Vancouver Island ~ Limosa Holidays. September 11 to 21, 2018.

Day 1    I met three members of the group at the arrivals hall of Vancouver International Airport this evening. We made the short journey to our hotel in Richmond, where we met Tony and Eva, who had already been exploring Vancouver for about a week.

Day 2    At 8 AM we left our hotel and headed to Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty, where we made our first official birding stop of the tour. It was quite a productive stop in fact, and we

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Glaucous-winged Gull. Vancouver, BC. Sept 12, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

had some great birds like Black Oystercatcher, Caspian Tern, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Northern Pintail, Pelagic Cormorant and several other species. We boarded the BC Ferry vessel at Tsawwassen and we departed for Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island at 10 AM. It was quite a nice day to be out on the Salish Sea, with calm waters, no rain and relatively little wind. There were few birds though. Some of the highlights included Glaucous-winged Gulls, California Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, Surf Scoters, and a distant adult Parasitic Jaeger chasing after some gulls. Cyndy spotted some Black Turnstones that disappeared into the rocks before anyone else could see them. On the crossing we saw three mammals, Harbour Porpoise and Harbour Seal, and a buck Mule Deer on the shore of Galiano Island as we passed by.

We arrived on Vancouver Island at 11:45 AM sharp, and headed over to the Victoria

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Bewick’s Wren. Victoria, BC. Sep 12, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

International Airport, at the end of Canora Road, to look for some open country species. In the hedges at the little cemetery there we saw several White-crowned Sparrows, with both adult and immature birds present. A Lincoln’s Sparrow sat atop the hedge for a moment before flying off, and a Bewick’s Wren showed quite well. Star of the show perhaps was a male Anna’s Hummingbird who put on a nice show for us. Overhead, we spotted some Turkey Vultures, a Red-tailed Hawk and an American Kestrel, as well as a somewhat distant Peregrine Falcon. Cyndy spotted some Eurasian Skylarks here, a species found in North America only on southern Vancouver Island in the Victoria area.

We had lunch at Smitty’s in Sidney and then carried on south to Swan Lake Nature Reserve. At this point in the day it was quite pleasant with sunny skies and warm temperatures. Down at Swan Lake we scoped the slimy waters and found a nice selection of birds including Pied-billed Grebe, a stripy headed juvenile, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail and American Wigeon. A group of half a dozen Pectoral Sandpipers flew about the shore as though they were looking for

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Pectoral Sandpipers. Swan Lake, Victoria, BC. Sep 12, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

somewhere to land. Unfortunately for them, there was no shore to land on. In the rather lush vegetation surrounding the lake we had some very nice birds this afternoon, and most of them we obtained good views of. There were a couple of male Downy Woodpeckers, the smallest woodpeckers on the continent, foraging amongst the Garry Oak trees. Chestnut-backed Chickadees, the only chickadee species found on Vancouver Island, were foraging as well and we saw a couple of tiny Golden-crowned Kinglets. Another Lincoln’s Sparrow popped up just long enough for a quite view, and more Bewick’s Wrens kept popping out of the bushes. Anna’s Hummingbirds were very numerous here as well, and we tallied over a dozen of them at Swan Lake. A Pacific-slope Flycatcher hopped about giving most of us at least reasonable views of it. Attractive Spotted Towhees lurked in the bushes, occasionally coming out to show themselves off, as they should! It was also very nice to get a view of a Marsh Wren as it poked about in a bundle of cattail fluff. New for the mammal list here was the invasive Eastern Gray Squirrel, perhaps not the most loved of North American exports to the U.K.

The day was getting on so we headed for Victoria where we checked into our hotel along the harbour. We had a very good dinner on the harbour at Belleville’s.

Day 3    Our first stop this morning was at Clover Point, a rocky headland that juts out into the Salish Sea at the south end of Vancouver Island. It was overcast, breezy and cool this morning, and we found ourselves suddenly looking for warm hats and jackets. A

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Heermann’s Gull. Clover Point, Victoria, BC. Sep 13, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

lovely assortment of Black Oystercatchers and Harlequin Ducks greeted us along the shore at Clover Point. Also there, several gull species including the rather attractive Heermann’s Gull. We also had nice views of some of the more common species of gull here such as California Gull and Glaucous-winged Gull. Scanning out to sea we had somewhat distant views of Rhinoceros Auklets and Pigeon Guillemot, as well as Pelagic Cormorants, Mew Gulls, and Surf Scoters. One or two Savannah Sparrows briefly appeared on the rocky shore as well.

We headed for the somewhat sheltered portions of Beacon Hill Park. At first it appeared rather quiet in the park with just a few Mallards on one pond and a few Eastern Gray Squirrels hopping about on the grass. Things suddenly began looking up however, when we encountered a nice little flock of Chestnut-backed Chickadees in the trees. Mixed in with them were Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and quite  few Orange-crowned Warblers. A Pacific-slope Flycatcher appeared briefly, and we had nice views of a female Downy Woodpecker. A large, lanky Great Blue Heron

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Black Turnstone. Ogden Point, Victoria, BC. Sep 13, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

looked a bit out of place high up in a fir tree next to the pond. A couple of Dark-eyed Juncos made their cameo appearances, along with Song Sparrow, Anna’s Hummingbird and Bewick’s Wren. On the ponds we sorted through the Mallards and found American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler and Green-winged Teal.

A much needed coffee break was taken before we walked out to the end of the Ogden Point Breakwater. Thankfully it was a little warmer now, and we when there were no birds to look at, there were two massive cruise ships pulled up nearby for our viewing entertainment. Best of all along the breakwater was a group of 20 or so Black Turnstones that were foraging on the rocks below us.

We had lunch in the Breakwater Café before heading west to Esquimalt Lagoon, via the Trans Canada Hwy. Along the way, we saw an Osprey flying over the water, presumably looking for its next meal. At the lagoon there were many gulls that included Glaucous-

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Black Oystercatcher. Esquimalt Lagoon, BC. Sep 13, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

winged, California, Mew and Heermann’s Gulls. A few shorebirds were present, including over a dozen Black Oystercatchers, 15 or so Western Sandpipers and 2 Least Sandpipers. Perhaps the best bird here, was a lovely adult Trumpeter Swan, with this particular bird having been present throughout the summer. Along the shoreline we saw a nice group of Brewer’s Blackbirds and they were joined by two juvenile Brown-headed Cowbirds. Out on the sea, we scanned with the scope, finding quite a few birds including Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklets, Horned and Red-necked Grebe, Surf Scoter and Double-crested Cormorant. We returned to Victoria and had a very nice dinner at Jonathan’s Restaurant.

Day 4    Today we traveled from Victoria to Tofino, a journey of over 300 km. Before we left the hotel, our first American Robin was tallied in a berry tree next to the van. The trek to the west side of the island was broken up by a few stops, the first of which was at

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American Dipper near Victoria, BC. Sep 14, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Goldstream Provincial Park. Soon after we arrived and disembarked from the van, we spotted an immature American Dipper frolicking in the stream. We strolled along the stream which meanders through a nice patch of old growth coastal rainforest with towering Western Red Cedars, Douglas Firs and Douglas Maples. It was quite a nice morning, with a mix of sun and cloud, so we made the best of it. Birds were quite active and some of the highlights here included a stunning Red-breasted Sapsucker, as well as a female Pileated Woodpecker, North America’s largest living woodpecker species. Our first ‘Sooty’ Fox Sparrows of the trip emerged from the vegetation as did a rather skulky little Pacific Wren. Diana and I had a short but good look at a male Black-throated Gray Warbler as it foraged in trees near the trail. Steller’s Jays, British Columbia’s official provincial bird, were quite evident here. One of the jays was giving a perfect Red-tailed Hawk imitation as it sat atop a tree stump. On the top of a distant conifer, a female Red Crossbill sat, and yet another highlight moment occurred when a female Belted Kingfisher came in and landed nearby for good scope views.

Our next stop was for coffee in Mill Bay, and then we had another very productive session of birding at Somenos Marsh in Duncan. We saw quite a few female Purple Finches here, and one nice rosy colored male. Common Yellowthroats played ‘peekaboo’ from within the grasses along the boardwalk and a Marsh Wren paused long enough for

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Steller’s Jay. Goldstream Prov. Park, Victoria, BC. Sep 14, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

scope views. Overhead, the sky seemed to be full of Violet-green Swallows and a few Barn Swallows. A Golden-crowned Sparrow sat atop a shrub, our first for the tour, while a Yellow Warbler hopped up into the sunlight at the top of a tree. A pair of Downy Woodpeckers were seen, and a Northern Flicker was heard. Some of us caught a glimpse of a Willow Flycatcher in the vegetation and overhead several flocks of Cedar Waxwings flew by, but refused to land. One immature bird did show in the scope at a distance briefly, so we put them on the list for the day.

As we made our way to Coombs, where we had lunch, the rain began to fall, and was quite heavy at times. We had lunch at the ‘Goats on the Roof’ market in Coombs and it was pretty good. After lunch we made a short pit stop in Port Alberni to fuel up the thirsty van, and then as we left town, I spotted an adult Bald Eagle sitting in a tall cedar tree along the river. The rest of the drive to Tofino was rather wet, but once we arrived at our accommodations on McKenzie Beach, we settled in and headed to the restaurant for a nice dinner.

Day 5    After a nice breakfast at our hotel, we spotted a few birds hopping about in the trees near the parking lot, including Orange-crowned, Yellow-rumped. Yellow and Townsend’s warblers, and Warbling Vireos. At our first stop, the Tofino Mudflats behind

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Gr. White-fronted and Cackling geese. Tofino, BC. Sep 15, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Jamie’s Inn, we enjoyed seeing a group of a dozen Greater White-fronted Geese along with one lone Cackling Goose, the latter of which was a new species for everyone on the trip, except me.  Around 30 Common Mergansers were seen at fairly close range as we arrived, but they quickly swam offshore and flew off. A group of Western Sandpipers flew past several times, but there were no other shorebirds to be seen here. This could be due to the fact that a Peregrine Falcon made a pass over the flats. Two Ospreys were a treat to see, and one of them had a fish in its grasp.

 

We checked the mudflats from the lookout at the end of Sharp Road next. We saw some Black-bellied Plovers, Great Blue Herons and a Belted Kingfisher here, as well as two rather obliging Hutton’s Vireos in the cedar overhead. The showstopper here though, was a rather large Black Bear that we watched through the scope for half an hour or so as it rambled through the grass along the shore. Occasionally the bear would flip a rather

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Rainforest near Tofino, BC. Sept 15, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

large boulder over and eat whatever it found underneath. It would be hard to top this sighting today!

Next, we visited the area at the south end of the Tofino Airport. The open, scrubby habitat here produced a number of sparrows such as Golden-crowned, White-crowned, ‘Sooty’ Fox, Song, Lincoln’s and Savannah sparrows! Certainly a highlight here were the Cedar Waxwings, as many of them were foraging in the trees not far from the road. We had our first tantalizing view of Northern Flicker, a bird the group really wants to see. Another group of geese flew overhead, this time containing 14 Greater White-fronted Geese and two Cackling Geese. A number of tiny Vaux’s Swifts, looking more like bats that birds as Cyndy noted, allowed us great views as the flew down low over the shrubs. We even saw two of the larger Black Swifts up in the sky this morning as well.

Wickaninnish Beach was our most productive area today. We scanned out over the Pacific from the viewing deck, spotting such gems as Red-throated and Pacific loons, Rhinoceros Auklet, Pigeon Guillemot, Common Murre, Brandt’s Cormorant, Surf Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, and quite a few distant Sooty Shearwaters. Folks were quite excited to see Common Loons in their rather stunning breeding plumage here today as well. On the beach, there were perhaps a couple of hundred silvery Sanderlings running about at the edge of the waves. Mixed in amongst them were a few Western Sandpipers.

Next on the agenda was lunch and we had that in Ucluelet at the Gray Whale Deli. When we walked out of the door of the restaurant I mentioned to watch for Bald Eagles. ‘Like

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View at Amphitrite Point, Ucluelet, BC. Sept 15, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

that one’, said Cyndy, as she pointed to an adult Bald Eagle perched on top of a cedar! We then headed for the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse. It was very scenic here, with the rugged west coast at its finest. Birds were few on the water, though there were scoters and cormorants flying by offshore. In the trees along the trails here we had some Golden-crowned Kinglets and a very inquisitive Hutton’s Vireo.

In Ucluelet, we visited the harbour, checking the area near a fish processing plant. A few fisherman were cleaning their catch, a nice looking halibut, and they threw some of the skin and bones into the water. A large Steller’s Sea-Lion was feasting on the scraps, as was a smaller Harbour Seal. Out on the rock jetty were a few dapper Black Turnstones, and we studied and interesting gull that was most likely a Herring X Glaucous-winged gull hybrid. Our second Bald Eagle of the day, another adult flew right overhead, and the cameras clicked.

We made another stop at Wickaninnish Beach, this time heading south from the visitor’s center towards what’s known as South Beach. A gentle rain fell, but stopped shortly after. A sign at the beginning of the trail warned of a bear in the area. We saw several large piles of scat as well. At South Beach, which is pebbly and covered in seaweed and driftwood, there were several Spotted Sandpipers, which, at this time of the year, have no spots. Also there were Least Sandpipers and a number of Savannah Sparrows foraging on the beach. Scanning the ocean one more time, produced more views of the same seabirds, though a nice group of Sooty Shearwaters came in fairly close. In the fir trees beside the parking lot, a group of Red Crossbills, with male, female and two immatures, were feeding in the cones. Just as we returned to Tofino the rain began to fall

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Clay-colored Sparrow. Tofino, BC. Sept 16, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

and continued, quite heavy into the night. We had a very nice meal in town at Schooner’s this evening.

Day 6    We had planned on going birding before breakfast this morning, but the weather did not permit it. After we had breakfast we took a stroll down to Mackenzie Beach to see what was about, and by then the rain had stopped and there was blue sky on the horizon. In the bushes before we got to the beach were Savannah Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows and Lincoln’s Sparrows. We found a locally rare Clay-colored Sparrow hopping about in the gardens of our hotel as well. Offshore rocks down at the beach had Brandt’s and Pelagic cormorants and an adult Greater White-fronted Goose. Bobbing on the ocean were Surf Scoter, Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe and a few Heermann’s Gulls.

We made our way to the dock to catch our 11 AM boat trip to see bears. The trip was full, with not a seat left and nearly everyone on board was from the U.K.! Eva and I and the two staff on the boat were the only Canadians. We steamed up into the inlet at a good pace, spotting a Bald Eagle on the way. Once we were in the area where the bears frequent, the skipper brought down the speed of the boat and the excitement was increasing amongst the passengers. A Black Bear was spotted and we headed towards

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Black Bear near Tofino, BC. Sept 16, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

him. He was quite large with a healthy, shiny black coat, and we was turning over large boulders with the mere swat of his paws. These bears are some of the largest in North America and that is because they are well fed on seafood. The skipper came down and asked if we’d be keen on chasing some Orcas that had been spotted nearby. Nobody complained about this and were no sooner speeding off, past salmon farms, around lushly vegetated islets and into the upper reaches of the inlet when we spotted the first spout. There were two Killer Whales here, a female and an old male, and these were of the rather fierce transient variety, famous for eating salmon, seal and sea lions. Soon, the whale took a deeper dive and we sat for a while wondering where it would pop up. With a sudden ‘whoosh’ of air, the large bull surfaced right next

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Orca near Tofino, BC. Sept 16, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

to our boat and did so several times! What an amazing and unforgettable sight. We then turned our attention back to Black Bears, finding a couple more large individuals foraging along the beaches.  We headed back towards Tofino, again spotting a majestic adult Bald Eagle watching over the harbour from its perch high in a massive cedar tree.

Back on dry land we visited the shop at Jamie’s and then headed for some lunch at the Rhino Café. After lunch we visited the local grocery store and then returned to our hotel and had a little time to explore the beach this lovely afternoon. We enjoyed dinner at our hotel and then hurried off for some much needed rest.

Day 7    Once again we met at the dock at Jamie’s, this time at 8 AM for a whale watching trip.  A bit of early morning fog quickly burned off and it ended up being a very nice day today. As we entered the lot at Jamie’s, two Raccoons sauntered across the road to the

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Steller’s Sea-Lions. Tofino, BC. Sept 17, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

edge of some blackberry bushes, looking as though they were up to no good. Once on the boat, the Chinook Princess we steamed around Vargas Island and back to Tofino. The journey took about 3 hours as we slowed down to view various types of wildlife along the way. There were Harbor Seals hauled up on the rocks, each one with a somewhat different pattern on its fur. Another rocky island was covered with Steller’s Sea-Lions, and a bull sat on an elevated perch and watched over his rather large harem. Cyndy and Diana spotted a Harbor Porpoise and the show stoppers were the Sea Otters. Several of these fluffy little balls of cuteness laid on their backs, wrapped in seaweed, and stared at us. In the bird department there were a lot of Pigeon Guillemots seen today, along with Rhinoceros Auklet, Common Murre and a couple of Marbled Murrelets. Surf Scoters were quite common, but we only saw one or two White-winged Scoters out there this morning. A few Red-necked Phalaropes fluttered past the boat, and we also saw some Black

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Bald Eagle. Tofino, BC. Sept 17, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Oystercatchers on the rocky islets. Up to three Bald Eagles were noted on the trip, with two adults and a darker immature bird tallied. Heermann’s Gulls showed themselves nicely and Tony and I saw an adult Western Gull sat next to a Glaucous-winged Gull for comparison. We had seen no whales today, but we were quite happy with what we had seen.

After lunch at Jamie’s Rainforest Inn, we checked out the mudflats quickly. There was not much action here as the tide was quite far out, though we did see Great Blue Herons and Greater White-fronted Geese. In the bushes next to the boardwalk were Common Yellowthroat, and Orange-crowned and Yellow warblers. Down at the Tofino Airport it was much quieter today than it had been a few days earlier. There were just a few Fox, Song, and White-crowned sparrows about today, as well as just one Cedar Waxwing. Two Northern Flickers showed quite well here however which was nice, and an American Kestrel flew overhead. At Long Beach the highlights were several Red

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Sea Otter. Tofino, BC. Sept 17, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Crossbills feeding on cones next to the parking lot, and a Merlin spotted soaring overhead by Cyndy.

Our final birding stop of the day was at Radar Hill. Here, we took in the stunning views of Clayoquot Sound and read the information at the Kap Yong War Memorial. Birds were few up here, though we did see a Townsend’s Warbler, a Hutton’s Vireo, Golden-crowned Kinglets, American Robin, Fox Sparrow and a nice Golden-crowned Sparrow. Common Raven flew by, croaking as it went along. This evening we had a very nice meal in Tofino at the Shelter.

Day 8    After breakfast we said farewell to Tofino and traveled south towards Ucluelet. Along the way we stopped in a Wickaninnish Beach to try one more time for the sought-after Wandering Tattler. We searched the rocks offshore and the pebble beach for the tattler, but he was hiding very well. Just as we were about to leave I spotted a tattler resting on some barnacle covered rocks. Farther out on the rocks were a couple of Black Turnstones and a Black Oystercatcher. A quick scan from the Kwisitis Visitor’s Center viewing deck was productive as we saw 4 Marbled Murrelets in a little group, as well as a group of Red-throated Loons bobbing up and down on the sea.

In Ucluelet, we made a short stop for coffee and then headed down to the community dock. We searched for Surfbird, which had been reported here, but couldn’t find it. We did, however, see our first Iceland Gulls of the tour. Steller’s Sea-Lion also played in the harbour this morning. It was a gorgeous sunny day for our drive across island, and we timed it just right to miss a section of road construction where the road would be closed for an hour. Phew!

In Port Alberni we had lunch and then made our way to Cathedral Grove. The towering trees here were very impressive. The Douglas Firs, Western Red Cedars and Western Hemlocks here can be over 800 years old. We didn’t see too many birds, other than Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Pacific Wrens, but that didn’t matter. We were here to see what a real old growth temperate rainforest is like.

Once at French Creek we visited the marina. There had been a special bird reported here, a Yellow-billed Loon. A bit of scanning turned up some Common Loons, Pacific Loons and eventually the Yellow-billed Loon as well. Four Greater Yellowlegs, the first of

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Greater Yellowlegs. British Columbia. Sept 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

their type we’d spotted, rested and fed on a sandbar at the estuary of French Creek. Also here were a few Killdeer. A Belted Kingfisher sat on a tree stump, that is until the cameras were aimed at it, and it was off like a shot. A Rhinoceros Auklet popped up right in front of us and a Pelagic Cormorant fed in the protected waters of the marina. A few Black Turnstones sat on the rocks at the edge of the breakwater.

Not far away, at the mouth of Englishman River, we scanned out to sea, spotting a nice surprise, an immature Ancient Murrelet. A flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls out over the sea were being chased by a Parasitic Jaeger, and then shortly thereafter by a Peregrine Falcon. Harlequin Ducks seen here, along with some nice Pacific Loons, Horned Grebes and Red-necked Grebes. Little was at the estuary, being it was high tide, though we did see some Green-winged Teal.

Soon we found ourselves in Nanaimo where we checked into our hotel, overlooking the harbour, and then we had a nice dinner, complete with a taste of Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake (for some).

Day 9    Our last morning on Vancouver Island was a beautiful one. It was sunny and warm as we walked along the west side of Buttertubs Marsh in Nanaimo. I say the west side, because we saw so many birds we never made it more than a quarter around the marsh loop. We were almost immediately inundated with ‘Audubon’s’, and ‘Myrtle’ Yellow-rumped Warblers, some Orange-crowned Warblers, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Bewick’s Wrens, White-crowned Sparrows and Spotted Towhees. We had our first Ruby-

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Locally rare immature Broad-winged Hawk. Buttertubs Marsh, Nanaimo, BC. Sept 19, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

crowned Kinglet flitting about here in the trees, and we also saw our first American Goldfinches, a flock of them, all in winter plumage. Downy Woodpeckers foraged on the limbs of the trees and some Purple Finches were a nice treat as well. A Virginia Rail called several times from the marsh but remained hidden in the reeds. On the lake were Ring-necked Ducks and Wood Duck, both new for the trip list, as well as Pied-billed Grebe which we had only seen once thus far, much earlier on in the trip. Our best find today was an immature Broad-winged Hawk that was sitting above us in the dead top of a tree next to the marsh. This species primarily migrates to the east of the Rocky Mountains and is quite rare on Vancouver Island, with most sightings being of birds migrating overhead.

We made our way to Duke Point where we caught the ferry at 12:45 PM to Tsawwassen. We saw little in the way of birds during the crossing, and there was a brief Orca sighting, as the captain of the ship announced its presence. It was a nice crossing anyhow, and we enjoyed lunch in the cafeteria.

Once back on the mainland we headed for Boundary Bay at 104th St. The tide was just reaching its highest point as we arrived and there was a large flock of 200 or so Black-bellied Plovers resting out on the tufts of grass. An American Golden-Plover was a good bird to pick up amongst the Black-bellieds. Down towards the pilings we saw quite a few Pectoral Sandpipers and some very nice Baird’s Sandpipers. Seen flying past us were Long-billed Dowitchers and a Semipalmated Plover. A single Greater Yellowlegs let out

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Golden-crowned Sparrow. Vancouver, BC. Sept 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

its call, a wild, plaintive ‘killy killy killy’ that rang out over the mudflats. This was just our second time on tour so far to see Ring-billed Gull, as several sat on grassy islets. Up to 200 Northern Pintail gathered on the mudflats as the tide was retreating. The bushes next to the dike were alive with White-crowned, Lincoln’s and Song sparrows, as well as our first Black-capped Chickadees and House Finch of the tour. American Pipits foraged along the shore, allowing scope views. The afternoon was getting on so we returned to the van and drove to our hotel in Richmond. Dinner at Boston Pizza was enjoyable.

Day 10    At 8 AM we left the hotel and made our way to the Iona Sewage Ponds, next door to Vancouver International Airport. Our first Northern Harrier of the tour, a nice female, flew past low over the mudflats on approach to Iona. We spent some time checking out the four inner ponds and one outer pond that make up the Iona Sewage

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Least Sandpiper. Iona Sewage Ponds, Richmond, BC. Sept 20, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Ponds. Shorebirds were not numerous but we did find our first Lesser Yellowlegs here, along with Spotted Sandpiper, a Long-billed Dowitcher, several Pectoral Sandpipers and a tame Least Sandpiper. Cyndy photographed a Greater Yellowlegs, our only one for the day. A Wilson’s Snipe was flushed from the shore, and gave its short raspy call as it flew off. Waterfowl on the pond included Northern Pintail, Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler and our first Gadwall of the tour. Quite a few sparrows were lurking in the bushes and along the side of the path. There were Song, Savannah, Lincoln’s, White-crowned and Golden-crowned sparrows here, as well as Spotted Towhees, House Finches, Common Yellowthroat and female Red-winged Blackbird. At one point, two Peregrine Falcons sailed in and progressed to hunt together, disappearing over the mudflats. On the outer pond we finally caught up with American Coots, and we saw more waterfowl including Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail and Mallards. The real highlight here was watching a pair of River Otters foraging at the edge of the reeds for several minutes.

Our next stop was at Queen Elizabeth Park, inside the city limits of Vancouver proper. We checked the big cedar trees for roosting owls with no luck, though we did find a few lingering migrants such as Wilson’s Warbler and Hermit Thrush. Another Gadwall, an attractive male, was on a small pond here amongst dozens of Mallards. We got our daily dose of Eastern Gray Squirrel here, as one of the black individuals bounded across the lawn.

We had lunch in Steveston at the Cimona Café and it was very nice. As we ate, a light rain began to fall outside. We checked more big cedar trees for owls at the Alaksen

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Sandhill Cranes. Westham Island, Ladner, BC. Sept 20, 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Wildlife Refuge headquarters and then checked an old barn for Barn Owls, with no luck at either spot. As a nice consolation prize we were entertained by 15 Sandhill Cranes in a field not far from the road. We opened the door of the van, and even though it was raining, we enjoying watching cranes in comfort. As we crossed over the Westham Island Bridge we saw two Mute Swans paddling along in a little canal, our only for the tour. Other birds seen on Westham Island included Eurasian Collared-Dove and Cooper’s Hawk.

As the tide was rising we were positioned along the dike at Boundary Bay at the foot of 96th Street and then we checked the foot of 88th St as well. There were many shorebirds here today, including upwards of 700 Black-bellied Plovers, an American Golden-Plover, over a hundred Sanderling, a hundred plus Western Sandpipers, dozens of Pectoral Sandpipers, 4 Killdeer, 4 Baird’s Sandpipers, a Dunlin, 4-5 Red Knot, and two lovely Marbled Godwits. Raptors were numerous around Boundary Bay this afternoon. There were Northern Harriers and Peregrine Falcons terrorizing the birds on the mudflats, as

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Northern Harrier. Vancouver, BC. Sept 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

well as an adult Bald Eagle perched on a telegraph pole right overhead. At one stop, near the railway tracks, we had a ‘raptorfest’ as Cyndy called it. First, a Bald Eagle was seen in a tall tree and we then spotted a Merlin in the next tree over. A moment later a Red-tailed Hawk came in and chased the Merlin off, which flew a short distance to a fencepost. On a fencepost behind the Merlin we spotted a lovely juvenile Northern Harrier. It was all very exciting and cameras clicked wildly from all corners of the van. My camera was in the back of course. Another of the better birds of the day, an American White Pelican was seen through the scope on the mudflats, and this is a fairly rare species for the Lower Mainland. Next to an old barn with some old farm equipment we found several birds scratching about on the ground, such as House Finches, White-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and Lincoln’s Sparrows. It began to rain harder as we returned to our hotel. We enjoyed our final dinner at a local steakhouse.

Day 11    It was our last morning of the tour and we began with breakfast at Cora. It had rained a lot overnight, but the showers cleared for us today, leaving just cloudy skies and

wood duck
Wood Duck. Reifel Refuge. Ladner, BC. Sept 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

cool temperatures. We visited the famous George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Ladner today, exploring trails, hides and the gift shop at the refuge headquarters. We bought a small package of bird seed as well to feed the birds. As we walked the trails folks held seed in the palm of their hands and cute little Black-capped Chickadees came in to feed in droves. Soon thereafter, a group of Red-winged Blackbirds arrived and decided they were going to feed from the hand as well. Some of the brave blackbirds even sat on the tour participant’s heads! Waterfowl were plentiful at Reifel and we saw stunning male Wood Ducks here, along with Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, Green-winged Teal and a lone Trumpeter Swan! Several American Coots were seen, and Diana pointed out a pair of coot feet, with nothing else attached, atop the viewing tower. Obviously some sort of raptor had enjoyed a coot meal. Along the pathways there were many sparrows that included the regular species like Golden-crowned, White-crowned, Fox, Song and Lincoln’s sparrows. Feeding on the wing were several species of swallows including Barn Swallow and Violet-green Swallow which we had already seen on the tour, and Purple Martin, Cliff Swallow and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, all of which were new for us. From the viewing tower we scanned the delta of the Fraser River, and I spotted one lonely Snow Goose out there. Northern Harriers sailed about the marsh, and a single Bald Eagle sat on a distant pole. Some

john
John with a Red-winged Blackbird. Reifel Refuge, Ladner, BC. Sept 2018. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

shorebirds were noted here today including both Greater and Lesser yellowlegs and good numbers of Long-billed Dowitchers. We encountered a group of 30 or more Bushtits that were foraging in the weeds and long grasses along the edge of the trail. Diana spotted a Mink running on the trail in front of us, the second one we’d seen on the tour. Our final new bird species for the list was an adult Black-crowned Night Heron that was snoozing in the trees near a pond.

Before we left Westham Island we checked out the trees at the entrance to the Alaksen Wildlife Refuge once more for owls. Unfortunately, the owls were not cooperating on this tour. We headed towards the airport and had a late lunch at Denny’s before I said goodbye to the group and wished them safe travels back to the U.K. We had tallied 149 species, a respectable total indeed.

 

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