Friday, 12 February 2010

Canada West Coast Adventure - Part 2

By Gloria Seow

Trip Participants: Tim and I

Flying out from Toronto, we landed in Vancouver to begin the second leg of our trip, this time planned by moi. To me, Vancouver integrates well its natural beauty with its infrastructure. I rather liked the waterfront view from Canada Place.

On our jaunt through Gastown to see its famous steam clock, we dropped into this souvnir haunt, and bought several hundred dollars worth of rubbish for our family and friends including maple candy. Later on, we discovered that Michelle was the start of the souvenir (omiyage) shop row, and that it had one of the most expensive buys! Darn. They were already selling memorabilia for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics which would only take place four months later from 12-28 Feb 2010.

I innocently booked a hotel via the internet called Budget Inn Patricia on East Hastings Street, as I thought it offered good value for money. We found out to our chagrin, only while there, that East Hastings is on the wrong side of town, being a notorious drug dealing district next to Chinatown. Tim's friend was horrified that we were staying there. Our hotel room itself was small but fairly comfortable. We had to endure its dangers though – homeless and gangster-like characters prowling the streets outside. The homeless can be easily identified as they usually pushed a huge shopping cart with all their belongings tossed inside. Tim heard from his cab driver on his way to UBC (University of British Columbia ) where he caught up with some ex-colleagues, that another taxi driver had his throat silt the night before, at East Hastings. Luckily Tim only told me about this incident post-trip, if not I would have freaked out. While coming back after dinner on those nights, when the skies had already assumed a dark demeanour, I carried my heavy Fenix torch as a potential weapon should we be attacked. The worst scene was Tim running up and down the scary street trying to buy 4 litres of drinking water, and not succeeding as most shops were understandably closed or only sold the 2 litre bottles. I wanted to tell him "Forget it!" (I was made to wait in the lobby), but did not dare to step outside alone.

A juvenile Glaucous-winged Gull perched just above the railway tracks near Canada Place. It was calling for a mummy who never showed, at least not while we were around.

Sea planes are common in this part of the world, the fastest means to reach remote places. I wanted to take one of these to Tofino direct, as it would have saved us a full day of travelling, but too bad they stopped this service during autumn/winter. Obviously, only the summer months and its attendant crowds can support its operations then. They had services to Victoria though, but we had no business to be there.

The expansive sea at Canada Place. A very scenic part of Vancouver City.

The whale-watching town of Tofino (on Vancouver Island ) was next. We missed our Greyhound due to a misplaced fax which resulted in a half-day lost of time. The trip took 7 hours (everything in Canada is a half-day or full day’s travel away, very annoying), and I enjoyed the hour-plus ferry ride to Nanaimo where I braved strong winds to do some pelagic birding with lifers like Leach’s Storm Petrel and Common Murre. Even in Nanaimo where we had some time before our onward bus to Tofino, I managed to get lifers (ie. street birds) like the Spotted Towhee, California Quail and Brewer’s Black Bird. Memorably, at the Nanaimo waterfront, we saw our first Harbour Seal and I spotted a scampering Mink that had a beautiful rufous coat.

The view from Lions Gate Bridge as our coach (Tofino Bus/Greyhound) drove north towards Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal where we caught the Nanaimo ferry. Early that morning, we arrived JIT at the bus terminal, but that was not enough. It was my fault, I had not read the ticket stub which stated that we were supposed to be there 20 minutes before departure. And so we missed the bus. More importantly, Greyhound did not have any records of us coming onboard as I had booked via the internet through Tofino Bus. This necessitated the buying of another set of tickets for the 1030am bus. We called Tofino Bus and raised a ruckus. In the end, we found out that their 'automatic fax system' to Greyhound to book our first leg of the journey had malfunctioned. I was relieved that they reversed the charges on my credit card. We also paid less buying on the spot rather than buying online. And we managed to change to a late departure from Tofino, making up for the lost 4 hours of waiting.

Tim shooting gulls and cormorants from the Nanaimo ferry, a metallic hulk of a ship that cut across the Strait of Georgia at a steady clip. Our bus was parked on the lowest deck, and we were allowed to wander around. Food and beverages can be bought in an onboard coffeeshop.

We had lunch at this restaurant in Nanaimo. Suagu me bought my first handful of gumballs from the dispenser for a quarter.

In Tofino, we stayed at Weigh West Marine Resort, a nice marina fronted hotel with its own whale-watching trips. We were fortunate to be captained by Pipot a French guy who has been in Tofino for 20 years, and one of the best whale spotters around. The 2-hour whale-watching expedition threw up pods of spouting Grey Whales barely 5m from our Zodiac, and some Humpback Whales – one of them breached (ie. jumped out of the water offering jaw-dropping views of its head and arching body followed by a classic tail flick – most exciting as it was only 15m from us). We also saw colonies of Stellar Sea Lion and Harbour Seals basking on rocky outcrops, a sight straight out of National Geographic documentaries. In and around Tofino, we enjoyed a short sojourn through one of the last remaining temperate rainforests left in the world at Meares Island where giant Cedar, Spruce and Hemlock trees up to 6m across, and approximately 1,500 years old grow unmolested, with some of these trees rivaling the biggest in our tropical rainforests. Tim informed me that this wooded grove was saved from loggers in the 1980s (he was part of the environmental movement then), and such temperate rainforests once cloaked the European continent but are now no more. Sadly, the trees on Vancouver Island itself (and over most of Canada) are heavily logged – but with more sense than in the tropics – in Algonquin, we were told that a third to half are logged in each forest patch so that the smaller trees left standing can at least hold the soils together, thus preventing tragic landslides.

At Weigh West Resort where we stayed, we came across a family of three racoons. They emerged at dusk to forage at the rubbish dump, and ducked under the kitchen's floorboards when done feasting. This was our second racoon sighting after Cootes Paradise. We saw them again the next night in the same manner. Racoons are the Rattus norvegicus (Brown Rat) of Canada. Tim said that they were common around his university and were even able to chew through locked steel dustbins to get at food.

Blackberries growing wild by the roadside in Tofino. Of course we couldn't resist popping ripe ones into our mouths, especially when the same thing sold in Singapore by the punnet costs around SGD$5.

On our first birding day in Tofino, we went to a known birdwatching spot. Quite disappointingly, we did not get anything special at these mudflats except close views of a flock of Canada Goose. Guess the tides were not in our favour.

The seaweed strewn mudflats. Isolated and peaceful, with no other humans encountered for several hours.

To amuse ourselves, we got macro and found much marine life, although biodiversity was low. There were quite a number of these scuttling marine crabs, about 3-5cm across at the widest point in its carapace.

I found the smashed-up shell of a living bivalve, which I suspect is the work of the Black Oystercatcher. I read that these birds employ two contrasting techniques for opening 'oysters' - either smashing them with their strong beaks or on rocks, or prying them open. As a result, they either had sharp or blunt bills. Or it could be the work of Sea Otters or even humans.

Another amusement for us was to take photos of the calm waters and distant snow-capped mountains.

A purplish-pink halo of an orangey sunset at MacKenzie Beach in Tofino. My first time seeing this mini-rainbow of a sundown. At MacKenzie, there were plenty of beachfront hotels and locals hanging out on the wide sandy stretch fronting the Pacific Ocean. We also photographed a Common Loon fishing here. Bicycles were our main mode of transport. Rental for them is exorbitant - C$35 if I remember correctly for a full day use per person. On hindsight, we should have just rented a car.

The serene afterglow of the setting sun.

And finally, a deep purple finale, inducing in one a wistful, reflective mood.

We were all bunched up in wind-proof suits for our two-hour whale watching expedition. As it was the low season (although we were in Tofino during the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend of 12 October 2009), we paid a cheap rate of C$69 per pax for a Zodiac ride (ie. a bouncy roller-coaster of an inflatable). Rates can go as high as C$99 for a stable family boat. Pipot told us that because of El Nino, the whales were still lingering on in the plankton rich waters instead of migrating.

There she blows! A spouting Grey Whale at very close proximity. We had at least 5 of these biggies surrounding us. At times, they came as near as 3m. Truly awesome!

A colony of Stellar Sea Lions grunting away, basking, sliding around, pushing each other and frolicking on the rocky outcrops off Tofino.

Two Harbour Seals, probably juveniles, on another rocky outcrop. We got much better views of adults in Nanaimo and at Port Alberni.

The distinctive head of the Humpback Whale. I didn't bother to take good shots as I'd rather be gawking at the real thing in front of my eyes than squinting at the tiny image in my digital cam. Pipot brought us to another patch of sea, away from the Grey Whales, to look for the Humpbacks (which are much bigger than the Grey). Tim said that I was lucky to see both whales in the same trip. He took 10 years to see both. Pipot also taught us how to spot spouting whales. At least some of us managed to find some of our own Grey Whales (after all they moved in a pod).

The final act of the breaching Humpback - the famous tail flick before it plunges into the depths. I felt privileged and was really thrilled to witness the whole sequence.

At Meares Island in Clayoquot Sound, part of the Pacific Rim National Park, we revelled in the old growth temperate rainforest with giant trees that are around 1,500 years old. We took the 2km Big Tree Trail, a boardwalk that cuts through the mossy forest (very soft to walk on, as if carpeted) and ended at a tiny beach before looping back.

The gnarled, many-armed appearance of this Cedar reminded me of Lord of the Rings and Frodo riding on the Giant tree. Meares Island has the world's largest Western Red Cedar and Hemlock trees with trunk diameters some 6m across.

Banana Slug (Ariolimax columbianus) is a huge slug around 10cm long. It apparently feeds on cedar wood fibres and leaves a gooey trail as it slides along the forest floor. We also saw a squished slug - apparently people stepping on one experience the same effects as treading on a banana, hence its name. Wesley informed us that this slug can also be found in his garden.

The forked bulbous seaweed that clothed the rocks on which our simple wooden jetty stood. Meares Island.

Our water taxi owner-cum-driver pointed out the Orange Seastars just opposite the jetty. The 10-minute water taxi cruise to Meares Island from Tofino cost a hefty C$30 per pax for the return journey. On our ride there, we met a couple who worked in the upmarket Wickaninnish Inn. The guy was from India and I was a little surprised to find out that foreign labour is employed even in this remote part of Canada. The couple were dropped off at the tough Lone Cone Trail which involves scaling a mountain for perfect vistas of the area. On our return ride, our driver came in a smaller boat to fetch us. His wife is the coordinator, taking calls and dispatching him to pick up passengers all over Clayoquot Sound.

The Tofino Bus brought us to our next stop at Port Alberni . The main reason for us coming inland was to take the day cruise on the MV Frances Barkley (a passenger and cargo vessel) up the Alberni Inlet which promised the chance of bumping into wildlife like the Black Bear, Orca, dolphins, porpoises, sealions etc. Quite disappointingly, the cruise was a rather boring (some would call it relaxing) journey characterized by groups of frolicking California Sea Lions and lots of gulls (Western, California & Herring) breaking the monotony. There were no Black Bears or Orcas, and I felt that we had somehow wasted the day. However, we did experience the area’s slow pace of life as the MV Frances Barkley delivered mail and cargo to the inlet’s isolated communities (the main industries here are logging and fishing). The next day, we met up with local birder Wesley Bricks who kindly took us out birding. To beat the constant drizzle that plagued our trip, Wesley arranged for us to have coffee at another birder’s (Shirley) home where we could watch birds coming to feast at Shirley’s lovely sunflower-filled garden (which she called her "birdfeeder"). At least we had lifers like the Varied Thrush, House Finch and American Gold Finch while out with Wesley. On the cruise, somebody told us that he saw at least four to five Black Bears at the Robertson Creek Hatchery as they gathered in numbers to gorge on the yearly salmon run. Our host Wolf also said that bears can be readily seen at Stamp Falls. Everybody made bear sightings sound so easy. Wesley obligingly drove us over to the hatchery. To our great disappointment, no bears materialised, but I spotted a Black-tailed Deer (lifer) from the car. We were beginning to despair of ever seeing a bear as we headed back to town for some lunch. Lo and behold, on the opposite bank of the Somass River where we had parked for chow at the Clam Bucket, Tim spotted a Black Bear! At the very last instance, God delivered the package and I was most thankful.

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) found on a roadside bush.

We opted to cook a pasta dish from ingredients found in Wolf's House, also known as the Tsunami Backpackers in Port Alberni where we stayed for two nights. The greenish-red Russian tomatoes, zucchini and spicy green chilli were fresh from his garden. Tim was reluctant to cook at first, preferring to walk almost 2km to town for dinner. I refused to budge from the house as I could not bear to face the cold stroll. In the end, he buckled and stole the kitchen from moi. Turned out that he voted this meal his best!

The next morning, we ate a hearty breakfast of mash, ham, toast and eggs with hot sauce before embarking on our day-long Alberni Inlet cruise. This greasy breakfast was at a restaurant just by the pier and is typical of huge Canadian portions. The comparitively tiny burger (in front) was enough for me, downed with hot coffee.

Logs being floated downriver was a common sight all along the otherwise peaceful inlet. Quite a heart-breaking scene, but if they were logging just 1/2 to 1/3 of the standing trees, as per the situation in Algonquin, then it is still better than the case in SEAsia where entire tracts of lowland primary or secondary forest morph from green to brown at the drop of a hat, to create more and more oil palm plantations for the food and biodiesel industries.

The Captain of the MV Barkley Sound was kind enough to entertain us. He showed us how navigation up the inlet was entirely via computerised GPS. The captain's wheel is hardly used anymore. From his elevated perch, he also helped look out for any wildlife, but throughout the journey, there were none special enough to stop the boat for.

Gulls mobbing a California Sea Lion which had caught a fish (possibly salmon). On the return leg, we witnessed lots of these noisy birds hovering above the little pods of sealions, hoping to snatch a free meal.

Tim was persistent in photographing the monotonous wildlife that churned around us, enduring the howl of the chilly winds. We took turns alternately wielding the camera or warming up indoors. The whole boat was excited when the first sealion was spotted, but soon grew bored when it was more of the same throughout our 8-hour cruise. Here, a pair of California Sea Lions came relatively close. Often, visitors mistake these for dophins, especially when seen from afar.

At the tiny town of Bamfield, we were given 45 minutes to stretch our legs onshore. Here, I found out that there are six species of Pacific salmon that inhabit these waters (Sockeye is missing from the list). Most salmon return to their natal rivers to spawn when they are around 3 to 5 years old. Jacks are an uncommon group of yearling Chinook that mature rapidly and can spawn when they are just one year old. As such, Jacks are half the size of full adults. As the anadromous salmon swim upstream, they stop feeding and their flesh turn from a fatty orange to a mushy white (regarded unsuitable for human consumption). Outwardly, they change from silver to red to black. All Pacific salmon die soon after spawning.

Autumn in this part of Canada is devoid of red, as the Southwest corner of British Columbia is dominated by Bigleaf (Broadleaf) Maple, which turns yellow and then brown when winter approaches. Its leaves are huge, ranging from 15 to 30 cm across, bigger than our faces! The region's temperate rainforest biome (rainfall exceeding 250cm/year) is rare in the world, making up just 0.02% of the earth's terrestial surface. The other half of this forest comprise evergreen conifers such as Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Amabilis Fir, Yellow Cedar, Sitka Spruce and Red Alder.

Dungeness Crab (Metacarcinus magister). Magister means master crab. It is an edible crustacean that is common in the West Coast, from Alaska to California. We drew a blank when we enquired on a diner that served it. We tried the Clam Bucket, but sorry, no crab for dinner. Photographed this at a fresh seafood store.

Back on Vancouver Island, the streets were lined with planted Red Maple, and Tim here has a strip of smoked salmon that he devoured with glee.

At the Clam Bucket restaurant, we ordered Maple Salmon and a bucket of Clams & Mussels. My salmon slab was marinated in maple syrup. Instead of tasting strange, it was actually succulent and not overly sweet. In comparison, the bucket of bivalves was too well buttered.

Wolf and I in his kitchen, just before I dashed off for the day. Wolf is a very interesting character - he worked in Palawan (The Philippines) for 13 years as a dive instructor and has held outdoor jobs all over Asia. He is able to count in Cantonese (at least from 1 to 10), and walks around in shorts and bare top when I was shivering under three layers of clothing. He also offers canoeing at the Somass River (just outside his house).

Shirley, Wesley Bricks and us in Shirley's cat kingdom - notice the big kitty that Tim is stroking. Shirley had four of these cats. We contacted Wesley through Birding Pal, and he said that we were the first overseas birders who had ever got in touch this way! Shirley's garden yielded two lifers for us - the American Goldfinch and House Finch.

Spotted Towhee pecking on sunflower seeds growing in Shirley's backyard.

Wesley then drove us to the Robertson Creek Hatchery which specializes in breeding and rearing Chinook and Coho salmon, as well as Steelhead Trout (another saltwater salmon species). The Rainbow Trout is the freshwater cousin of the Steelhead that never migrates to the sea. After some seven months of fertilization/incubation, the smolts (tiny fishes) are released down the Somass River for their return journey to the sea where they grow to full adult size. The hatchery produces 8 million chinook smolts, 1 million coho smolts and 180,000 steelhead smolts each year. Only a tiny percentage make it to adulthood: an estimate of 150,000 Chinook, 100,000 Coho and 10,000 Steelhead adults are produced each year for the fisheries in the region. We watched in certain horror as the workers thrashed the blacken salmon with their baseball bats, milked them for their milt/eggs, and left them to die in a bloody tank.

Coho salmon that had already turned from a silvery to a black exterior. At this point, its meat is deemed unpalatable to humans, described as white and mushy, and fit only for the pet food and fertilizer markets.

Salmons thrashing around in the long sink as they were being sorted and clubbed together with other similar-sized breathen.

The aftermath of the clubbing session. Really disgusting to see fish still attempting to swim in their own blood.

Wesley's cosy loghouse which he designed and hand-built himself over a period of five years, working on it every weekend. Utterly impressive! We especially adored his open air sun-lit attic which he uses as an art studio for hobby painting. Tomatoes and other plants drape the staircases. He maintains a thick grove of trees around his property. As such, being in the attic was like being amongst the birds at the tree top level. His house is so admired that he has become a part-time architect and builder, with friends asking him to design-and-build their homes too. He is a retired science teacher.

Orange and red maples planted in a neat row at Port Alberni.

The Somass River runs along River Road where we stayed. The Clam Bucket (restaurant) is on the town end of River Road. We finally saw our Black Bear on the opposite bank of this river while parked just outside the restaurant. Wolf told us that a female bear walks through his garden every night after midnight (he finds evidence of her visit in the morning) - I was intrigued yet spooked by this knowledge. As a precaution, I shone my torch at every shadow in his garden when we returned back at dusk (we had to walk through part of the garden as the door was around at the back), intent on exposing any hidden bear, and praying that there would be none, not at such close range anyway. Wolf also said that he regularly sees bears on the opposite bank of the river too, especially at low tide.

Finally, the sight of a foraging Black Bear at the last possible instance saved the day and made us all very happy.

Wesley said that this bear is likely a to be a juvenile male.

On our last full day in Vancouver , we spent the morning birding Stanley Park , a mixed forested / manicured park that offered views of the Vancouver waterfront, garnering only two lifers: Red-breasted Sapsucker and American Coot. I toured the Vancouver Aquarium alone while Tim made his way to the University of British Columbia to lunch with his ex-colleagues. The Aquarium held many fascinating marine / amphibian life: Beluga, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Sea Otter, swimming (not burrowing) Caecilians, Poison Arrow frogs, the neotenic mole salamander Axolotl etc. We then rendezvous at Granville Island where we saturated our senses with the array of fresh produce, hams, and seafood on sale at its Public Market, and succumbed to nibbling quiche, wild rice salads, blueberry pie and an assortment of delectable delights at its food court.
Double-crested Cormorants, sunning themselves at Stanley Park in Vancouver City.

The curious looking Axolotl, a neotenic mole salamander. I love its pink external gills and its albinistic bare skin. Saw this at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Juvnile beluga with gull. I was pleased to see white belugas swimming around in a relatively big pool.

My favourite animal at the Vancouver Aquarium - the charming Sea Otter. This fella was feasting on shelled shellfish, using his belly as a 'table', as its wild counterparts do. The Sea Otter is famous for its ability to use rocks to dislodge and open shells, making it one of the few mammals to use tools. It is the heaviest member of the weasel family but one of the smallest marine mammals around. It keeps warm by having the densest coat of fur in the animal kingdom.
All in all, Canada, as the world's second largest country with a relative tiny population of 33.8 million, was a good introduction to birding North Amerca. It offered plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities and pretty landforms, leaving us with tonnes of indelible memories.

Canada Bird List 27 Sep to 18 Oct 2009 (East & West Coast)
By Gloria Seow

Places Birded
1. Algonquin Provincial Park APP - 300km approximately north of Toronto.
2. Toronto environs + High Park THP - around Toronto
3. Long Point LP - 200km approximately southeast of Toronto,
4. Hamilton / Cootes Paradise + Dundas Valley HCP - 75km approximately west of Toronto
5. Vancouver Island VI - covering Tofino, Nanaimo & Port Alberni
6. Vancouver Stanley Park VSP - this is the city's green lungs, 1/2 hr ride from downtown Vancouver.

Sequence below follows:
Number, Name, Scientific Name, Location & Remarks

Canada Goose L1
Branta canadensis 76-109cm
First saw it in a huge flock grazing on trimmed grass like cows, while driving to Algonquin. Common in flocks all over rural Canada. Had excellent views of them at one of Long Point's secluded coves.
Tundra Swan L2
Cygnus columbianus 132cm
Saw 2 swans flying in the distance at Cootes Paradise. Similar to Bewick's Swan I've seen in Japan, now this race has been spilt into a full species.
Wood Duck L3
Aix sponsa 47cm
In High Park - saw only 3 females huddled together in the pond. Blue Jays were flying and nosiy all above us.
Anas platyrhynchos 58cm
Swimming in small flocks, mixed with American Black Duck in APP. Saw a hybrid American Black Duck x Mallard with deep blue speculum. Huddled in a row on a log in Stanley Park.
American Black Duck L4
Anas rubripes 58cm
Calmly swimming amongst canoeist at Rock Lake inAPP. Violet speculum bordered in black shows very well and is visually stunning.
Canvasback L5
Aythya valisineria 53cm
Fly-by views.
White-winged Scoter L6
Melanitta fusca 53cm
Saw it on the ferry to Nanaimo.
Common Merganser
Mergus merganser 64cm
Swimming in small groups of 3-5 birds at Somass River.
Red-breasted Merganser
Mergus serrator 58cm
Swimming in small groups of 3-5 birds at Somass River.
California Quail L7
Callipepla californica 25cm
Unbelivably, saw two female quails foraging by the roadside while passing by in the bus, from Nanaimo towards Tofino. They ran into the bush when the bus came closer. National Geographic field guide said they are common, even in the suburbs.
Pacific Loon L8
Gavia pacifica 66cm
While out whale watching in Tofino, we saw scattered individuals floating out in the sea, near the whales.
Common Loon L9
Gavia immer 81cm
First flushed an adult still in breeding plumage in APP, near our Eco-Lodge. Saw one fishing at MacKenzie Beach in Tofino - Tim photographed it.
Leach's Storm-Petrel L10
Oceanodroma leucorhoa 20cm
Ferry to Nanaimo. Fly-by views
Double-crested Cormorant L11
Phalacrocorax auritus 81cm
Common along the coasts. Good views in Stanley Park.
Green Heron L12
Butorides virescens 46cm
Only saw one juvenile perching in pond next to Cemetery, spotted by Tim.
Great Blue Heron L13
Ardea herodias 117cm
First spotted it while canoeing in Algonquin. Biggest bird around. Fairly common along coasts in VI, same niche as Grey Heron.
Turkey Vulture L14
Cathartes aura 69cm
Some volunteers at the bird ringing station in Long Point (Old Cut Road) pointed out my first Turkey Vulture. Later in the day, just outside our motel, we counted 30 of these raptors swirling just above. Quite spectacular. Fairly common aruond LP. Turkey Vultures are the only vultures in the world that uses smell to locate carrion. All others use sight. As a result, they are always first to arrive. Being the smallest of the lot, that is advantageous. New World vultures are more closely related to storks than to true raptors.
Northern Harrier
Circus cyaneus 41-51cm
Vancouver airport
Quatering flight next to my plane just before take off.
Bald Eagle L15
Haliaeetus leucocephalus 79-94cm
Truly majestic creature. Love its massive bill. First saw it at LP catching a duck or fish? Then many good views at VI, at jetty when we went whale watching. Fills the niche of Singapore's White-bellied Fish Eagle. As common too.
Sharp-shinned Hawk L16
Accipiter striatus 25-36cm
Saw it perched on a tree in a garden at Wolf's house, Tsunami Backpacker, where we stayed in.
Red-tailed Hawk L17
Buteo jamaicensis 56cm
First saw it while driving home from Long Point, on a roadside tree. Managed to stop the car and binocular it as it took flight. Red tail very prominent and easy to ID. Saw it again with Susan in Webster's Fall.
American Coot L18
Fulica americana 39cm
Views from 2m away at Stanley Park. Both juv and adults.
Black Oystercatcher L19
Haematopus bachmani 45cm
Saw 3 birds flying by in Tofino, while we were standing on the main jetty. Plenty of ducks flew by too with acceptable views, but were impossible to ID coz unfortunately, they largely look the same to me, versus the distinctive plumage of the oystercatcher. Also, I'm not familiar with Canadian ducks.
Solitary Sandpiper L20
Tringa solitaria 22cm
Tim spotted it standing in a river that flowed below the main road in and out of Dundas. Supposed to be fairly common in Canada.
Ring-billed Gull L21
Larus delawarensis 45cm
All Coasts
Most abundant gull encountered, everywhere near the sea. Tame and approachable. The one in Niagara Falls was 20cm from me.
California Gull L22
Larus californicus 53cm
Saw it on the cruise in the Alberni Inlet on the MV Frances Barkley.
Herring Gull
Larus argentatus 64cm
Vancouver City
Fairly common on the coast in Vancouver. Sightings in Stanley Park, Granville Island, Canada Place.
Western Gull L23
Larus occidentalis 64cm
Saw it on the cruise in the Alberni Inlet on the MV Frances Barkley.
Glaucous-winged Gull
Larus glaucescens 66cm
Cruise to Nanaimo.
Common Murre L24
Uria aalge 45cm
Saw it in flight on the ferry to Nanaimo. Braved the super cold winds out at sea. But at least saw 2 lifers on this ferry. Only one birding in 0 degrees temperature. Even Tim ducked indoors.
Marbled Murrelet L25
Brachyamphus marmoratus 25cm
A few floating offshore when we went whale watching.
Rock Pigeon
Columba livia 32cm
All over
Common in cities etc.
Mourning Dove L26
Zenaida macroura 31cm
Quite common at LP, perching on roadside wires.
Common Nighthawk L27
Chordeiles minor 24cm
Saw it flying around as the sunset, on our first evening in LP when birding at the pathways next to Bird Studies Canada.
Belted Kingfisher L28
Ceryle alcyon 33cm
About 2-3 birds fishing around the main jetty (street 1) in Tofino. This was after disembarking from our 2 person water taxi (C$30 per pax to ride that Taxi) to the giant Cedar trees on Meare's Island. Things are super expensive in Canada.
Northern Flicker L29
Calaptes auratus 32cm
Encountered it often at Long Point. Big and beatiful. We liked it a lot.
Red-breasted Sapsucker L30
Sphyrapicus ruber 22cm
Our best bird at Stanley Park. Only saw it for 3 seconds when it landed in typical vertical woodpecker fashion.
Downy Woodpecker L31
Picoides pubescens 17cm
A few sightings in Algonquin near our lodge.
Hairy Woodpecker L32
Picoides villosus 24cm
Close-up views at 3m. Flies to near the bottom of trunk (say 50cm above ground), and pecks it way upwards slowly. We had nearly 20minutes photographing it under such easy conditions.
Eastern Wood-Pewee L33
Contopus virens 16cm
My first Tyrant Flycatcher. Saw it behaving in typical flycatcher fashion at Cootes Paradise, with its sallying perch on a dead stump next to a pond.
Alder Flycatcher L34
Empidonax alnorum 15cm
Empidonax Flycatcher, also had reasonable view in Cootes.
Eastern Phoebe L35
Sayornis phoebe 18cm
One bird seen.
Blue Jay L36
Cyanocitta cristat 28cm
Very noisy at High Park near Toronto, sounded quite like gulls. Large numbers (around 30 birds or so) sallying back and forth. We think that they were gathering in flocks before migrating south. Saw one eating something on the ground. Common in Long Point and Hamilton. Really beautiful blue. In ROM, they had a stuffed birds gallery, and kids could easily identify the Blue Jay (which is also the name of a famous baseball team).
Stellar's Jay L37
Cyanocitta stelleri 29cm
The Stellar's Jay has an intense blue that is riveting. First saw one at a bird feeder in Tofino, near the coast. Many close range sightings at Meare's Island's old growth forest.
Amercian Crow L38
Corvus brachyrhynchos 45cm
THP, Vancouver
Common in cities. Intelligent creatures. We saw them plucking mussels stuck on rocks at Stanley Park, flying upwards, and dropping the mussels from about 10m high to crack the shell.
Northwestern Crow L39
Corvus caurinus 41cm
Was alerted by Wesley that the crow we were seeing in Tofino and Port Alberni was mostly this new species. According to the National Geographic Field Guide, it only inhabits northwestern coastal areas where it is a common scavenger. Attracted a small flock of these when we ate our lunch outdoors.
Common Raven L40
Corvus corax 61cm
Saw a few.
Purple Martin L41
Progne subis 20cm
Niagara Falls
Some birds were sallying around, by the roadside running along the falls. All dark plumage nailed ID.
Black-capped Chickadee L42
Poecile atricapillus 13cm
One of the most common birds in forests. Small and cute.
Boreal chickadee L43
Poecile hudsonicus 14cm
Only saw it in APP, near our lodge.
Brown Creeper L44
Certhia americana 13cm
Two separate birds creeping up the trees just outside the bird ringing trailer. Some local birders were with us. Surprised that they mostly carried Bushnells. Their first time receiving guests from Singapore.
White-breasted Nuthatch L45
Sitta carolinensis 15cm
Had good but brief views of one bird while walking along the road towards Dundas, surrounded by scrubby forest on both sides.
Red-breasted Nuthatch L46
Sitta Canadensis 11cm
One bird mixed amongst the Brown Creepers. Pointed out by local birders.
House Wren L47
Troglodytes aedon 12cm
One bird perched briefly on a fallen log at Cootes. I always love the uplifted perky tail of wrens.
Golden-crowned Kinglet L48
Regulus satrapa 10cm
Common in forests and scrub. Very small and noisy, moves in small flocks, sometimes high up in trees. First had poor views at High Park. Later at Long Point, we had point blank views at eye level.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet L49
Regulus calendula 11cm
First saw it in the bird ringer's hands! Really tiny and pretty with its ruby crown. It gave off a small 'cheep' and everyone present went 'Awwww, so cute!'. Later saw it outdoors in the forest just outside and on the spit itself. Less common than Golden-crowned.
Swainson's Thrush L50
Catharus ustulatus 18cm
Just one bird by the scrub on the side of the road. Appeared briefly only. Luckily, I didn't brush it aside as yet another American Robin because it is quite a lot smaller.
Hermit Thrush L51
Catharu guttatus 17cm
Good views of one bird in a tree, by the side of the road when we stopped to bird at a scrubby / grassy patch.
Varied Thrush L52
Ixoreus naevius 24cm
Wesley was driving around slowly in the slight drizzle. I found a small flock of 5 birds foraging on the grassy ground. Good views. Later on, we saw it around Port Alberni, quite common. Was delighted to see it, very pretty blue and orange plumage.
American Robin L53
Turdus migratorius 25cm
Common but arresting bird that dominates the bush country.
Gray Catbird L54
Dumetella carolinensis 22cm
Saw two birds at close range furtively flying one low bush to another, just by the coast where we first saw the Bald Eagle catching a duck. Later on, had sterling views of a perched bold individual that allowed approach up to 2m.
European Starling L55
Sturnus vulgaris 22cm
Cities, Countryside
Common invader introduced in NY in 1890-91. But still pretty with iridescent black plumage. Found everywhere. First saw it while waiting for Traver to arrive at the North York's Finsh station's round pickup point.
Cedar Waxwing L56
Bombycilla cedrorum 18cm
Tim spotted the first bird at Long Point (trail outside Bird Studies Canada), I was so happy - my first waxwing, after trying for the Bohemian WW in Japan. Later on, it turned out to be fairly common, with juveniles seen. Up to 5 birds seen perched together in a tree.
Yellow-rumped Warbler L57
Dendroica coronata 14cm
One of our first lifers. Initial sighting on the first morning birding at the island next to our lodge. Hardly any other birds around at APP at that early hour. Also, most birds had probably migrated south. Later on, while canoeing, we encountered 2-5 birds foraging by the lakeside bush. Tim photographed one of them.
Black-and-white Warbler L58
Mniotilta varia 13cm
One birdie appeared just for me at the trees outside the bird ringing station. Confirmed ID with a local birder.
Scarlet Tanager L59
Piranga olivacea 18cm
Brief views at the grassy area near Bird Studies Canada.
Eastern Towhee L60
Pipilo erythrophthalmus 19cm
Only saw one bird, can't remember much.
Spotted Towhee L61
Pipilo maculatus 19cm
First saw it at Nanaimo, outside the bus station where we had 2 hours to catch lunch before our onward bus to Tofino. An adult and juvenile, with the adult calling and flicking its tail while perched on a branch for several minutes. Quite common in VI. Also saw it at Shirley's garden in Port Alberni.
Field Sparrow L62
Spizella pusilla 15cm
Dundas Valley
Chipping Sparrow L63
Spizella passerina 14cm
Dundas Valley
Fox Sparrow L64
Passerella iliaca 18cm
Very dark plumage. Saw it at Bamfield, when the MV Frances Barkley berthed to unload and upload goods. Also saw a Bald Eagle soaring just above us here.
Savannah Sparrow L65
Passerculus sandwichensis 14cm
Easiest of the sparrows to ID because of its yellow lores and supercilium.
Lincoln's Sparrow L66
Melospiza lincolnii 15cm
Long Point
Song Sparrow L67
Melospiza melodia 13-17cm
At Tofino
Swamp Sparrow L68
Melospiza georgiana 15cm
Long Point
White-throated Sparrow L69
Zonotrichia albicollis 17cm
Long Point
White-crowned Sparrow L70
Zonotrichia leucophrys 18cm
Saw it at someone's feeder while walking with luggage in tow from bus station to Wolf's house.
Golden-crowned Sparrow L71
Zonotrichia atricapilla 18cm
Saw it at the same feeder as the White-crowned Sparrow, while walking with luggage in tow from bus station to Wolf's house.
Dark-eyed Junco L72
Junco hyemalis 16cm
Feasting on Shirley's giant sunflower garden - her so called 'feeder'.
Northern Cardinal L73
Cardinalis cardinalis 22cm
An unforgettable N American bird, redder than red. Quite common as it calls repeatedly while sitting hidden in a bush.
Red-winged Blackbird L74
Agelaius phoeniceus 22cm
Small flocks flying in the fields outside Bird Studies Canada.Good views when perched.
Common Grackle L75
Quiscalus quiscula 32cm
Saw it as we left Old Cut Road. High in a tree
Brewer's Blackbird L76
Euphagus cyanocephalus 23cm
Saw a flock from the bus to Nanaimo. Didn't encounter it at all in Tofino.
Purple Finch L77
Carpodacus purpureus 15cm
Brief views on our first morn in Algonquin.
House Finch L78
Carpodacus mexicanus 15cm
First glimpse was at Shirley's garden with about 2-3 birds snacking on sunflower seeds. Beautiful red forehead and chest.
American Goldfinch L79
Carduelis tristis 13cm
Shirley and Wesley were surprised to see two visiting Shirley's garden so late in the autumn.
House Sparrow
Passer domesticus 16cm
Cities, Countryside
Common in the cities
Black Bear
Ursus americanus
Port Alberni
Alces alces
White-tailed Deer
Odocoileus virginianus
Black-tailed Deer
Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
Robertson Creek
Castor canadensis
Mustela vison
North American Opossum (roadkill)
Didelphis virginiana
Grey Whale
Eschrichtius robustus
Humpback Whale
Megaptera novaeangliae
Stellar Sea Lion
Eumetopias jubatus
California Sea Lion
Zalophus californianus
Port Alberni
Habour/Common Seal
Phoca vitulina
Nanaimo & Tofino
Eastern Grey Squirrel
Sciurus carolinensis
Eastern Chipmunk
Tamias striatus
Least Chipmunk
Tamias minimus
Procyon lotor
Hamilton, LP & Tofino

Mink Frog
Rana septentrionalis
Northern Green Frog
Rana clamitans melanota
American Toad
Bufo americanus
APP & Cootes

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