Day 1: Transfer to Victoria
Our tour begins this morning from the congress hotel in Vancouver. From Vancouver, we head for the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, stopping at a couple of locations en route to stretch our legs and get acquainted with the birds found in the Lower Mainland of BC in late summer. Expect a varied list, from Steller’s Jay to Brandt’s Cormorant. We board the ferry bound for Swartz Bay near Victoria, commuting through Active Pass where Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot and other seabird species can be found.
On the Saanich Peninsula between Swartz Bay and Victoria we plan a couple of stops, including one to view an established population of Eurasian Skylarks. Martindale Flats is one of the area’s hotspots, where we can see waterfowl and shorebirds including Least, Western and Pectoral Sandpipers, and Long-billed Dowitchers among others. Time permitting, we may stop at Beaver Lake Regional Park for a first introduction to commoner species such as Anna’s Hummingbird, Bewick’s Wren, Bushtit, and Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Night in Victoria.
Day 2: Southern Vancouver Island and Orca viewing boat ride
This morning, we visit one or two top birding sites in the Greater Victoria area, such as Clover Point, Witty’s Lagoon, Swan Lake or Pedder Bay. We will choose our locations according to what has been recently reported. Possibilities include Hutton’s Vireo, Pacific Wren, Barred Owl, Cooper’s Hawk, Heerman’s Gull, Surfbird, Peregrine Falcon and of course Bald Eagle.
In the afternoon we embark on a whale-watching tour into Juan de Fuca or Georgia Strait to view Orcas (Killer Whales), depending on where the southern resident pods have been sighted. J, K and L pods can include upwards of 50 individuals, whose primary diet is Chinook Salmon returning to spawn up the Fraser River. Transient, or mammal-eating Orcas are also a possibility since there are several Sea Lion colonies in vicinity of Victoria. Another highlight is the increasing numbers of Humpback Whales in the area, whose flukes (or more!) we may see as they splash on the surface on diving forays. Night in Victoria.
Day 3: Transfer to Tofino
Today we leave Victoria and head north to Parksville, then across the spine of Vancouver Island to the west coast at Tofino. We stop for a short walking loop at the always-impressive Cathedral Grove, where giant Douglas Fir trees tower overhead and inspire much awe. Night in Tofino.
Days 4 & 5: Pelagic Tour
The pelagic boat tour is conditions-dependent. We will opt for the better of our two days in Tofino when we take to the water. The tour departs early from Clayoquot Sound and ventures approximately 50 km offshore to the edge of the continental shelf where upwellings bring rich nutrients to the surface. Out this far we’ll be on the lookout for shearwaters, storm-petrels, murrelets, auklets, murres, jaegers, fulmars, gulls, maybe an early phalarope and of course, albatross. Marine mammals should also be on view – whales, dolphins, fur seals, and possibly elephant seal. The tour usually lasts six or seven hours and includes a stop at some inshore islets to look at species such as Pelagic Cormorant, Harlequin Duck, Rhinoceros Auklet, and hopefully Tufted Puffin. Gray Whales pass through these inshore waters and often provide intimate encounters.
The second day will be devoted to looking for landbirds and shorebirds in the ethereal forests and sprawling mud flats of Pacific Rim National Park. The visitor’s centre and Florencia Bay overlooks are great places to stare out at the Pacific and scan for scoters and loons as they fly past. We’ll become well acquainted with the ubiquitous moss and moisture in the area. Black Bears are common, as are wolves, however the latter are only sighted with luck. Nights in Tofino.
Day 6: Return to Vancouver
Today, we leave the west coast of Vancouver Island, travel across to Nanaimo and catch the ferry back to the mainland. We then head through Vancouver to hotels near the airport. If time permits, we’ll stop at the famed Iona Island for a grand finale of birdwatching excitement. Night in Richmond, near Vancouver International Airport.
Day 7: Departure
Our tour ends today and you can catch the free shuttle to the airport for flights departing any time.