Monday, May 23, 2011

Wedding, Whales, Wildlife and Darth Maul?

Lori, Cher and Emily

4th May 2011 –
A great start to our week was when my daughter Emily and our wonderful friend and head bridesmaid Cher arrived.

5th May 2011 -
Lori, Cher, Conor, Emily, Nolan and I went to the Qualicum community hall for our wedding rehearsal. On arrival, all the people for the wedding party were there. Within a few minutes I noticed Darth Maul, the strange character from Star Wars – The Phantom Menace. He walked from the back of the hall towards us all. At that point, my brother-in-law; Justin, produced a lightsaber from behind his coat and said; “ stand back, I’ll take care of this!” The two of them battled for less than a minute until Darth struck Justin down. As I laughed at the amazing theatrics of this weird but cool encounter, Darth Maul throws me the lightsaber and initiates a challenge.  We battle for a few seconds until I lunge forward with a stab to the stomach. Darth Maul falls to his knees, to which I swing the customary decapitation stroke, the token head removal! So, what’s all the drama for? Well, I soon found out. Darth Maul removes his mask to reveal his identity. It was my brother! He had flown in from England that very day to be with us on our wedding day. I was absolutely stunned! I had no idea. After the shock I looked around to see everyone laughing and smiling, they ALL new, especially my bride to be, who was jumping up and down with excitement. 

Darth and Justin battle
What! are my brother
That was the beginning of the best week I have ever had. A week of fun, wildlife, whales, wedding and family. Oh and we got some birds too...

May 6th 2011 –
This morning I sneaked out with my brother to show him some of the local birding spots that I regularly check. We started at Rathtrevor Park where I was able to show Mark some Pacific Black Brant that were on the tide line. We then stopped at the Englishman River Estuary where we spotted some Least and Western Sandpipers. It was then that I realized that this was Mark’s first ever trip to North America! “So, have you ever seen a Bald Eagle Mark?” I scanned the skies in vein, though a few moments later I spotted an adult bird on the top of a Cedar tree. A few adjustments on the scope before Mark got his first look at a Bald Eagle.

Rich and Mark on Little Mountain
Our next stop was on Little Mountain where we enjoyed beautiful views, though Mount Arrowsmith was hiding behind the clouds. Here we got Red Crossbill, Chestnut-back Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Turkey Vulture and a killer look at Townsend’s Solitaire.

May 7th 2011 –
The Big Day! We got Married in Qualicum. We did notice birds during the day but the most memorable was a booming Sooty Grouse on Little Mountain where we got some photos taken.

Just Married - Little Mountain

May 9th 2011 –
With a little spare time we headed to Cathedral Grove. Cathedral Grove is located in MacMillan Provincial Park, en-route to Port Alberni from Parksville. Some of the Douglas-Fir trees here are not only massive but over 800 years old. While showing Mark this ancient forest we noticed Pacific Wren, Hermit Thrush and Steller’s Jay. Once we had soaked in this beautiful woodland ,we attempted to take the Mount Arrowsmith logging road but as it was a weekday we decided to abandon that idea. We didn’t want to get smoked by some logging truck! Plan B was to show Mark Port Alberni in all its glory or at least check out the marina. Not much to see though the view and weather was perfect and Mark got to see his first Common Loon.

Cathedral Grove

May 10th 2011 –
An early start for us all as Lori, Mark, Conor, Nolan and I headed to Tofino to grab a quick whale watching trip before Mark had to head back to England. We arrived at the Whale Centre in plenty of time. It was a good thing as we had to all get suited up as our boat was an open Boston Whaler and the rain was coming down at a good rate. On the way out we got nice views of Osprey though as soon as the boat speeded up we had top bury our heads as the rain was relentless. Having said that, we made the most of our 3 hour trip and got some fantastic wildlife viewing moments including Sea Otters, California Sea-Lion, Steller’s Sea-Lion, Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Common Murre, Marbled Murrelett, Red-necked Phalarope and two Gray Whale feeding in a kelp bed.

Steller's Sea-Lion

Whale watchers

Gray Whale

May 13th – 15th 2011  - Honeymoon
Lori and I sneaked away for two days in Ucluelet. Our good friend Sue had booked us in at the Waters Edge Resort Resort as our wedding present. On arrival the weather was good so we didn’t waste any time in getting out. Our first little excursion was in a Kayak which we took for a paddle for a couple of hours. It was only my second time in a Kayak and Lori’s first, so we were pretty proud to come back to land dry! 

Kayaking in Ucluelet
We then headed to Amphitrite Lighthouse and enjoyed a 4 kilometre hike around the surrounding trails. Here we had many Hermit Thrush and a migrating group of 50 Greater White-fronted Geese, heading north. After a good tip from our resort staff we headed to Little Bay in the evening for a ‘wildlife spectacle’ (you reading Cher?). In this secluded little bay we watched as a group of Sea Otters gathered forming a huge raft of over 70 individuals! It was really cool to watch their unique interactions of cleaning, feeding, sleeping, squabbling and chilling! We also got a nice year bird: Olive-sided Flycatcher. Another bird noticed that day was a beautiful Townsend’s Solitaire in the town of Uclulet.

Greater White-fronted Geese
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Townsend's Solitaire
Sea Otter - raft
Sea Otters through my scope
The weather got a little snotty on the 14th but didn’t stop us poking around in Tofino, the coffee shops were particularly welcomed. Though I tried very hard not to get too focused on birds we did take advantage of where we were and checked a few local hotspots. These produced a good sampling of shorebirds, many of which were year birds us. Our first stop was at Chesterman Beach where we found a mixed flock of peeps working the tide line: Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover, Dunlin and Sanderling. Next we headed down to the Tofino mudflats where we got Short-billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Whimbrel (50+) and an island bird for us both: Great Egret. This bird had been around for a few days, though we new nothing about it as we had been busy with wedding stuff. Great bird! That was not the only treat install for us. After hanging out in Tofino for a while we made our way back to the mudflats where we met some locals. After about twenty minutes the lady we were talking to pointed across the mudflats and pointed out a Black Bear! It stuck close to the forest but was definitely interested in the new bear grass coming up.
Great Egret


Black Bear


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