Monday, 11 July 2011

Birding the Rainforest with "Just Birding"

Well, temperate rainforest at least!  While out on Vancouver Island last week, I joined George Bradd of Tofino's "Just Birding" for a morning of guided birding in the Pacific Rim National Forest.  While the conditions were a little challenging at times, with fairly high winds keeping birds buried in the dense undergrowth, it was an educational and productive experience.

With two other birders, we started out at the Tofino mudflats.  In the spring, this is the location of mass gatherings of migratory peeps, particularly Western Sandpipers and Dunlin.  As it was midsummer, things were a little quieter but we did see Western Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Whimbrel.  A mixed flock of Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets made their way through the treetops along the water's edge and a Belted Kingfisher dove into the water, making a successful catch.
Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Poecile rufescens
After checking out a small flock of Eurasian Collared Doves in the parking lot, we moved in to the Pacific Rim National Park.  We spent the remainder of the morning's birding on the South Beach Trail at Wickaninnish Beach (map here - trail is at #4).  In the parking lot we heard Fox and Song Sparrows and just a short distance further along, a Swainson's Thrush, which made a brief appearance in the middle of the trail before returning to the shubbery.  We also took some time near the parking lot to scan the ocean through our scopes, picking up Surf Scoters, Pelagic Cormorant, and most excitingly, a pair of Red-throated Loons diving under the heavy swell.

Through a combination of patience and pishing, George skillfully located all three species of breeding warbler in the park - Townsend's, Orange-crowned, and Wilson's.  Orange-crowned was a lifer for me and these were by far the best views I've ever had of the stunning Townsend's.  In fact, I was so captivated with the binocular and scope views that I only got my camera out for the Wilson's!
Wilson's Warbler, Wilsonia pusilla
We finished up at the end of the trail on South Beach, where there was a large flock of Glaucous-winged Gulls and a dozen or so Pelagic Cormorants sheltering from the wind on a rocky outcrop.  In the forest behind us were more chickadees and a flock of Red Crossbills moving through the treetops.
Red Crossbill, Loxia curvirostra, female - digiscoped
We spent a fair amount of time enjoying the beach and watching a Bald Eagle flush all of the gulls off the rock - the eagle isn't visible in the photo below but the gulls' reaction is!  According to our guide, last year the pair of nesting eagles in the bay had eaten every gull chick off the entire colony.

Brandt's Cormorant made a fly past appearance and there were more scoters as well as some Pigeon Guillemots.  This picture was taken on a boat trip the previous day but it seemed worth including here.
Pigeon Guillemots, Cepphus columba
To finish off a great day of birding a Black Oystercatcher flew into the bay and started making short work of the mussels along the water's edge.  I captured the video below through my scope, so I apologize for the shaky image!

Thanks to George and Just Birding for an informative morning of birding - we saw about 30 species but more importantly I learned a lot about all of them.  The tour was well worth the price and I recommend it to anyone who is fortunate enough to have a chance to bird the Pacific Rim National Park.

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