The adjacent sites, on the southeastern shore of Okanagan Lake, are great spots for waterfowl, gulls, hawks, owls, jays, and more.
By Laure Wilson Neish | Published: 6/28/2016
Birding Okanagan Lake combines ease of access with a scenic backdrop. I feel fortunate to have lived not far from the Penticton Marina for almost 20 years. I enjoyed the convenience of driving to the lakeshore in fall and winter, pulling into a free parking slot, and watching ducks, geese, and gulls only feet away on a sandy beach.
The large, deep lake offers refuge for numerous waterfowl and gulls, some of which have been blown off course from the Pacific coast. The lake also offered up life birds that I couldn’t find on the coast, such as Ancient Murrelet and Red Phalarope. The element of surprise kept me coming back almost daily to scan the shoreline.
For a change of scenery or shelter from the wind, I explored the Esplanade, a dense, shrubby area at the base of silt cliffs adjacent to the marina. I was surrounded by the calls of California Quail, Steller’s Jays, chickadees, and finches in the thicket, but the place would get quiet quickly when a Sharp-shinned Hawk or Northern Pygmy-Owl appeared. Even though I have moved away, the lakeshore remains one of my favorite places to bird because of its many possibilities within the span of a few miles. — Laure Wilson Neish
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Open water, sandy beach, scattered mature trees. Esplanade has shrubby, dense tangles backed by steep clay cliffs.
Flat and wheelchair-accessible along lakeshore. Esplanade has uneven, narrow, sometimes muddy dirt trails.
Lake: Horned, Western, and Red-necked Grebes, American Coot, scaup, Redhead, Canvasback, Bufflehead, many other waterfowl species, 12 species of gull. Late fall: Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, scoters, Common Loon, Pacific Loon (annual). Rarities: Ancient Murrelet, Long-tailed Duck, Parasitic Jaeger. Esplanade: California Quail, Bewick’s Wren, Western Bluebird, Bohemian Waxwing, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Spotted Towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Bullock’s Oriole, accipiters, eagles, kinglets, and warblers.
When to go
Year-round for songbirds in the Esplanade; September to December for waterfowl, gulls, loons, grebes, and stray seabirds along lakeshore.
Meadowlark Nature Festival held in Penticton each year in late May. A walking pier and several rock jetties near marina and west of it are good for scanning lake. Restrooms near walking pier, Power St., and inside Lakeside Resort.
Non-profit marina and city-owned natural area. Parking free along lakeshore. Free one-hour passes available for most city lots.
Bring a spotting scope and bundle up to protect against a cold north wind.
For more info
About 27 miles south of marina on Hwy. 97. More than 230 species. Canyon Wren, Chukar, and White-throated Swift.
White Lake Grasslands Protected Area
West of Vaseux Lake. Accessible via White Lake Rd. Mountain Bluebird, Sage Thrasher, grassland sparrows.