Vancouver Island, Canada

7th-25th September 2011


Clayoquot Sound

I visited Tofino to take a couple of boat trips.  The first was a trip to see the resident Grey Whales in the Clayoquot Sound.

Grey Whale (Eschrichtius gibbosus)

Grey Whales are bottom feeders, filtering mouthfuls of sand through their baleen plates to retain the edible morsels such as shellfish and crabs.  In places, the coast around Tofino is very shallow and the whale we came across was feeding in water that was only 9m deep.  Consequently, it was only making shallow dives and didn't once raise its flukes out of the water and it was the least impressive encounter I have had with any of the great whales I have seen. 

Grey Whale (Eschrichtius gibbosus)

Infinitely more exciting was some excellent views of a male Sea Otter.  This endangered species was hunted extensively for its fur leading to its extirpation from many areas of its range where it was formerly common.  Recently, relocation programmes have allowed them to become successfully reestablished in many areas along the Pacific coast, including Vancouver Island.

Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

Sea Otters spend their entire life at sea and even give birth to their young in the ocean.  Even though they never set foot on land, their strong association with kelp forests means they rarely stray into deep water.

Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

Harbour Porpoise are fairly common in Clayoquot Sound, but getting a decent photo of them is not easy as it is difficult to predict where they are going to surface next.

Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

The following morning, I went on another boat trip from Tofino.  This time it was to view the Black Bears that come down to the shoreline to feed on shellfish and crabs at low tide.

female Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

The black bears do not regard boats as a threat and totally ignore them as they go about their hunt for food.  At low tide they search under rocks and boulders for crabs and shellfish sheltering underneath them.  It was quite staggering watching the ease with which the bears where able to move huge rocks aside with their immensely powerful front legs.

Black Bear (Ursus americanus) - 18-month old cub

male Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

Back on dry land, I spent a bit of time exploring Tonquin Park at the far western part of the Tofino headland. The sky was very overcast, making photography on the dark forest floor very difficult due to the lack of light.  I did, however, find an obliging Hermit Thrush which sat still enough to enable me to get sharp photos even at the ridiculously slow shutter speeds I was forced to use.

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Pacific Rim Provincial Park Back to map Forbidden Plateau, Strathcona