2006 British Columbia

I'd just got my first DSLR and the 70 - 300mm Sigma lens was far from ideal for bird photography, so apologies for some mediocre photos!

26 July - 29 July


We arrived to find out our visit coincided with a huge, international fireworks display; even if we rather too knackered to full appreciate it.

Much of our time was spent in Stanley Park.  A very pleasant and convenient birding spot.  The birding appeared very hard work, but, compared to some other sites, it was probably easy by British Columbia, in August, standards!

This raccoon was something of a show off.

As well as many, introduced, grey squirrels, we also Douglas's squirrel.

Birds included:
Wilson's warblers
spotted towhee
white-crowned sparrow
American robin
north-western crow
Sadly all duck, such as this hooded merganser, were in eclipse plumage.
wood duck
This eight-spotted skimmer was superb.
29 July to 3 August

Manning Resort

A wonderful area. Although we did have a certain amount of stress: on the second day we spent most of the day sheltering from the rain - not easy when you're camping and the only place to shelter is a small visitor centre!  Things went from bad to worse when we got back to the tent to find it had collapsed! The inner tent was full of water and some sleeping bags were wet, as well as many clothes. Initially we just did not know what to do and went into a stated approaching panic.  We then hung the sleeping bags up in the car, put the heating on full blast and drove around.  This worked remarkable well so we repeated it with the inner tent.  We had been worried that we’d have to spend the night in the car but we still had concerns about the state of our tent and Canadian weather.

We arrived to the sight of lots of Columbian ground-squirrels.
Mule deer were fairly common.
Cascade golden-mantled ground squirrel is a species with a very restricted range.

Hoary marmot was very smart, but I never managed to get close to one.
I didn't do very well getting close to American pika either, but they were easily located by their high pitched call.

Several snow-shoe hairs were seen at dusk or night.

Birding was very hard work. Sadly I had the wrong lens on when I got superb views of one of two three-toed woodpeckers seen.  I did manage to photograph a few birds.
blue grouse
pine grosbeak
red-naped sapsucker

This juvenile yellow-rumped warbler confused me at first: it acted rather like a pipit.
Clarke's nutcracker were superb and tame.
So I should have managed a better photograph really.
Grey jays were another common and showy species.
Lorquin's admiral

Oliver/Vaseux Lake area

3 August - 6 August

I did a few species; although we spent quite a lot of time with on the beach - indeed my daughter took her very first steps on the beach here.  However I came away with very few photographs, and was rather frustrated by the lack of places to walk in good habitat.

I did take photograph this ring-billed gull; possibly because it was on the beach!
Californian quail were seen around the campsite as were common nighthawks.  Birding from McKinney Road and Blacksage Road produced my first lark sparrows for 25 years - at the time my longest time I had gone without seeing a bird species again.  Other birds on these roads included Steller's jay, Lewis's woodpecker, Bullock's oriole and western meadowlark.

The mammal highlight was some very distant bighorn sheep.

It was then a long drive  - broken by a night at Merritt - to Whistler.

Whistler area.

8 August to 10 August

Very scenic, but very hard work.  I had a trip report in which the author claimed to have only seen six species of bird in three days! I didn't do quite that badly, but the already difficult birding wasn't made easier by having a one year old who wasn't much good at mountains!

This pine chipmunk was very co-operative.

I took few other photographs; the only was to transport my daughter up Whistler mountain was on my back and this wasn't a great aid to photography.

We did see a few hoary marmots.  Birds included western tanager, blue grouse and black-throated grey warbler.

We left here to catch the ferry to Vancouver Island and drive to Tofino.

Tofino area, Vanouver Island

11 August to 15 August

The main aim of our visit to Tofino was a whale trip for orca, indeed this was my aim of the trip to Canada.  One male and two females delighted us.

However I was no so pleased to discover that it was an exceptionally bad season for grey whales and we didn't see any!  We also saw a humback whale.

Heermann's gull was a new species for me, but not many birds were seen from the boat.

The other main target of the trip was black bear.  We joined an early morning boat trip and got excellent views of an adult - not sure how I managed such bad pictures - and a, separate, young one.

The other mammal seen here was Steller's sea lion; we saw about 100, but far too far away for decent photographs.

Birds included: bald eagle, white-winged scoter, surf scoter, black oystercatcher and western gulls.  

16/8 - 18/8

Miracle Beach area

On the drive, we stopped at a whale watching centre to ask about grey whales.  There hadn't been any seen for several days.  Apparently this was very unusual and: 'usually everyone is bored of them by now'. A beautiful area.  It also has a Roy Henry Vickers gallery, definitely recommended, although a visit left me a few hundred pounds worse off.

Birds included pacific-slope flycatcher, marbled murrulet, black turnstone, harlequin and pileated woodpecker

 18/8 to 21/8

Telegraph Cove area

This was meant to be 'the' place for orcas. Sadly that seemed to have done something of a bunk when we were there.  We did one trip. No orcas but we did see Dall's porpoise, lots of rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemot and steller's sealion.  There wasn't much to do here, although I did see varied thrush and a raccoon, apart from boat trips, and the lack of news on orcas meant we weren't keen on blowing more money on another trip.

For a change of scene we decided to catch the ferry to cormorant Island, home of the worlds largest totem pole.  We ended up with very limited time and so didn't have chance to look at much more of the first nation stuff on the island.  Little wildlife was seen on the island, except for 3 belted kingfisher and a very long garter snake, but the ferry journey was quite interesting: we saw 4 black bears, as we passed other islands, harbour porpoise and a superb long-tailed skua.

On the 21st we drove to Englishman River Falls.  This turned out to be a very pleasant campsite, the only one not to be full, and we did get good views of American dipper, but - even by the standards of the trip - the birding was hard work.


22/8 to 28/8

The 22nd found us in Victoria, after putting the tent up at Thetis Lake Campsite, we were checking out whale watching companies. It has to be said that most places were a lot more helpful than the rather miserable sods at Stubbs and, at heir suggestion, we decided to ring in the morning for news.

A phone call established that the orcas were playing ball, so the next morning we were on a boat and watched five for a wonderful three-quarters of an hour.  

We also saw Steller's sea lion, lots of rhinoceros auklets and red-necked phalarope. 

A trip, on my birthday, to Jordon River was proved amazingly successful when we watched a family of northern river otters.  A fine birthday treat!

In a superb mood we headed to Sombrio Beach.  Life got better: the one downer on the trip was the fact that I had failed to see any grey whales, this was unexpectedly rectified when one swam past the beach.  It was watched through a scope for about three quarters of an hour - reasonably close - but not in camera range - it was missing a chunk from its back.  I was now in something of a state of shock!  I was expecting a fairly dull day and it turned out to be a classic!

There was a certain about of celebration.

Birds seen in the area included: surfbird (3 at Ogden point), Hermaan's gull, Hutton's vireo, harlequin. surf scoter (100+ at Jordon River), Bewick's wren and black turnstone.


We caught a ferry to Tsawwassen.  This journey was livened up by about ten orcas, as we were approaching the mainland, as well as a couple of porpoises.  The day was spent chilling out one the beach.

The night was spent in a rather seedy looking motel.  We were a little worried that we might be kept awake, but I suspect we were the nosiest people there as we marked our last night and the novelty of not camping!


George Reifel Reserve

The highlights here were undoubtedly the sandhill cranes.

This sign caused us great amusement.

 However, when we saw them, it made more sense.

Then the long Air Transat flight back to the UK.