Young Birder overnight trip and Pelagic from Ucluelet!

On May 6th we went on our first overnight trip ever in the Young Birders Group. The kids were extremely excited and some parents told me that there kids have been talking about the trip for a week straight. The weather looked good and we all piled in the rental van on the 10:15 am ferry to Nanaimo. On the crossing over we spotted some Common Terns.

We stopped and had a great lunch at a local bakery in Port Alberni and then went straight to Ucluelet. We checked into our hotel rooms and went to meet up with the Vancouver Island and Fort St James Young Birders who were meeting us at Amphitrite Point. Two young birders Liam Singh and Liron Gerstman spotted some Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels just past the lighthouse! This was an incredible start we watched many breeding Pacific Loons fly by and watched Black Oystercatchers forage amongst the black rocks. For many kids on the trip this was the first time they had ever been to Ucluelet or Tofino. They were amazed by the gorgeous scenery and expansive beaches.

I was so amazed how well the new kids integrated into our group and it was so cool to meet Willa from Fort St James and Toby and Cedar from Tofino for the first time. Their enthusiasm and knowledge and great attitudes blew me away.

After this stop we went on to the tofino mudflats at the Sharp Rd Lookout. Here we saw 275 Short-billed Dowitchers in large flocks and this was really cool for the kids since they rarely see so many Short-billeds all together. We also found 7 Whimbrels, 6 Black-bellied Plovers and 300 Western and 5 Least Sandpipers, a few Dunlin and Common Mergansers. We also saw an Osprey who was diving for fish. We also got to watch a Peregrine Falcon zoom right in and successfully catch a peep! It was a great thrill for the kids to see nature in action like that. In the woods on the way out we had Hutton's Vireo, Pacific Wrens, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Steller's Jays, Orange-crowned and Townsend's Warblers.

We were next off to the Tofino Airport. Here Ilya Povalyaev found 4 Pacific Golden-Plovers for us. The birds were in various stages of moult and one was in spectacular breeding plumage! The kids were thrilled with this and as we were looking at these beautiful birds we turned around when Bridget Spencer spotted a female Red-necked Phalarope in breeding plumage swimming in the pond behind us!. Right after that, Ian Harland spotted a Olive-sided Flycatcher which was perched above the Phalarope! Other birds we saw there was a Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Dunlin and large flock of Semipalmated Plovers.

The kids were all on a high and after getting a call from Ian Cruickshank I decided to take them to Long Beach to look for the breeding Red Knots he had found earlier. Unfortunately, we did not find any Red Knots but we saw Semipalmated Plovers and Sanderling and the kids got to see the beauty of the majestic, pristine beaches of the West Coast of Vancouver Island. We also picked up some Orange-crowned Warblers here and Northern Flickers.

After a nice visit here we were off to Comber's Beach to look for the 2nd year Iceland Gull that Adrian Dorst found a few hours earlier. We never did see the gull but since there were many warning signs up for wolves in the area the kids were hoping to see a wolf on the beach. Unfortunately, we never did see a Coastal Wolf but we did find some tracks! Here the bird activity was pretty slow despite a few Black Oystercatchers but again the kids marvelled at the gorgeous beach. During the walk back up through the rainforest and boardwalk the kids found a Brown Creeper, Pacific Tree frogs and Townsend's and Orange-crowned Warblers and a Hairy Woodpecker!

We ended the day with a great meal at the Floathouse Restaurant in Ucluelet and chatted about the days events and what we hoped to see the next day. Many wanted to see a Tufted Puffin, Black-footed and Laysan Albatross, Manx Shearwater and Cassin's Auklet.

The next morning (May 7th) at 6:15 am, we met up with Cedar and Toby and her dad Marcel at the Main Street Pier. Here we met about 50 other birders who had signed up for the WildResearch Pelagic. We checked in and got on the ship called the MV Frances Barkley. All the kids had taken their gravol and were excited and ready for the adventure. This was WildResearch's annual fundraiser which helps to raise money for their conservation programs including Iona bird banding observatory.
For more info on WildResearch and their programs see here

Ilya Povalyaev was spotting during the trip and helping to get everyone, especially all the kids on the birds, which I appreciated very much and so did the kids!.

The weather was sunny and bright and there was very little win. Surprisingly we did not have a single Albatross. This was a little disappointing for the kids, as it was their main target. It was the first time I had not seen a Black-footed Albatross on a pelagic as well. We also had no Tufted Puffins, which was another surprise and much wanted target for the children. However, we had some great birds including an adult stunning Pomarine Jaeger that flew right alongside our boat,  giving us all great views. We also had an uncommon light morph Northern Fulmar with some dark morphs and Pink-footed Shearwaters that did the same. Another highlight for the kids were Red-Phalaropes in breeding plumage and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels.

The biggest moment of the trip came when sharp 13 year old, young birder Liam Singh spotted and photographed a Manx Shearwater almost at the end of the return trip! The bird was 6 km SW off of Amphitrite Point in Ucluelet. Unfortunately, everyone did not get on this bird, including myself but luckily 6 young birders: Bridget Spencer, Katya Kondratyuk, Toby Theriault, Cedar Forest, Willa Crowley and of course Liam Singh (and a few others on board) all saw and photographed it.

We also saw some great mammals on the trip including a Sea Otter, Humpback Whales, California and Steller's Sea Lions and Harbour Seals.

Here is our official checklist for the day:

1 Greater White-fronted Goose
1 Brant
30 Cackling Geese
2 Surf Scoter
12 White-winged Scoter
5 Red-breasted Merganser
70 Pacific Loon
3 Common Loon
5 Northern Fulmar
5 Pink-footed Shearwater
30 Sooty Shearwater
10 Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater
1 Manx Shearwater
10 Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel
30 Brandt's Cormorant
1 Pelagic Cormorant
1 Bald Eagle
200 Red-necked Phalarope
3 Red Phalarope
1 Pomarine Jaeger
10 Common Murre
2 Cassin's Auklet
15 Rhinocerous Auklet
10 Sabine's Gulls
1 Bonaparte's Gull
1 Western Gull
30 California Gull
10 Herring Gull
50 Glaucous-winged Gull
150 Western X Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid)

We got back to the dock at 2pm and made it back to Vancouver by 8pm via the 5:45pm ferry.

All in all, it was a great day and fantastic weekend. Thanks to all the kids for their enthusiasm and big thanks to my volunteers Warren Lee and Ilya Povalyaev for helping me out this weekend with the kids' supervision. Thanks also to WildResearch for being so accommodating to our kids and giving us a discount. You all helped to make the weekend very special and gave us all lasting memories.

Our group on the MV Frances Barkley - Photo: Warren Lee
Many Young Birder's were on their first deep sea pelagic - Photo: Melissa Hafting
MANX SHEARWATER! - Photo: Liam Singh
Young Birders at Comber's Beach - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Letters in the sand Tofino 2017 - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Pomarine Jaeger - Photo: Bridget Spencer
Northern Fulmar - Photo: Bridget Spencer
Pink-footed Shearwater - Photo: Bridget Spencer

Looking forward to our next trip in Manning Park on June 24th. There is a waiting list for this trip but feel free to email me at bcbirdergirl(at)gmail(dot)com to add your name as people can cancel.

If you would like to join the Young Birder Program see contact info and list of events HERE


  1. you have the patient of a saint mel and a heart of gold of one as well. glad everyone had fun and congrats to liam on the manx


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