We have just returned from a couple of weeks on Vancouver Island – wonderful place (with weird right wing politics) and a collection of photos will appear shortly elsewhere for thos interested – details to come – meanwhile, here are some impressions and details of the birding … and the restaurants:
Flew to Vancouver – plane sat for ages on tarmac at V airport waiting for a storm to pass and make it safe for groundcrew to allow us off. Rental car “trendy” PT Cruiser and hotel on Robson St. 40 storey tower with rotating restaurant. Dinner by harbour – Herons Resto – v. Good food with stellar service.
Mostly spent birding in Stanley Park – wonderful trees despite the storm damage from last winter. Birds seen included Red-breasted Sapsucker, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Three-toed Woodpecker and Violet-green Swallow. Walking back from SPark we watched Bush Tits fossicking around their strange hanging nest in a tree. Intended to have a light (and cheap) meal in evening but somehow found ourselves in CinCin’s superb (and expensive) Italian resto instead – another stunning meal followed by a walk through Gastown.
Not a birding day, though we did add Bald Eagle. Quick visit to walk over the 450ft. high wobbly Capilano suspension bridge ($30 each for entry !!) which was remarkable and lived up to its reputation even if some of the presentation was a little commercial. Then Horseshoe Bay and an hour-and-a-half ferry crossing to Nanaimo on V-Island. Saw flock of birds on crossing just too far off for good ID but probably Alcids of some species. Howard-Johnson hotel this time – slumming it.
Vancouver Island from the Nanaimo Ferry
In bright sunshine we drove from Nanaimo via Qualicum beach – Caspian Tern – and the utterly amazing 800 year old huge Douglas Fir and Hemlocks of Cathedral Grove (800 year old trees mean that all the birds you can hear are five times higher above you than usual – many birds heard, almost none seen) then along the Port Alberni summit road down to Tofino on the west coast of V-Island. The Wickaninnish Inn is a stunning place – on a glorious rocky/sandy beach (lots of creature-filled rock pools for J) that we walked along before an outstanding dinner in the restaurant looking out west over the sea to the setting sun. Bald Eagles were not hard to see including one on its nest surrounded by perching, noisy Crows. Several Black Oystercatchers puttered about on the barnacle covered rocks, occasionally flying up in small groups to shout at the world. Does life get better than this?
Starfish – Tofino
Bald Eagle on nest at Chesterman Bay – with “chorus” of Crows
Very wet for much of the day (this place receives 10 feet of rain annually and rain falls on 2 out of every three days throughout the year) but we watched Bald Eagles perching in the trees along the shore right beside our hotel room balcony and heard the fluting call of quite a number of Swainsons Thrushes in the trees … and the rain just got heavier! On the sea, far enough away to be unidentifiable as to species. were assorted Alcids etc but in the early light we did add a definite Leach’s Storm Petrel (this season they come to land at night for nesting – we checked) to the list. So – despite the breakfast waitress’s comments about this being a “pyjmas day” we borrowed rain slickers from the hotel. and spent several wet and happy hours walking the cliffs and the rain-forest until finally we saw, rather than heard two Swainsons Thrushes. Then back to the hotel for another beach hike, a check of rock-pools for crabs and starfish (many) and a superlative gourmet meal.
We left the best (and potentially most expensive) hotel we have ever stayed at and set out to spend the-Canada Day w/end with friends in Campbell River on the other side of the island … needless to say, it was raining heavily again but all those years vacationing in Scotland have trained us for this sort of stuff but by the time we had reached CR on the opposite coast the day was coot but dry and an evening stroll brought Rufous Hummingbirds, Savannah Sparrow and Western Tanager as new sightings for the trip list.
Spent the day at the Woodhus Slough reserve on the shore south of CR – superb mixed habitat, forest, marsh, fields, shore, shrubs. Amongst species seen (apart from snakes) were close-up Bald Eagles, Surf Scoter, Purple Martin, Bonaparte Gull, Least Sandpiper, Willett, Spotted Towhee, Savannah Sparrow, Pigeon Guillemot, Pacific-slope and Olive-sided Flycatchers (plus maybe a Hammonds?), families of Common Mergansers and a flotilla of 15-20 Harlequin Ducks. A very fine day … and good beer at a good pub at the end of the trail.
Sunday 1 July (Canada Day)
Evening fireworks and appropriately patriotic CDay things like that were preceded by a marvelous day spent across the channel on Quadra Island, mostly walking trails on Rebecca Spit where Bald Eagles along the shore were ten a penny but this time behaved impeccably in the sunshine and posed for their pictures. Birds also seen included Rufous Hummingbirds, Common Loon, Spotted Towhee, Common and Thick-billed Murres, a 75% certain Black-throated Gray Warbler, a 50% possible Orange-crowned Warbler, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and Ravens. Lots and lots of Ravens who first announced their presence with loud, mechanical “ker-chung” calls in the trees around us followed by deep croaks and then two of them flew into sight and escorted us out of their territory. Later we enjoyed watching a couple on the shore squabbling over a tasty crab (see photograph). Quadra Island is a pretty fine place – I have decided that a house on the eastern shore of QI with an upper-floor office overlooking the water would perhaps make a good place to pathologise from in semi-retirement (if only it was in Quebec – people here are very nice but have funny politics and strange tin-hut roadside churches of a fundamentalist leaning).
White-crowned Sparrow – large breeding population
Beach on Quadra Island – a nice place to live?
Ravens squabble over a crab for lunch
Harlequin Duck flotilla
Yet “another” Bald Eagle
Drove S to Victoria – little to comment upon other than the hotel was as centrally placed on the inner harbour as you could wish, the weather was warm and sunny and the bird of the day was a House Sparrow. Dinner at an award-winning brew pub was excellent – Swan’s import their malt and hops from the UK and brew a better “English” beer than many English breweries … The accompanying shepherd’s pie was very good indeed but nothing like the real thing, much too sophisticated.
Lunch and dinner at Swan’s pub, and a touristy exploration of Victoria.
Swan’s Pub – wonderful beer and food
Several hot and sunny hours spent exploring the Butchart gardens – we are life-long, seasoned garden visitors but these were impressive … amongst the best anywhere, including England, especially impressed by the roses and the Japanese garden. Earlier in this posting I referred to the weird religious tendency that is overly-visible out west (though if religion becomes compulsory, then the tiny Church of the Vineyard is the one for me), well the B-Gardens were infested with demure girls in Victorian costume shepherded by their menfolk – Mennonites, I assume (?) – why do these women put up with it? Later took the ferry back to Vancouver – beautiful crossing threading between the gulf islands in hot sunshine with eagles and seals and far off one brief glimpse of an Orca.
The Gulf Islands on the return to the mainland
Early morning flight back to Montreal and familiar eastern birds. An excellent vacation.
C’est tout …