Sunday 28 July 2013

Queen Charlotte Islands - Part 1

Just got back from visiting the Queen Charlotte Islands (now known as Haida Gwaii) with Mira for 5 days. It was my first time in BC, and my first time visiting the Pacific Ocean from Canada's perspective.

Needless to say, there were many species (and sub-species!) that I've never seen before.

The islands are a 7 hour ferry ride from Prince Rupert. The ferry ride is known as one of the better opportunities to see pelagic species in the area. We didn't see much diversity but did see thousands of alcids, and thousands of Sooty Shearwaters. Although I didn't manage to find a Short-tailed Shearwater, I'm sure they were around...

Mira has been trying to convince me to go to these islands for almost 2 years now. I never gave them much thought because there are a million places I want to go to. But now that we've been, I'm happy we went! One of the best spots is the north beach of Naikoon Provincial Park. We hiked this beach (~30km round trip) to the tip of Rose Spit, which is basically a point of sand very much like Point Pelee. Only bigger, and a lot less people, and it juts out into the ocean :)

The hike was well worth it! We started just as the tide was at its lowest point for the time of year, exposing over 500 meters of sand between the high tide line and the water. Perfect for shorebirds. Thousands of them! Incredibly, despite the abundance of shorebirds there were only 3 species: Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover, & Western Sandpiper. I was a bit surprised by this, but the varying molt stages of the many shorebirds kept me interested.

Some Sanderlings were already well into their winter plumage, most were closer to their summer plumage which was more unfamiliar to me:

 Shorebirds were spread out along the entire 500m by 15km beach:

Having never seen Western Sandpipers, I was eager to get close up looks at them:

Most Semipalmated Plovers were still in breeding plumage, but some were already in the duller winter plumage:

A baby Dall's Porpoise was satisfying a handful of Ravens and Gulls.

Here's a view of the point looking inland:

And the other direction:

A close to shore Yellow-billed Loon was the biggest surprise for the day:

 boat and distant Tow Hill

More photos to come ... perhaps