Saturday, 27 August 2011

Sooke Seabirds Start Slowly

Today, it was all about seabirds. A mini-pelagic trip had been organised out of Sooke - the plan being to head out to the US border, and cruise along seeing what we could find out there. As we arrived in Sooke around 7.30am it was apparent that, despite the lovely morning we'd left behind in Victoria, things were a little different here... The Fog had descended.
Unperturbed by this potential climactic calamity, I and the other 10 optimistic birders jumped willingly into the Zodiac, resplendent in our lovely survival suits.
About an hour later, we were damp,  2 miles from land and somewhat less enthusiastic. Then it happened. A bird appeared (in fairness, we had powered past many rhinoceros auklets and common murres, but they're dross under these circumstances). A red-necked phalarope. Hoorah!

Tufted puffin
Minutes later, another bird appeared but this was one of those 'must-haves' among Pacific seabirds, a magnificent summer plumage tufted puffin. A sense of palpable relief settled over the boat.
(The pic here was taken, by Rich Mooney, on my last pelagic trip out of Tofino).

Before long, visibility had improved dramatically and we were able to spot gull-infested bait-balls in the near distance. As we sped toward the feeding mass of larids and attendant alcids a pair of jaegers (skuas, for those back in Blighty) came into view. Large, hefty, barrel-chested birds, they had to be pomarine jaegars and as one turned, it showed full tail spoons. The other bird had no tail streamers, but given its shape, size and flight action, it too was almost certainly the same species. 
We later encountered another fine adult complete with intact tail, and it showed beautifully as it flew across the bow of the boat.
A small feeding flock of around 10 or so dainty Bonaparte's gulls put in an appearance, too.
Before heading back to dock, we came across many more phalaropes, common murres, rhino auklets, California and glaucous-winged gulls as well as seals and sealions, but unfortunately no cetaceans.
A big thanks to Jeremy Kimm for arranging this mini-pelagic.

Ruff Justice

Once we had gathered our land-legs, a bunch of us headed for Witty's Lagoon where a red-necked stint and ruff had both been found yesterday. Both rare birds in this part of the world, the stint was a potential world tick for me... while, of course, ruff is a common species back in the UK.

Juvenile Ruff - Witty's lagoon, Victoria
We scanned through large numbers of western and least sandpipers, finding only a lone pectoral among them. As I checked out the pair of short-billed dowitchers that Ian Cruikshank had picked up on the far shore a little earlier I noticed the ruff feeding close by.
Eventually, we headed round and got excellent views and record shots of the ruff using my 'scope and Aziza Cooper's camera, (I'd left mine in the car, doh!) but it was scant compensation for not being able to relocate the stint...
A 1st winter ring-billed gull was waddling around on the mud, giving me satisfactory confirmation regarding the identity of the Clover Point bird from a couple of days ago (see the post below).


  1. Sounds like a good day Jon. Was the stint confirmed? That is a good bird!

  2. It was found and identified by several top birders, Rich - Nathan Hentze and Jeremy Gatten among them. Apparently the lack of webbing between the toes was even confirmed as the bird was viewed at close range! We couldn't even find any semi-p's among the birds present, so we weren't even able to get stringy...