Sunday, 18 September 2016

BC Pelagic off Ucluelet (18 Sept)

Today I joined the Edmonton Nature Club on a Pelagic trip off of Ucluelet, BC.
Ever since I started following bird sightings from BC I've dreamed of joining one of the near annual September pelagics off of Vancouver island.

Today that dream became a reality and we setoff from Ucluelet at 6:50 and returned by 3pm, travelling ~50km offshore to the continental shelf.

The list of birds with rough estimates on #'s is at the bottom of this post. 8 were new species for me, including 1 new family: albatross!

Thanks to James Fox for organizing this great event and the trip leaders who did a stellar job getting everyone on these birds.


Within 15 minutes of leaving the harbour we were seeing hundreds of shearwaters. All of which were Sooty Shearwaters. This early rush of shearwaters faded off within an hour as we travelled further offshore and into the fog. The next 1-2 hours was relatively slow, but still exciting for me with my limited birding experience on the West coast. The highlight in this "dead zone" were low numbers of Cassin's Auklets.

Around 9:30 we emerged from the fog bank and approached the continental shelf. Shearwaters were flying in every direction in decent numbers. On the horizon we saw a large fishing ship and headed straight for it knowing that seabirds would be attracted to its by-catch. This is where the excitement really was for the day and we circled the fishing ship for 2 hours taking in great looks at thousands of shearwaters and other seabirds.




In no apparent order:

Pink-footed Shearwater


Northern Fulmar


Pink-footed Shearwater


Poor photo of a Buller's Shearwater, one of ~3 seen today.
This species was on the verge of extinction in the 1930's, due to hunting and introduced mammals on their breeding islands. But there are now an estimated 2.5 million individuals thanks to habitat protection and aggressive efforts to eradicate rodents from their breeding grounds. The majority are thought to breed on offshore islands around New Zealand - a country that is doing a lot of great work for its native fauna, and we are reaping the benefits all the way over here in Canada :)


90% of the birds we saw at the continental shelf are thanks to this big bad thing!
A factory fishing ship?
The increasing numbers of some seabird species throughout the worlds oceans are thought to be thanks to the by-catch of these kinds of machines. Or the increasing numbers could simply be a reflection of our increasing knowledge on these birds.


Hundreds of Sabine's Gulls were in the area. The majority of which were adults, but several juveniles as well:
The middle bird is a juvenile (brown inner half of the wing), while the other 2 are adults (note the light grey inner wing, and yellow tip to the bills).



Seeing an albatross in real life is said to be a life-changing experience.
Exhilarating to see the first one fly-by the ship, and even more thrilling to see 30+ more over the next couple hours!
Black-footed Albatross


South Polar Skua - aged as a juvenile based on the cold grey colouration to the body

A juvenile... but a bird that hatched somewhere in the Southern hemisphere during our winter.

Fork-tailed Storm-petrels were surprisingly abundant, but naturally, difficult to photograph


Pink-footed Shearwater - the most abundant shearwater at the continental shelf


Common Murre - the only really familiar species for me today - was the most abundant alcid species of the day


Seabirds taking it all in:




The route we took:
The Southwest corner of Canada, near the border with Washington state.

Off of Vancouver island

Approximately 50km straight offshore from Vancouver island





Species list:
Totals based on eBird lists, and in brackets the frequency of observations (i.e. how many eBird lists included that species).


Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)36
(1)






Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii)85
(1)






Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)12
(1)






Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)1
(1)






Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)2
(1)






White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca)4
(2)






Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica)1
(1)






Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes)40
(1)






Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)200
(1)






Pink-footed Shearwater (Ardenna creatopus)500
(1)






Flesh-footed Shearwater (Ardenna carneipes)2
(1)






Buller's Shearwater (Ardenna bulleri)4
(1)






Sooty Shearwater (Ardenna grisea)1,124
(7)






Short-tailed Shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris)5
(1)






shearwater sp. (Procellariidae sp. (shearwater sp.))300
(1)






Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma furcata)200
(1)






Leach's Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)20
(1)






Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)10
(1)






Pelagic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pelagicus)1
(1)






cormorant sp. (Phalacrocoracidae sp.)10
(1)






Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)2
(1)






Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)1
(1)






Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani)9
(2)






Black Turnstone (Arenaria melanocephala)18
(1)






Sanderling (Calidris alba)3
(1)






Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)2
(1)






Red-necked/Red Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus/fulicarius)1
(1)






South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki)3
(2)






Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus)2
(1)






Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus)1
(1)






Common Murre (Uria aalge)60
(8)






Cassin's Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus)14
(4)






Rhinoceros Auklet (Cerorhinca monocerata)12
(5)






Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhata)3
(2)






alcid sp. (Alcidae sp.)2
(1)






Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla)1
(1)






Sabine's Gull (Xema sabini)500
(1)






Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni)1
(1)






California Gull (Larus californicus)179
(9)






Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)11
(2)






Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)45
(5)






gull sp. (Larinae sp.)203
(8)






Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)2
(2)






Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)1
(1)






Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)1
(1)






Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus)200
(1)








1 comment:

  1. Was a great trip glad to have met you there. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete