Tofino Winter Visitors
by Helen Clay in Tofino
Clayoquot Sound is renowned as a special place for bird watching. Each
species comes to find its own habitat, both the year round residents
and the migratory birds passing through.
At the Whalers on the Point hostel in Tofino on West Street, migratory humans
also come to roost, fluffing out their feathers and looking around
the area for a day or two. Some have flown from close by, the nearest
being Port Alberni, and the furthest New Zealand. Some travel only
for a few days and one exceptional specimen for 20 years! I joined
the flock from England, via Vancouver, and stayed for six of the
best days I have ever experienced, anywhere in the world.
I came to Tofino expecting beaches, storms and rainforest, and certainly
I wasn’t disappointed–but I hadn’t expected how captivated
I would be by the atmosphere. I was lucky enough to walk the Meares
Island trail twice, and immediately became a rainforest addict who
would happily walk it every day. I had a bike, so I visited Chesterman
Beach, both on a quiet evening when the glory of the clouds reflected
on the damp sand, and on a stormy day when the crashing of the waves
just took my breath away. I had a lovely cycle up Radar Hill – in
horizontal rain. Reaching the top was exhilarating; not a view to be
seen but the wind wildly whipping the treetops. I took a photo of the
view board “for the folks back home”, and I know that when
I do next get up there and see the sound in all its glory, I will be
all the more impressed.
The natural environment of Clayoquot is stunning, and brought to
mind a favourite poem by Lord Byron:
There is a pleasure
in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture
on the lonely shore,
There is society,
where none intrudes,
By the deep sea,
and music in its roar:
I love not man the less,
but Nature more,
From these our interviews,
in which I steal
From all I may be,
or have been before,
To mingle with
the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express,
yet cannot all conceal.
I was also lucky to be able to attend three excellent talks in one
short week. Pat Rasmussen spoke about the World Temperate Rainforest
Network, and her amazing efforts to protect rainforest, particularly
in Chile. Beautiful photographs of Clayoquot Sound, and focs success
in protecting it, were greeted with a rousing cheer! The key point
I took home from her talk was that while bc is blessed with having
43% of its temperate rainforest intact, only 5% is protected. There’s
a lot to lose. In New Zealand, where the West Coast of the South Island
is home to their old growth forest, they have 28% remaining intact:
all of it is now protected from logging.
Dom Repta of FOCS spoke of his run across the Moroccan desert: he
came 30th out of 700 runners, but would have preferred 10th place!
ambition goes far beyond what we mere mortals would aspire to– however
we all enjoyed the gruesome pictures of runners’ feet!
Then there was R.Wayne Campbell’s book launch. He is the foremost
bird expert in BC, having published over 300 scientific papers, many
reports and books. The honour of his visit was equivalent to a condor
touching down in Clayoquot. What amazed and delighted me was that so
eminent a man could give a talk so down to earth and just plain enjoyable!
My favourite detail of the evening was when he described his concerns
over his impact on feeding a group of seven house finches in his garden.
He started banding them, and stopped when he said “I got to 1100
A very dear friend of mine, Michaela Palmer, was the one to recommend
I visit Tofino, for which I am forever in her debt. Her thoughts
on her visit were :
What did we love about it? The peace, serenity that you feel inside
the moment you arrive—it’s like the rest of the world and
all the crap has just disappeared. Everyone’s so chilled and
friendly. Long Beach is just great for walking along and clearing your
head of crap—the roar of the pacific ocean, all the driftwood
strewn about and the forest right behind your head—there could
be a million people there but you’d still feel like there was
only you. Then there were the bears… and the kayaking… and
the seaplanes whizzing by your head.
More than anything it was simply the most amazing feeling inside
being there—so hard to describe—just feels like you’re ‘home’.”
Tofino changes you. Outwardly, I arrived dressed for cold weather
with hiking boots and little gloves—I left looking resplendent in
gumboots, waterproof trousers and gloves 3 sizes too big (who cares
as long as they keep the rain out!). I cut a dash in the posh restaurant
at Horseshoe Bay!
Inwardly, I arrived a person unsure of how and where to make a difference
to this earth—I left happy in the knowledge that in Clayoquot
I can do some good.
By the end of one short week I had met and made countless new friends,
all fired with a passion for this amazing place and delighted to share
in its beauty. I am now determined to return—for New Years, and
Helen Clay visited Tofino
in December 2004 and will return for volunteer work in Spring. She
can be contacted
Tofino Birdwatching Articles