25 November 2023

Orcas to Humpbacks September 2023

6th - 19th September 2023

Victoria, Boston, New York

Species Highlights: 
Orca, Humpback Whales, Horned Owl


Virgin Flight on final approach into

On the western side of USA we have been before, last year, so it was food a quick explore then back to hotel as it was just a overnight here, after all with the time difference it was 1am!
Homewood Suites by Hilton, Seattle Downtown
Was OK, but the bed was awful very uncomfortable in fact it was more comfortable on the floor! The hotel due to some haggling from my girls was free so no loss.

After a good Breakfast at said hotel it would be the
FRS Clipper Ferry to Victoria, Canada.

Around 7am and taking 4 hours for the trip.
Victoria on Vancouver Island is beautiful, the small Harbour was a busy spot with sea-planes taking off and people walking around the Harbour walls.

We walked to our hotel the Double Tree top floor and fabulous views out across the Harbour and beyond.
The following morning, me and Lauren headed to Beacon Hill Park. Walking from the hotel at 6am along a busy road we were very surprised to see a Great Blue Heron being directed by a workman!!

On entering the park Deer were feeding in the roadside, Black-Tailed Deer.
A few birds were flitting in the treetops Orange-Crowned Warbler, Yellow Warbler,Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Black-Throated Grey Warbler but too high for photos.

Our main objectives here were Owls, Horned and Barred and on reaching a play area Lauren heard a call but thought Pigeons, I didn’t hear it but we walked on seeing and hearing Hummingbirds and Woodpeckers.

Fox Sparrow

Bewick's Wren

Anna's Hummingbird showing a bit of colour

Another no colour but still a stunner

Plenty of Gulls flying overhead, the sea wasn’t far away so most heading that way, California, Glaucous Winged and Western Gull.

As we headed towards the coast and the flagpole looking for another owl species Barred Owl, Lauren spotted a Lazuli Bunting, I saw bird but couldn’t get a picture

No tick for me, also no Barred Owl found.
We walked down to coast two tiny Marbled Murrelet were miles out but a new lifer for us both, with Common Murre or in UK Guillemot floating on the Salish Sea.

On re-entering the park a Chestnut-Sided Chickadee

Anna's Hummingbird showing amazingly well in the park gardens

Such amazing birds and you would believe how small!

Peacocks wandered through the park with locals feeding the birds.

A small pond which had Ducks, American Wigeon, Mallard & Glaucous Winged Gull, Adult and Juvenile.

We met up with my other daughter and wife for breakfast.
11:30 our first Whale watching Trip, Prince of Whales...get it!
We headed out in search of Whales and Wildlife.
A long tour around but no Whales seen, the company has a policy no whales you can re-book for a small fee so we booked again for the next day.

Short-Billed, Glaucous-Winged, California Gull, Common Murre, Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-Necked Grebe and Double Breasted Cormorant plus eagle eyed Lauren had a Bonaparte's Gull

Glaucous-Winged Gull

California Gull

Next morning a bus ride to Butchart gardens, a beautiful place with amazing gardens and grounds

A very sterile place with not much wildlife, and although we arrived early, shortly after arriving 100’s and 100’s of people started to arrive … go early!!

Amongst the crowds and trying to find our way out I spotted a bird flying. across the park, a Pileated Woodpecker!! A bird that I always seem to miss, I saw which tree it landed in but at least 100 people stood in my way, I couldn’t re-locate, I settled for this Chestnut-Sided Chickadee, one of the few birds we saw here.

That Afternoon our almost free Whale Watching Trip. We headed out as before in better conditions towards Race Rock some 19km or 11 miles to Race Rocks

Along the way a few highlights, a lot of Red-Necked Phalarope

Rhinoceros Auklet

A Elephant Seal quite rare out this way they say, the most common are California Sea Lion

But then a spray of Water was seen and Stitch the Humpback was spotted!

To say it was close was a understatement!
The law is you must not approach Whales but if it comes towards you that's fine... Stitch spent 20 mins rubbing himself against our boat before we could legally move on.

No crop here, you could smell the Humpback a truly amazing experience.

As Stitch swam off, we were close to Race Rocks with Sea Lion basking in the setting sun.

Black Oystercatcher, Heermann's, California, Glaucous-Winged, Herring, Short-Billed Gulls, Pelagic Cormorant and even a Long-Billed Dowitcher were seen.

We left Race Rocks with happy memories.

The following morning we did the Hop on Hop off bus tour, we hopped off at Oak Bay a place from our Whale tour last year where we saw Orca...flashback picture.
(28/09/2022) Oak Bay shoreline in background.

So seemed a good bet to try to see what was about. Around a small inlet a few birds were wading & feeding

Greater Yellowlegs

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

Lauren got this great picture of a Belted Kingfisher.

But no Orca seen on this visit, the hop on was returning so we hopped on and headed back into Victoria for another Whale Watching Trip.
A different company this time Eagle wings tours.

A very long time searching for anything this group of rocks had,California Sea Lion, Pelagic Cormorant, Heermann's Gull, Brandt's Cormorant.

After almost giving up, on way back to Victoria we spotted Pod T137 of, 3 Orca swam close to shore, we followed at a distance for around 40 mins but never close and no Spy hopping as before but we saw Orca so a great trip.

The last and following morning Lauren had a lie in, mistake…. as I entered Beacon Hill Park the Pigeon which she heard the previous morning turned out to be Horned Owl!! It was almost dark but I was so chuffed to see two owls flying around.

One flew and landed on a balcony where I managed a few snaps, shame it was dark, the other owl joined it and they flew into a Jew tree and disappeared, wow and a lifer.

Following the same route as previous morning I was at the flagpole and heard a commotion, a Steller’s Jay was calling and I Spotted a Cooper's Hawk, deep in cover.

But the Jay was not squawking at the hawk, a flash of wings and a Barred owl appeared, no photo so no tick but the Owl the called a few times but I couldn’t located it position. Still what a fabulous morning! Here's the only proof of the event, Merlin bird app was running at the time.

I met up with The girls, Lauren was not happy, but that’s birding, the early bird gets the owl!

That morning we were leaving for the next part of our trip and had ordered the taxi the night before confirming that we needed a 5 seater for luggage. All booked and we waited,
a taxi eventually, 30 mins late and too small turned up, they had to book another, more money obviously, to take us to airport.
Victoria International to Toronto Pearson International Airport then a transfer to Boston Logan International a day of nothing but travel.
Not ideal, but wait it gets worse, on arriving at Boston Logan International Airport and waiting for our cases, everyone left except for us, no cases!! They were still in Toronto, after me and Lauren spoke to staff at airport they assured us they would be sent to out Hotel in Boston in morning…
We were not feeling confident. We booked into our hotel a Yotel and had some food, next morning we had a Whale Trip booked and had the clothes from the previous day no coats but boarded the boat, anyway.
Boston Harbor City Cruises was our boat and we headed out through the Harbour with Osprey hunting.
GinGin sweets my new favourite seas sickness cure and thankfully a bowl was on the cafe counter, I took a handful. Settled at the back of the boat and relaxed.

As we left Boston Harbour, this Boston Light Island

Our boat headed into Cape Cod Bay and it wasn't Long before Humpback were spotted and feeding.

Some of the Whales come up very close to the Boat, again being able to smell and feel the Spray from their blowholes.
Lots of birds hoping for some missed fish, Laughing Gull

You can see a fish making a get away in this shot.

The event is not really captured in pictures but trust me it was fantastic!

A Great Shearwater of which there were up to 100 at times, lifer.

We arrived back into Boston feeling very chuffed.

We decided as no cases were at hotel to go to airport and sort Air Canada out!!

On arriving me and Lauren spotted our cases, just sat in lost property! I Found a member of staff and after showing them our displeasure took them back to hotel. Clean clothes and toothbrushes.
We spent the remainder of the day and evening exploring Boston.

Make Way for Ducklings is a sculpture by Nancy Schön, which recreates the duck family in Robert McCloskey's children's classic Make Way for Ducklings, did you read It?

Fan Pier Park

Our view from our Yotel, Hotel.

The following morning another Whale Trip, not expecting it to beat what we'd already seen.We were wrong up to 30 Humpback whales feeding and bubble netting. The birds were fantastic too, 100's of Great Shearwater.

The names of some of the whales were:
Etch-A-Sketch, Milkweed, Evolution, Mend, 3:14, Ember, Tectonic, Tear, Startail, Sprinkles, Ursa, Dome, Infinity, Ghost, Bandit, Crossbean. All the whales are ID'ed and logged using marking on fins, tail and patterns.

Sooty Shearwater

These Local fishermen looking fed up with the whales probably taking all the fish, Long lens makes them look closer than they were.

Arctic Skua, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Terns and many Gulls also cashing in on the feeding frenzy.

Really ending on a high we returned to Boston.
Boston, Massachusetts famous for American Revolution, Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, Battle of Bunker Hill, and the siege of Boston. Following American independence from Great Britain and the USS Constitution.

Acorn Street, Boston

The next Morning we caught the Amtrak to Providence Rhode Island a new state for us all, just 40 miles as the crow flies and what a beautiful place, a seemingly empty city we walked along Providence River, very pretty.

Outside the train station, this lovely Common Sulphur Butterfly.

Amtrak again this time to New York City, Penn Station.
New York seems to get busier and busier every year, traffic people and noise was overwhelming, skyscrapers towering above, we headed to the Hampton Inn Manhattan.
A quick unload of cases and subway to Dumbo Park for sunset. The subway now had contactless turnstile fabulous and much better than the stupid card swipe machine, which I always had trouble with in past trips.
Lauren Fabulous Pictures.

Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan Skyline

The next morning me & Lauren went birding first to Jamaica Bay our 3rd visit here, a Storm surge warning was all over the TV channels, but we went anyway, being from the UK, we're used to a bit of rain and wind!
Blue skies and some sunshine greeted us and after a subway and Bus trip we arrived.

The view toward New York from Jamaica Bay

Northern Mockingbird

Displaying or wing stretching in Mockingbirds is thought to startle insects when feeding or when the bird is anxious, it carried on doing this even after we walked away, so maybe feeding.

A flash of a Cooper's Hawk, Lauren quicker to get this Shot.

Merlin is a very common bird of prey in New York and Coastal areas here

As we wandered around the reserve, 10+ American Redstart were feeding in trees, with them Flycatchers, Parula, Magnolia Warblers.

A few Butterflies also feeding around the marsh edges.

Red-Banded Hairstreak


Pearl Crescent


A few Waders, Semi-palmated, Pectoral, Western and Least Sandpiper amongst the little group.

The most common bird of prey, Osprey lost count how many, they were in every city we visited this trip.

A bus ride away was the Salt Marsh Center, Brooklyn.
It was great last time we went but that was in February, September was different far less birds but still a few things to point camera at.

Eastern-Tailed Blue

More fabulous Monarch

Autumn Darter

Forster's Tern were feeding and doing well catching plenty.

Another bus ride to Prospect Park, a lot of walking already and our feet were aching the park was extremely busy 1000’s of people and very few birds such a difference to our previous trips.

Eastern Chipmunk

Black N White Warbler

We returned to New York city for a sit down, that evening visited time square and the lights.

Me and my Wife, Melanie

Next morning we visited the much quieter Governor's Island.

Red-eyed Vireo

Statue of Liberty

American Black Duck

Yellow Warbler

Central Park and our last day but the storm which had been forecast arrived to New York and the rain was awful 6am till 2pm non stop, a few birds but cameras left in bag as so wet, such a shame..

We arrived back to hotel to shower and dry off then subway to JFK and home, a amazing trip and wildlife, the Whales and Canada was great a real bucket list event!

The list of 111 species can be seen here:

Ebird trip list


Clouded Sulphur, Sachem Skipper, Monarch, Crescent Pearl, Red-banded Hairstreak, Orange Sulphur, Large White, Eastern Tailed Blue.

Other Wildlife:

Humpback, Orca, Elephant Seal, California Sea Lion. Steller Sea Lion

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Thanks Wayne and Lauren

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