Tofino Pelagic and my third time seeing STAL in BC!

When we first saw this bird our hearts collectively stopped! - Photo: Melissa Hafting

I ran a pelagic out of Tofino with 26 people from the mainland, Vancouver Island, Quadra Island and Ontario with Ocean Outfitters on Sunday Aug 29th.  The captains were Ron L'Amoureux and Artie Ahier and both were excellent as usual. We had 2 different boats and everyone was double vaxxed and wore a mask for the entire ride. We left the dock at 7 am and it was extremely bumpy. In fact it was the bumpiest pelagic I've ever been on. Many of us got wet who were standing outside. When I came back to the dock I could see the sick salt stuck on my face and hair. Anyways getting back to the trip it took longer than normal to get out to Clayoquot Canyon due to the swells. It was still safe conditions but did make a couple people sea sick. This pelagic was not your typical one where you could get great photos of species. I have to laugh looking at most of my photos the bird is cut off or blurry due to the waves haha. I was able to get a semi-decent one of the Short-tailed Albatross though but not half as good as on previous trips.

Immature Short-tailed Albatross off Tofino - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Our boat in the waves as we look at a Black-footed Albatross - Photo: Bruce Dilabio

We saw a great variety of birds we had all 3 Jaeger species, 2 Parasitic, 1 Pomarine and 1 beautiful adult Long-tailed Jaeger. We had no Arctic Terns or Sabine's Gulls and very few gulls in general which was odd. We found 2 fishing boats but only one was attracting birds. On my pelagic 2 years ago (last August's pelagic was cancelled due to Covid) we had dramatically different seas and were able to find Guadalupe and Scripps's Murrelet. Well not this time with the large swells there was no way you could of seen them! You can read about that previous trip HERE. So therefore on this trip we had a very low alcid count with only 8 Cassin's Auklets and a handul of Rhinos the entire trip. However we did have 6 beautiful Tufted Puffins in breeding plumage.

Tufted Puffin in flight at Cleland Island - Photo: Ilya Povalyaev

Tufted Puffin off Tofino - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Adult Long-tailed Jaeger near Cleland Island - Photo: Keith Mathieu

We also had a few Red Phalaropes and Red-necked Phalaropes and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, which is always nice. Young birder Evan Larson came with me and his excitement was palpable during the trip as he got a new lifer. His joy during the bumpy trip and how grateful he was to be there, really made it a memorable pelagic for me. He was also spotting birds correctly and so well for his first pelagic! I was truly impressed! He’s a better birder than I ever was at that age. He was particularly taken with the storm-petrels but who can blame him?!

Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels are so cute and fun to see off Tofino - Photo: Sabine Decamp

On the way up we stopped to look at a early Sharp-tailed Sandpiper found by Mark Wynja at Englishmen River Estuary in Parksville.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in Parksville - Photo: Evan Larson

We had all 3 morphs of Northern Fulmars during the pelagic (pure white, intermediate and dark morph). We had 50 Black Footed Albatross and all of a sudden Mike Toochin shouted he had a large dark albatross and that we should get closer to the fishing boat. As Ron moved closer Mike Toochin called out Short-tailed Albatross and we could all see this beautiful large chocolate brown bird with a bubblegum pink bill in front of us. It was a lifer for many on board and a new Canada and BC bird. However for a number of us this was not a new bird because this is the third pelagic since 2018 that I have seen this species in BC waters and my fifth individual which is incredible!. In 2018 we had 3 birds, in 2019 1 bird with 15 Laysans! You can see that HERE. These birds are endangered due to the feather trade in the past and long liners and plastic in the present but they are clearly rebounding. It was still a delight to see this bird even though it wasn't new it was impressive bird and it fills my spirit with awe each time I have been blessed enough to see one. What makes it even more special is that not only was young birder Evan on board to get his lifer but also Liron. Plus in previous trips where I've seen Short-tailed Albatross I got to share it with young birders Rebecca, Cole and Josh which just made it all the more sweeter. This bird was banded like one of the first birds we found in 2018. I sent that band in if you remember and found out it was banded on Tori Island (see HERE). I sent in this bird too and heard back from the researcher Mr. Fumio Sato. He said the bird was banded on the 7th of March 2021 at Hatsunezaki colony of Torishima, Japan. When this bird was banded, it was a chick in the nest.Colour ring No. X10, and the small ring of the Ministry of the Environment No. 13E9019. Sex was unknown and it is currently 6 months old. It is interesting to know the band info as this species may be split one day. Peter Candido photographed a banded Black-tailed Albatross. He sent it into USGS. I will post that info once he gets it back.

Banded Short-tailed Albatross with band #X10 off Tofino - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Black-footed Albatross off Tofino - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Dark morph Northern Fulmar off Tofino - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Short-tailed Albatross from Tori Island off Tofino - Photos: Melissa Hafting

On this trip there were many Short-tailed Shearwaters. There has been a huge number of them on the Port McNeill side I'm talking 2000-3000 pure flocks of these guys. On our trip we still had more Sootys than Short-taileds but had at least 60 pure Short-tailed Shearwaters. We had close views that allowed us to see the steep forehead, white chin, short bill and when they lifted their wings that no feather shaft streaking was present on the underwing as in Sooty. There must be some food shortages in the Bering Sea causing them to move down here in such huge numbers in August. We had about 200 Pink-footed

Stunning photos of Short-tailed Shearwaters in flight near Tofino - Photos: Ilya Povalyaev

Short-tailed Shearwater off Tofino (note the cute appearance, white chin etc) - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Pink-footed Shearwater off Tofino - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Pink-footed Shearwater off Tofino - Photo: Ilya Povalyaev

When I was sitting down to dinner after the pelagic Evan showed me a photo he took and low and behold it was a Flesh-footed Shearwater! I was thrilled for him unfortunately the majority of the boat did not get to see that bird but it was great that he got a great lifer. I had seen this beautiful shearwater several times before but you usually don't see many on pelagics so it's always a delight. You can see some beautiful pictures of this species from and October pelagic I ran HERE.

Flesh-footed Shearwater off Tofino - Photo: Evan Larson

On the way back in at Cleland Island where we saw the Manx in 2019 we were hoping for another one because they like to hang out close to shore and there was mixed flocks of Sootys and Short-tailed Shearwaters there. However we struck out but we did see a gorgeous adult Long-tailed Jaeger which was so cool. We also had 90 Heermann's Gulls on the island here which is the most I've seen in BC at any one time. A Sea Otter was eating an octopus here, 1 observer photographed a Wandering Tattler and there was a number of Puffins, Rhinos and Murres which was nice. 

A portion of the 90 Heermann's Gulls at Cleland Island - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Immature Heermann's Gull near Tofino - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Other than the Sea Otter the other marine mammals we saw were 1 Humpback Whale, Harbour Seals and Steller's Sea Lions.

Sea Otter eating an octopus near Tofino (it was foggy early in the morning) - Photo: Sabine Decamp

You can read our full eBird checklists from Aug 29, 2021 below:

If you are ever interested in joining me on a future pelagic don't hesitate to reach out!

After the pelagic I stayed an extra day to enjoy Tofino's beautiful beaches and to decompress. I had fun sorting through some peeps on Chesterman and Comber's. In Ucluelet we watched many Sooty Shearwaters fly past the lighthouse at Amphitrite Point and after camping in a beautiful campsite with no problem bear activity we woke up to a delicious breakfast and stunning views at Black Rock Resort. 

Least Sandpiper at Chesterman's Beach in Pacific Rim National Park - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Western Sandpiper on Comber's Beach - Photo: Melissa Hafting

On the way home we stopped to see the Ruff that my friend Yousif Attia found the night before. This Ruff was in the exact same location as the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 2 days before.

Ruff in Parksville - Photo: Melissa Hafting

All in all it was another successful pelagic weekend and I can't wait for the next one! Thanks to everyone who joined me on this fun adventure!


  1. Wow mel sounds like a great trip and great species variety! I'll have to work hard to go one day too!

    1. thank you so much! wish I knew your name so I could properly thank you! hope you can join us one trip.

    2. This is Raymond and I forgot to add that your photos are amazing!

    3. oh nice to see you here raymond! thanks for your kind words. plus im so happy you got the great horned owl today too. Let's hope your mom let's you come on our next pelagic :D

  2. Looks like an amazing pelagic. Love the puffin shot and would have liked to see the sea otters 🦦 again!

    1. thanks it really was. it was a bumpy ride and our marine mammal count was low and frankly the bird count but we had great views of the quality birds and saw a great number of species. the stal was the icing on the cake

  3. mel this looks amazing and your photos of the short-tailed albatross are superb! im amazed you did so well in those bumpy conditions it shows your skill. also how cool is that when you are able to get the band info. I didnt know they flew so far at that young age. I really enjoyed this blog post. I am constantly learning something new with you. congrats on a great trip.

    1. thank you kindly michelle! it really was challenging conditions for photography lol

  4. Thank you again for organizing this pelagic trip, it was truly an amazing experience! Even with the bumpy conditions, watching the birds fly by the boat was fantastic. I can't wait for the next trip!

    1. thank you so much and it was so great having you with us!! looking forward to our next trip happy you want to come back haha


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