17th annual Tofino Shorebird Festival May 2-4

The Raincoast Education Society is getting ready for the 17th Annual Tofino Shorebird Festival, set for May 2-4. The opening reception and guest presentation “Shorebirds of the West Coast” with avian biologist Mark Maftei is from 6:30-8:30 on Friday, May 2 at Darwin’s Café in the Tofino Botanical Gardens. $10.

“From sandy beaches to rocky reefs to tidal mudflats, the diverse habitats found along the West Coast of Vancouver Island are home to a number of familiar shorebirds year-round. Every spring and fall, these hardy locals are joined by vast flocks of migratory species that use critical stopover sites like the Tofino Mudflats to rest and refuel on their lengthy journeys,” said Dan Harrison, executive director of the Raincoast Education Society. “This talk will focus on the behavior and ecology of resident and migrating shorebirds on the West Coast.”

Every year from late April through May, flocks of sandpipers, plovers, Whimbrels, and many other shorebirds pass through the Tofino area. Thousands stop here to feed and rest as they make their impressive journey from South and Central America northward to their Arctic breeding grounds.

The protected forests, expansive mudflats, long sandy beaches, and rocky shorelines of this area create the right combination of habitats to draw over 40 species of shorebirds to the area, including the largest migratory concentrations of Whimbrels anywhere in British Columbia and impressive flocks of Western Sandpipers, Dunlin and more. The threatened Red Knot is also a regular visitor each spring, as well as Rock Sandpiper in winter. In 2010, local bird expert Adrian Dorst listed at least 30 species of shorebirds.

On Saturday, May 3, kayak guide and naturalist Andy Murray will lead Birding by Kayak on the Arakun mudflats at the base of Meares Island, starting at Tofino Sea Kayaking. $75.

For information call 250-725-4222.

“This is a unique birding opportunity to paddle … along the shores of ancient coastal rainforests of giant Western Redcedars, Sitka Spruce, and Western Hemlocks,” a spokesperson said.

Also on May 3, lunch with the artist and art show featuring the lino-cut block prints of Allison Tremain, 12-3 p.m. at Jamie’s Rainforest Inn Restaurant and Lounge.

From 3-5 p.m., Andy Murray and Adrian Dorst will lead “Building Better Birding Skills on the Tofino Mudflats,” starting at Jamie’s Rainforest Inn. “This program is great for new and experienced birders as well as anyone interested in the Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area. Learn how to identify and count geese, ducks, shorebirds, raptors and more on the Tofino Mudflats,” a spokesperson said.

From 7:30-8:30 p.m., avian biologist Shanti Davis will present “The Juan de Fuca Eddy – a critical stopover site for migrating Sabine’s gulls” at Tofino Botanical Gardens.

“Sabine’s gulls undertake spectacular long distance migrations, travelling more than 30,000 km annually from the circumpolar Arctic to wintering areas in the southern hemisphere. Tracks of Sabine’s gulls from a breeding colony in the Canadian High Arctic reveal that the Juan de Fuca Eddy off the West Coast of Vancouver Island is the most important stopover site used by these remarkable birds during both their north and southbound migration,” a spokesperson said.

On Sunday, May 4, Cleland Island Ecological Reserve Warden Pete Clarkson will lead “A Guided Voyage to Cleland Island Seabird Colony.”

“Cleland Island Ecological Reserve is the best spot in the region for seabirds, where we often see spectacular Tufted Puffins, Marbled Murrelets, Rhinoceros Auklet, and Black Oystercatchers,” said a spokesman. Book through Jamie’s Whaling, Tofino (606 Campbell St) at 1-800-667-9913 or info@jamies.com.

The Birds of the West Coast weekend field course with Dr. Barb Beasley is set for May 9-11.

editor@westerlynews.ca