Special to the Westerly
Adrian Dorst is Tofino’s birding expert and with the release of his newest book, “The Birds of Vancouver Island’s West Coast”, he has cemented that title in place.
Rather than putting another bird identification book on the market, something he says there are already enough of, he wrote the book “he would have wanted” as a birder.
“To identify a bird, you need a field guide, but it really doesn’t tell you much at all”, Dorst explained.
To fill that niche, he has carefully crafted a log of every confirmed bird sighting on Vancouver Island’s west coast from Jordan River to Cape Scott. The book serves as a record of sightings and a guide for those wanting to spot a particular species or learn more about local bird habits.
It is a fantastic resource for photographers, birders and tourism guides alike.
Dorst used the Ebird website’s public sighting record for many of the birds recorded in the book. EBird has been a “huge benefit” to the scientific community.
It has “revolutionized birding and the knowledge of the distribution of birds”, according to Dorst.
The wealth of community knowledge on the coast proved to be a great asset for Dorst. You only need to look at the list of names on Page 18-20 to see how true this is. In a sense, it’s a community project, with Dorst as it’s lead, slogging through mounds of data to create this immense compilation of sightings.
No small feat considering the thickness of the completed volume. Dorst spent much of the last five years working on the book but got the idea around 10 years ago, and he started stepping up his field work then in preparation for writing the book.
Dorst got his start in birding at a young age, when he captured a bird that had found its way into their family home. He thought it was a wren, but when he brought it to his bird-loving Grade 5 teacher she identified it as a house sparrow! She gave him the bird book that sparked his passion.
It’s never too late or early to begin bird watching, whether it’s a hobby or obsession. Dorst revelled in the advantages each new generation has of new books to identify and learn about birds. There is so much information available.
Some of his favourite spots to watch birds locally are the Grice Bay boat launch, especially between tides during the winter, the viewing platform at the end of Sharp Road, behind Jamie’s Rainforest Inn, and various areas of Long Beach.
If you ask any serious birder about their lifers, birds they have yet to see but want to check off their list, their eyes will light up as they describe the species and efforts they have put into the search. Dorst is no exception. He is looking forward to spotting his first short-tailed albatross, the species featured on the cover of “The Bird’s of Vancouver Island’s West Coast”. Archaeology has shown that they were a common albatross along our coast until they were hunted to near extinction for the Japanese feather trade in the 1930s.
They are making a great comeback now and sightings are increasing off our coast. Short-tailed albatross can be seen at distances of 20-plus kilometers offshore.
On a personal note, I’ve got to say, I received quite a thrill when I flipped to the “Accidental Species” section of the book. There on page 553 is my name in black and white, an honour I never could have imagined!
In January of 2017, a juvenile male Baltimore Oriole visited us repeatedly at our home in Ahousaht, on Flores Island – a lifer that I didn’t even know was possible. My husband, Lennie John, is forever teasing me that he saw it first, and he did! I was still half-asleep clutching my mug of coffee when it first appeared on the porch railing.
We’re a great birding team though, as without my photo uploaded to the eBird website, it is unlikely that anyone would have believed us.
Lennie also spotted the Bullock’s Oriole first that we sighted in Ahousaht. Again, it took a photo submitted to eBird to confirm the sighting.
No matter your birding skill level, the West Coast is a truly phenomenal place to watch our feathered friends.