This tour begins in Vancouver, B.C's biggest city, situated near the mouth of the Fraser River Estuary. We will visit a couple of locations in Vancouver before we cross the straight via ferry. By visiting Iona Beach and the Reifel Refuge, we will encounter a long list of species. Waterfowl will be abundant, and we'll see our first Surf Scoters, as well as flocks of Snow Geese. Sandhill Cranes might be encountered at Reifel as well. The area is fantastic for raptors, including Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Peregrine Falcon and more.
As we cross the Straight of Georgia on the ferry, towards Nanaimo, we'll keep our eyes open for birds and cetaceans. Birds to look for include Common Murre, Rhinoceros Auklet, Pacific Loon, Surf Scoter, Brandt's and Pelagic cormorants, Red-breasted Merganser, and more. Cetaceans, such as Orca, or Pacific White-sided Dolphin are possible to see from the ferry as well.
Once on Vancouver Island, we will explore the east coast between Nanaimo and Courtenay / Comox, which is the area where the Herring Spawn can be very productive. During our time here, you can expect to see vast numbers of birds, like Surf, White-winged and Black scoters, Harlequin Ducks, Long-tailed Duck, Brant, and other seabirds, as well as a variety of gulls that could include something rare. Even if there are no rare gulls to be found, there will be many Glaucous-winged and 'Thayer's' Iceland Gulls, as well as Short-billed Gulls, formerly called Mew Gull, and Bonaparte's Gulls. In March 2021, a Slaty-backed Gull was present, so we will certainly be keeping an eye open for any dark-backed gulls. Out on the ocean, there should be Pigeon Guillemots, Marbled Murrelet, Common Murre and Rhinoceros Auklet, and shorebirds we will watch for include Black Oystercatcher, Black Turnstone, Black-bellied Plover and Dunlin.
We will also dedicate some time to looking for forest species on the island. A trip to Mount Washington could yield species like Sooty Grouse, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Canada Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and much more. We will attempt to locate the island subspecies of Western Screech-Owl at Mount Arrowsmith as well.
To finish off the tour, we will take the ferry from Nanaimo back to Horseshoe Bay, again watching for birds and other creatures along the way. Before we officially finish the tour, we'll visit one or more of Vancouver's lovely wooded parks, home to birds like Pacific Wren, Steller's Jay, Anna's Hummingbird, Brown Creeper and Barred Owls.