If you’re looking for the ultimate in pelagic birding tours in British Columbia, WildResearch’s annual pelagic trip out to La Pérouse Bank has to be on your “to do” list. At the end of the day, this 7 hour off shore tour is nothing short of “shear” birding and wildlife viewing fun—not only are the birds spectacular, but great looks at killer whales, humpback whales, gray whales, and even sea otters are possible. This year’s tour is scheduled for Sunday, September 15, 2013.
WildResearch charters the 128’ MV Francis Barkley, a vessel that does a regular run from Port Alberni through the Broken Group Island to Ucluelet and Bamfield during the summer months for this annual tour. The large size of the boat and three outside deck levels provide a variety of different viewing levels and excellent sight lines to see birds and marine mammals. It also makes it a fairly comfortable vessel in the potentially rough 40 kilometers of open ocean between Ucluelet and La Pérouse Bank.
Sooty shearwaters (Puffinus griseus) were the most common shearwater seen on the 2012 spring WildResearch pelagic tour. Mixed in with the more common “sooties” was the occasional pink-footed shearwater (Puffinus creatopus)—definitely fewer in numbers and generally only solitary birds were seen. Unfortunately, I missed a flock of short-tailed storm-petrels (Oceanodroma furcata) when I went into the cabin to get my camera gear. I did get some nice looks at mixed flocks of Sabine’s gulls (Xema sabini) and Bonaparte’s gulls (Larus philadelphia).
Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) became more common as we got further out. The massive wingspan of these birds made them distinctive, even from a distance.
At La Pérouse the ship slows and “chumming” begins. Fish offal from the processing plants in Ucluelet are thrown over the side to attract gulls and the black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes). Everyone on the boat was able to get great looks at these beautiful ocean wanderers as they came in close to feed.
Listers on the spring 2102 trip were also able to add Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) to their British Columbia lists—a single bird was seen on the way out and on the way back in. This was only the 22nd record of Manx shearwater in the province so it was definitely a highlight of that trip!
And while the birding was good in 2012, but numbers and variety are supposed to be much better in the fall.
Unfortunately, the 2013 trip is already sold out, but if you’re interested it is worth contacting WildResearch and being added to the wait list – between now and September there may be some cancellations and some last minute spaces.