Birding the Whiffen Spit


Sooke, British Columbia - March 17, 1999

Whiffen Spit Park Sign As part of a family visit, I had the opportunity to revisit the Whiffen Spit, a favourite birding location when I am in Sooke on Vancouver Island. This 3/4 mile long sand spit separates Sooke Harbour from the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the state of Washington. See map.
The spit is a favorite place for an early morning walk on a beautiful day for local birders and other nature lovers (and their dogs, which seem to totally ignore the birds...). The seaward side of the spit is home to many ocean-going birds. The rough surf seems to be particularly popular in the winter with Harlequin Ducks who usually can be spotted tumbling in the waves. The calmer harbour side attracts diving and dabbling ducks along with shorebirds, geese and herons. And who knows what might be lurking in the trees around Harbour House (with one of the 10 best restaurants in Canada, according to Gourmet magazine - check it out only if you're not a budget birder).  Harbour House
Looking along the seaward side of the spit toward the Cascades in Washington State and 
Harbour House
Sooke is the home of a large raptor migration in the spring and fall, with large kettles of turkey vultures and hawks passing overhead. Bald Eagles are year-round residents.

Black Oystercatcher with Wigeons
Canada Goose - Photo copyright Tina MacDonald
Canada Goose at the Spit
My bird list from a two hour stint at the spit included: Pigeon Guillemot, American Wigeons, Black Oystercatcher, Surf Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, Brant, Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser, Common and Pacific Loons, Canada Geese, Mallards, 
Common Goldeneye, Northwestern Crows, Herring and Mew Gulls, and Great Blue Heron. 
While we were in Sooke, we stayed at a great bed and breakfast, the Whiffen Spit Lodge, about 30 minutes from Victoria. Our British hosts, Al and Sheila Carter, although not birders themselves, were incredibly helpful in providing maps and directions to the other local birding "hotspots", including Witty's Lagoon, Esquimault Lagoon, and the Hawk Watch site in East Sooke Park. Whiffen Spit is only a 10 minute walk away from the B&B! They also arranged a fishing trip for us, so we feasted on fresh crab (and froze the two salmon) as well as enjoying the full English breakfasts. Whiffen Spit Lodge Bed and Breakfast
In the garden behind the Lodge are many feeders and nest boxes for enjoying with afternoon tea.
Al and Sheila Carter
Our Hosts - Al and Sheila Carter
Duncan and Marjorie
Happy Guests at the Lodge (my husband, Duncan, and my mother-in-law, Marjorie)
On the way back to our temporary base in Duncan, we stopped off at Art Mann Park, and saw these beautiful birds... 

All right... I know they are an introduced species, but I welcome all immigrants to Canada, including the avian variety. Besides, I thought this was a nice picture! 

All in all, a great day or two of birding!

Mute Swans - Photo copyright Tina MacDonald
Mute Swans at Art Mann Park

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