|Dawn rises over Tofino Inlet. Saturday, Sep 13. (Photo: RC)|
As always, when running small pelagic trips I go with the Tofino Whale Center. They're rates are reasonable but most of all they're skippers know what they're doing and have many years of experience watching and working with local marine wildlife. Prices can fluctuate but chartering one of their Boston Whalers is usually around $1200 for 6 hours, so with 12 people you can bring it down close to a reasonable $100 each.
We were a little nervous showing up bright and early on Saturday. The rumour was that there were no fish out there, and thus--no birds. Locals were remarking on the lack of whales... the lack of everything close to shore. From chatting with Paul Lehman and others it seems the NE Pacific has been inundated with unusually warm waters which has resulted in some conspicuous shifts of bird life (an indicator of other things as well). Species like Ashy Storm-Petrel and Guadalupe Murrelets--normally associated with Mexican waters--have been showing up off the coast of Oregon and Washington recently, while huge Sunfish and Yellow-fin Tuna have been seen off Alaska in areas they have never been recorded. So what would this mean for us? Hardly any birds? Maybe a rarity from the south? At the very least we realized we would probably have to head out to the continental shelf or further to find anything.
Sure enough there was very little inshore. In fact I don't think we saw a single Sooty Shearwater within the first 10 km offshore. Even Glaucous-winged Gull numbers were dramatically and noticeably low on the rocky islets near Cleland Island. Still, we did note a few nice birds as we made our way out, including a group of 65 BLACK OYSTERCATCHERS on one small islet and a WANDERING TATTLER not far from Tofino. A few WESTERN GULLS were also around. Below are a few photo-highlights from the two boat trips, with COMPLETE LIST TOTALS AT THE BOTTOM.
|This photo captures just how calm the seas were on the weekend. Here, part of the group photograph a Tufted Puffin as it paddles casually away. (Photo: Russell Cannings)|
|Elephant Seal from the forehead angle. Just bouncing up and down like a cork. If a cork was made of blubber and thick skin.|
DAY TOTALS: Only counting species seen more than ~2km offshore out to a maximum of 67km offshore.
Saturday, September 13th
South Polar Skua--3
*Probable Scripps's/Guadalupe Murrelet--1+ (Only seen by 2 people. Read comments here)
Sunday, September 14th
Sooty Shearwater--78 (Very low count--last year on the same date I had 6000+)
South Polar Skua--3
Mammal List (Combined):
Northern Elephant Seal
Steller's Sea Lion
California Sea Lion
Northern Fur Seal