Schooner Cove Shorebirds

We’ve just gotten back from a fabulous weekend in Tofino where we attended several Shorebird Festival events hosted by Raincoast Education Society. The festival is over but if you haven’t had a chance to experience the incredible phenomena of spring shorebird migration you still have lots of time to make a trip to the west coast and see it for yourself!

On Saturday I joined Raincoast Education Society’s Josie Osborne and Parks Canada’s Pete Clarkson on a three hour walk out to Schooner Cove in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Schooner Cove is one of my favourite places in the park since it’s relatively easy to get to but far enough away from the access points that few actually make the effort to get out to this gorgeous beach.

Shorebird Searchers
Our group on the way to Schooner looking at shorebirds.

Our objective was mainly rocky coast shorebirds and we did get some excellent looks at Black Oystercatchers. Pete was able to give us some very interesting information about the monitoring program for these shorebirds which are only found in a narrow strip along the west coast of North America. They are approximately 11,000 in number and the protected habitat in Pacific Rim National Park is significant for this species.

Pete Clarkson
Parks Canada’s Pete Clarkson (right) explains the finer details of shorebird identification.

The walk to Schooner provided great opportunities to see both Semipalmated Plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus) and Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) which were feeding on the wide sandy stretches between rocky islets.

Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)
A Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) probing the sand for food.

It was amazing how challenging it was to see these birds as they blended in very well with the colour of the sand.

Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)
Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) were common on the sandy beaches on the way to Schooner Cove.

At Schooner we made for higher ground in an attempt to locate a few more species of rocky shorebirds. We were hoping for both Black Turnstone and Surfbird but had to settle for a fly over of a half dozen Whimbrel.

Rocky Islet in Schooner Cove
The rocky islet in Schooner Cove provides an excellent vantage point for bird watching.

Despite the fact that we saw only about a half dozen species of shorebirds it was a fantastic morning and a beautiful walk. I even had a chance to do a little botanizing out on the rock …. but more on that in a future post!

Make sure to check out the Raincoast Education Society if you’re planning a trip out to Tofino or Ucluelet this summer – they’ve got lots of great nature programs throughout the summer. Parks Canada also has a full summer schedule of guided walks beginning in late June.