 km. before stopping for an early lunch, taking advantage of a picnic table and fire pit placed close to the lake for optimum viewing of the scenic landscape. We mixed and mingled, while warming ourselves with hot chocolate and lunches toasted over the fire.

After lunch our group split in two, with half heading back to the vehicles as the others continued north another 8 km., past Otter Lake to the north end of Frembd Lake. The latter route took us alongside Otter Creek, where the trail crosses the waterway to travel along its west side, and past the confluence of Otter and Frembd Creeks, a particularly picturesque segment of the KVR. During our 3 hours of walking we had spotted 8 different species of birds, including Red-necked Grebes, Pied-billed Grebes, Common Mergansers, and Common Goldeneyes, but 2 more species captured our attention as we approached the north end of Frembd Lake. Tundra Swans and American Wigeons gracefully dotted the icy water, an exquisite sighting that brought our outing to a perfect conclusion, as our companions were nearby on the road, ready to pick us up and travel home!