Keith and Heather Nicol indulge in a tour timed to view shorebirds near Tofino.
On Sunday May 1 we joined guide and naturalist Andy Murray with Tofino Sea Kayaking for a fine day on the water. Tofino Sea Kayaking had organized two “birding by kayak” trips as part of the shorebird festival and we opted to take their Sunday tour. The weather was ideal for paddling and it was our first time sea kayaking in the Tofino area. There were 11 of us plus two guides and the plan was to visit a variety of islands and likely shorebird habitats over the course of a four-hour paddle. We used double kayaks for stability since it is easier to use binoculars and a camera from a double kayak. We certainly saw lots of birds, but only distant flocks of shorebirds that seemed to be always heading away from us. Near one island we saw some Brants and numerous common and Pacific loons diving in the water. Further along there were pairs of common mergansers and a couple of lone red necked grebes.
The scenery is magnificent in this area and at one point we could see snow capped mountains which made for a picturesque backdrop. We stopped to set up the scope on the Arakun mud flats where there were a couple of eagles perched along the shore, but no shorebirds anywhere in site. Andy explained that usually shorebirds have a 3 week window in which many of them pass through this area and it is hard to know in advance which weekend will have the most birds. Then just as we were about to end our tour Andy spotted several shorebirds on a small island and we all paddled over to investigate. There along the water’s edge was a small flock of Short- billed Dowitchers busy feeding.
The Tofino area certainly has much to offer the beginner and advanced sea kayaker and Tofino Sea Kayaking (TSK) has an ideal launch point for accessing the maze of channels and islands just offshore. TSK also has a small coffee shop with a great view and they sell kayaking supplies so check them out on your next visit to this scenic area.