I am always interested in visiting new places and birds are always high on the list of things to see. Meadow Lake Guest Ranch completely exceeded my expectations when It came to birds and biomes with my total count coming to 97 species in 2.5 days. Not only were the birds awesome but so were the log houses and the hospitality. It is very rare that I am able to explore a vast range of habitats and see so many birds in such a small area but this little gem hidden away in the interior of BC was all that and more.
The Disappearing Lake
Meadow Lake, like so many of the lakes around the area, is a closed system. This means that water typically flows into the lake but not out, with almost all the water leaving by way of the sky. These lakes are usually salty and are sometimes called soda lakes named for the white edges in the summer months. What does this mean for birders? It means a there are birds found here that are rarely found anywhere else in the province of BC. American White Pelicans and American Avocets which are two very rare species found here in the spring and summer months. The lake is not so salty that fish and invertebrates are found here as well. This of course attracts all the regular freshwater birds. There are also micro-climates and different natural features which lend itself to providing homes for a host of other species as well. Examples are the cattail marsh at the east end of the lake and the south facing rolling grass slopes, the pine and spruce forests on the north and mixed in for good measure are the ranch lands and poplar stands. This all translates to GREAT BIRDING.
The Golden Pond
On the Ranch acreage is a smaller pond, holding wonderful secrets among its greenery and beaches. This is where the nesting American Avocets are found along with Virginia Rail, Sora, Wilson’s phalarope, Nesting Cliff Swallows, complete with and a Bald Eagle to keep everyone on their toes. Orie’s pond, as its named, is also a soda lake and one shore is completely whitened with powder from the salt. The Avocets that breed here are some of the most northern of their species that you will find in British Columbia. They have been seen north of this location, but they seem to be reliable here. On the walk to see the birds, there are several things to look for, including Mountain Bluebirds on the fences and Savanah’s Sparrows in the grass. Don’t be surprised if you see a Sandhill Crane lurking in the wet field on the north. Have a look at the list of birds I noted here that were found on the pond.
The Northern Forest
Surrounding Meadow lake are forests of Pine and Spruce and Fir trees. A good many locations have been logged and are in regrowth of one stage or another. In this intermittent type forest, you will see all sorts of birds and beasts. There were several feathered critters including Yellowlegs, Ruffed Grouse and Townsend's Solitaire. At dusk, several of the Common Nighthawks start their nightly search in the sky for dinner on the wing calling from large distances and occasionally hearing the mating dive that sounds like a streamer. Along the way you will also see some of the furrier animals that live among the trees like the north American Black Bear, Yellow-bellied Marmot and the worlds largest deer, the Moose.
The Mountain Top
After dropping my daughter off for a trail ride at nearby Big Bar Ranch, I headed into the sub Alpine by truck. You will have to walk the last 500 meters up hill, but it is worth it. This is a great place to get up above the tree line and see high altitude birds as well as amazing views. There is a building at the top named Jesmond’s Fire Lookout at the crest that overlooks the entire valley and beyond. I had a great look at Meadow lake from a bird’s eye view. I was able to list several birds of the upper forests as well. You can possibly see Clark’s nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee or a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch. You will most likely need a 4x4 for this part of the trip.
The River Valley
The Mighty Fraser is not far from this little piece of heaven, but you would hardly recognize it as being in the same place. The Fraser River sits in the rain shadow of the mountains to the west and the valley in which it flows is as dry as some of the desert areas south east in the southern Okanagan. This grassland and sagebrush landscape are home to several species that you would think to find in the arid lands of Osoyoos, like the Common Poorwill and the Flammulated Owl. Both are much easier to find after dusk and along the sparsely treed slopes into the valley. For the Poorwill, drive very slowly and look for the eyeshine on the sides of the road. Other birds to watch for here during the day are Vesper Sparrow, Western Meadowlark and Lazuli’s Bunting.
Meadow Lake is certainly one of the birdiest places I have visited in BC with an amazing array of diversity in a very short distance. This is all accessible from a very comfortable and hospitable home base in one of the log homes at Meadow Lake Guest Ranch. I recommend that you put this on your must do list if you are heading to the interior of British Columbia. You will have a great chance to see some of our more rare summer visitors as well as our beautiful landscapes all within a couple hours.