Saturday, 27 February 2010

Ucluelet tsunami warning

Finished work early Friday and hit the road west, out to Ucluelet, for the weekend.
Couldn't really believe just how birdless the drive was, not even a Steller's jay flew across the road. Ravens, ravens and some more ravens, plus the occasional bald eagle and a lone merlin, were pretty much all we encountered en route.

We got up this morning (Saturday), to be told of a tsunami warning that was in place locally, an aftermath of the serious earthquake in Chile. Hmm, could turn out to be an interesting weekend away...

Keeping the tsunami evacuation advice firmly in mind, we headed out for a hike along the Wild Pacific Trail, which to be honest, was also quite birdless. Beautiful, stunning, evocative etc, but birdless.
Offshore, there were the expected seabirds; highlights included Brandt's cormorant and a rhinoceros auklet, while several black oystercatchers were noisily peeping around.

One particularly interesting thing we came across was a singing winter wren - currently, 'technically' the same species as the one we get in Europe, though not for long, - whose song was so utterly unlike that of the form of troglodytes troglodytes that I am familiar with, that I didn't have a clue what it was that was singing until I saw it! Of course, this western wren is also much darker than those found in the UK, but that song alone should be cause enough for it be given specific status...

Anyway, back to the pending tsunami - despite making comforting sounds to Jenny, deep down I was ignoring the fears that come with hearing of such a crisis, and I couldn't help but think about the birding potential.
What if displaced South Pacific pelagic species were moving ahead of the waves...?
Was I about to be so fortunate as to be in 'the right place at the right time', and witness one of the most amazing events in ornithological history, talked about for years to come?
Was I to be one of the lucky few watching scores of albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels bouncing by the island's coast?

No. As it turned out, I wasn't.

In so many ways, I am deeply thankful that the Ucluelet tsunami amounted to very little more than some slightly boisterous waves.
From a birder's perspective however, it could have been a bit better. I did see two very distant birds that were almost certainly kittiwakes, but not even a fulmar sailed by. Even Jen was disappointed by the lack of spectacular seascape - not to say that the sea here isn't spectacular, it is - but we both anticipated more.
That said, we did see a pair of whales, presumably greys, moving slowly north offshore, so it wasn't a total wash-out!
So, natural disasters aside, we've had a wonderful day and there's always tomorrow, if any unfeasibly rare birds wish to come my way.

Pictured above: Jenny sports my hat, the 'tsunami' as we saw it...

1 comment:

  1. Surfbird would be the obvious candidate for a tsunami-driven stray.
    I know I haven't posted on mostlybirdingwithray for a few days... I haven't seen anything interesting... we are reduced to chasing around after a stupid Egyptian Goose... and I am bereft of ideas.
    Apart from that all is fine. Best wishes from Ray.