Saturday September 14 will be a day that I remember for the rest of my life! It was my first real pelagic trip. A small group of 11 of us went out looking for seabirds from Tofino on Vancouver Island.
We put on our survival suits, signed our waivers, and headed out on a small boat. The weather was overcast but warm and pretty calm. It was great viewing conditions for birding.
Our trip consisted of briefly cruising along the inshore, stopping at a small rocky island to see if we could find some shorebirds & cormorants, then we hit the open ocean. As we encountered various groups of seabirds we would slow down to scan them (often allowing incredibly close views), then we would meander among the flocks, and eventually worked our way out to a steep drop-off of the ocean floor. At our maximum we were 30+ miles offshore. As we were heading back in we tracked down a fleet of fishing vessels, and that is where we had the most birds, with several thousand seabirds in a feeding frenzy. It was pretty overwhelming. We continued to make our way back to shore, stopping to watch a small pod of Killer Whales near a group of California Sea Lions.
I have listed below the order of new species I tallied on the boat trip. Birds with a single (*) indicate a new Canadian bird for me, and a double (**) indicates a lifer.
Year Birds (numbers are approximate):
MARBLED MURRELET – 5
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE -1
*WANDERING TATTLER -1
BRANDT’S CORMORANT – 2
*TUFTED PUFFIN – 1
**PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATER – 5000
**SOUTH POLAR SKUA – 6
*NORTHERN FULMAR – 2500
**BULLER’S SHEARWATER – 40
**BLACK-FOOTED ALBATROSS -130
**FORK-TAILED STORM-PETREL – 900
**POMARINE JAEGER – 2
**CASSIN’S AUKLET – 300
LONG-TAILED JAEGER – 1
**FLESH-FOOTED SHEARWATER – 4
PARASITIC JAEGER – 1
Another highlight was the 200+ adult Sabine’s Gulls that we observed. Simply amazing!
Sea Otter (lifer!)
California Sea Lion
Killer Whales (Lifer!)
Later in the afternoon a trip to one of the beaches in Pacific Rim National Park yielded a few **WESTERN GULLS.
Pink-footed & Flesh-footed Shearwater (the all dark one with a pink bill)