Photo Mark Maftei

Tofino Shorebird Festival

18th AnnualMay 1-3, 2015

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 the region 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 past years, local bird expert Adrian Dorst listed at least 30 species of shorebirds!

The Tofino Shorebird Festival celebrates this impressive annual migration with a series of educational birding activities throughout the region. We draw on local and visiting experts to participate in the festival, offering guest lectures, birding workshops, boat trips and much more! This is a great opportunity to experience the largest wildlife migration in the region, learn about these impressive birds, and understand why Tofino is one of the very best places in western Canada for bird watching.

A huge thank you to our festival partners! In alphabetical order: Darwin’s Café; District of Tofino; Jamie’s Whaling Station and Rainforest Inn; Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada; Tofino Botanical Gardens; Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area; Tofino Sea Kayaking; Tofino Time; Tourism Tofino; Wickaninnish Inn.

2015 Schedule of Events

  Friday May 1st, 2015

Friday, May 1st
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Jamie’s Restaurant and Lounge @ Jamie’s Rainforest Inn (1258 Pacific Rim Hwy)
$10 admission includes appetizers

We will kick off the 18th annual Tofino Shorebird Festival with a social evening at Jamie’s Restaurant and Lounge. Meet other shorebird enthusiasts while enjoying a delicious spread of appetizers and craft beer from Tofino Brewery. We will be showcasing the best photos submitted to our Birds are Awesome photo contest, and a People’s Choice award will be chosen by you tonight!

The meet and greet will be followed by a presentation from Dr. John Reynolds, from Simon Fraser University. John's passion for shorebirds dates back to his MSc research on Red-necked Phalaropes at a remote camp on the shore of Hudson Bay near Churchill. These birds have “sex-role reversal”, whereby males do all of the brood-rearing by themselves, and the more brightly-coloured females fight for mates.  Dr Reynolds continued his research into shorebird mating systems through his early years as a professor, while his more recent research focuses on ecology salmon and birds in BC.
Saturday May 2nd, 2015

  Saturday May 2, 2015

BIRDING 101 - GET YOUR BEAK WET! with instructor Barbara Beasley, PhD
Saturday, May 2nd
9:00 am – 10:00 am
Jamie’s Restaurant and Lounge @ Jamie’s Rainforest Inn (1258 Pacific Rim Hwy)
No cost

This two-part event will begin with an informal indoor introduction to some key points to help you identify and recognize the common shorebird species you can expect to see around Tofino in the spring. Identifying shorebirds can seem daunting at first, but becoming familiar with a few basic features is a sure-fire way to take your birding to the next level. Drop in for a coffee and brush up on your skills before heading into the field.

BIRDING 201 – GET YOUR FEET WET! with Barb Beasley and Adrian Dorst
Saturday, May 2nd
10:00 am – 12:00 am
Mudflats behind Jamie’s Rainforest Inn (meet in front of the Inn, 1258 Pacific Rim Hwy)
No cost

Immediately following the Birding 101 workshop, the Birding 201 field session will put your skills to use in the field. The mudflats behind Jaimie's Rainforest Inn offer some of the best and most accessible high-quality shorebird habitat in Tofino, and several expert birders will be on hand to help you make the most of the best time of day for watching shorebirds - the rising tide when birds are concentrated on the upper mudflats (high @ 11:42 am). This is a great event for both new and experienced birders, as well as anyone interested in the Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area.

Bring your binoculars or spotting scope if you have them, or else we will have a few to share. For everybody’s enjoyment (but especially for the birds and other wildlife), unleashed dogs are not permitted in the Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area, so please leave your pets at home. Boots are recommended, as it can be a little wet!

GUIDED VOYAGE TO CLELAND ISLAND SEABIRD COLONY with Cleland Island Ecological Reserve Warden Pete Clarkson
Saturday, May 2nd
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Jamie’s Whaling (606 Campbell St)

Join us aboard the MV Leviathan to explore the inlets and mudflats behind Tofino for shorebirds, before we head offshore to the Cleland Island Ecological Reserve, one of the premier sites in Clayoquot Sound for seabirds. Past trips have enjoyed great looks at spectacular Tufted Puffins, Marbled Murrelets, Rhinoceros Auklet, and Black Oystercatchers, and a variety of other species. Whales, seals, sea lions and sea otters can also be seen in this area. This three-hour trip is lead by Cleland Island Ecological Reserve Warden Pete Clarkson.

Please book through Jamie’s Whaling, Tofino at 1-800-667-9913 or

Saturday, May 2nd
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Darwin’s Café in the Tofino Botanical Gardens (1084 Pacific Rim Hwy)
$5 suggested donation

We will recap the highlights of the day and start the 2015 Shorebird Fest species list! Followed by a guest presentation to be announced.

  Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

PELAGIC TRIP with seabird biologist Mark Maftei
Sunday, May 3rd
All day, departure time TBA
RV Michelle Diane, captained by Brian Gisbourne, leaving from Ucluelet (dock tba)
$200 per person, 12 seats available

This trip will be an all day excursion to some of the banks and canyons off of Barkley Sound in search of Albatrosses, Shearwaters, Storm-petrels and other pelagic birds. Exact route to be determined based on local weather, fishing activity, and up-to-date recon of where birds seem to be concentrating. Our goal is to bird out to, and then along, the shelf edge near one of the large offshore canyons about 35 miles off the coast. 

Previous years have turned up some amazing birds and marine mammals and this is a one-of-a-kind experience and a unique opportunity to explore the pelagic waters off of Vancouver Island. Early May is the transition when wintering species begin to move out and summer migrants arrive. Highlights of past trips include Sabine's gull, Arctic tern, short-tailed, sooty, and flesh-footed shearwater, fork-tailed storm petrel, large flocks of both red and red-necked phalaropes, and more. Albatrosses and rarer shearwaters are always a possibility, but never a guarantee, but we will come prepared with chum and do our best to draw in something spectacular! 

The Michelle Dianne is the perfect boat to take us to the best habitat as quickly and comfortably as possible. Captain Brian Gisbourne has spent most of the last several decades conducting surveys and research on whales in these offshore waters, and nobody knows the area better.

To ensure all participants enjoy a comfortable trip, space is limited to 12 people. Cost is $200 per person. Registration can be made on-line through the Tofino Shorebirds Festival website, with payment by paypal or cheque. If there is enough interest to fully book a second trip well ahead of time, we will consider the option of running a second trip on Sunday. 

Participants should come prepared with binoculars, a bird guide, rain gear, as well as food and drink for the trip. We will be on the water for much of the day, and while there is an enclosed cabin (and head), birding will be from the open back deck. If you are prone to seasickness, please bring your own medication. This trip will run rain or shine, but should heavy seas force the cancellation of the trip, notice will be given 24 hours ahead of time, and a full refund will be offered. There is no refund for no-shows.

BIRDING BY KAYAK with kayak guide and naturalist Andy Murray
Sunday, May 3rd
8:30 am – 12:30 pm
Tofino Sea Kayaking (320 Main St)
$75 incl. tax - a portion of proceeds are donated to the Tofino Shorebird Festival

This four-hour sea kayaking tour will take you on a journey to the expansive Arakun mudlfats at the base of Meares Island to experience extensive areas of prime shorebird habitat only accessible by water. This is a unique birding opportunity to paddle with naturalist Andy Murray in the Tofino Mudflats Wildlife Management Area along the shores of ancient coastal rainforests of giant Western Redcedars, Sitka Spruce, and Western Hemlocks. Sea kayaking experience is not necessary. You will be in double kayaks, so you can alternate with your partner in paddling and bird watching!

Please book through Tofino Sea Kayaking at 250-725-4222.

SUNDAY FUNDAY FOR KIDS! with Raincoast Education Society
Sunday, May 3rd
10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Ecolodge @ Tofino Botanical Gardens
Free admission

Interactive activities for kids. Details TBA.

Sunday, May 3rd
9:30 am – 11:30 pm
Kwisitis Visitor Centre & Wickaninnish Beach
No charge, but must purchase Park Visitor Pass (available in parking lot)

Pacific Rim National Park includes some of the most extensive (and popular) stretches of sandy beaches in BC. Thousands of shorebirds rely on this habitat to forage and rest during migration, which thousands of people also use year-round. This overlap results in both conflict and opportunity. Come and learn about recent Parks Canada research programs on shorebirds, and also how management decisions affect both people and birds in this unique area. An introductory talk at the Wickaninnish Interpretive Center by Sarah will be followed by a walk along Wickaninnish beach, a unique area of habitat where sandy shores and dunes meet the rocky intertidal. This is a great spot to see otherwise hard-to-find species like Black Turnstones and Surfbirds.