Spring Alcids, Boreal Specialties and Euro Strays
May 4th-10th 2019
May birding in Newfoundland has a lot to offer. We will see hundreds of thousands of Alcids, visit the world's most accessible Gannet rookery, where 20,000 Northern Gannets nest on a 100m sea stack just meters away! There will be a large selection of Boreal Songbirds and most years there are a few European strays, such as EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER, BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, EUROPEAN WHIMBREL, NORTHERN WHEATEAR. Less often there have have been spectacular rarities such as COMMON REDSHANK AND EURASIAN HOBBY and REDWING.
While the possibilities of exciting rarities is tantalizing, the amazing seabird spectacles, boreal birds, outstanding scenery ( including icebergs!) will create memories to last a lifetime.
Note- The itinerary is subject to change based on weather and birding conditions. If we get news about an exciting rarity we can and will chase it, if that's what the group wants and we will alter our plans accordingly.
Day 1- St.John's
After everyone is gathered from the airport and settled in to the hotel, we will meet to discuss the plans for the trip, get to know each a little and eat! There may be time for a little birding around the city, depending on what time everyone arrives.
Day 2- St.John's
On the second day we will start our day birding for boreal songbirds such as Fox Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Boreal Chickadee, Pine Grosbeak, White-winged Crossbill. We will also take time to search out any interesting birds within the city, e.g. there are usually still a few Tufted Ducks around. In the afternoon we will board a boat and spend a few hours touring the seabird island in the Witless bay Ecological Reserve. The reserve is host to some 260,000 pairs of Atlantic Puffins, 600,000+ pairs of Leaches Storm Petrels, as well 10's of thousands of pairs of Murres of both species. There will also be opportunities for other species such as Northern Fulmar, Northern Gannet, Black Guillemot and occasionally Red and Red-necked Phalarope. After the tour we will decide what's next, food or more birding- we will see! We will spend the night in St.john's.
We will rise early on our third day and embark on the drive to the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve. This is the site of the famous " Bird Rock". Bird Rock is a 100-metre-tall stack of sandstone that is separated from the viewing area by a chasm only a few metres wide. Northern Gannets and Black-legged Kittiwakes zip by, as many thousands nest literally an arms reach away. This is an amazing opportunity to observe Gannets engaging in their courtship rituals, completely unfazed by the humans standing meters away. Aside from the Gannets the area is home to about several thousand pairs of Common Murres, 2000 pairs of Thick-billed Murres, as well as a sprinkling of Razorbills and Black Guillemots. While, the Gannets and Alcids are our goal, the Cape comprises on of the most southerly expanses of sub arctic tunda and is home to American Pippit and Horned Lark and Short-eared Owl. While we are in the area we will check a few other locations which may serve as possible locations for vagrant European Waders. We will then embark on our drive to the Terra Nova National Park area, which will serve as our base of operation for the next 3 days.
On these days will spend time trying to dig up our own European vagrants by searching many small harbours and headlands. We will visit the town of Bonavista and Dungeon Provincial Park. While the name is foreboding the birding can be quite good. This site is host to a few European Golden Plovers almost every Spring. There are also opportunities for sea watching for Alcids and any lingering Ducks, such as Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck and Scoters. There will also be ample opportunity for birding for Boreal species. We will make an effort to find both Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpecker, as well a Spruce and Roughed Grouse, among the other Boreal species. You will also have the option of owling on both nights in search of Great-horned, Nothern Saw-whet and Boreal Owl.
This day is left open. It could involve looking for some south after Boreal species we may have missed, or could include another chase for a European vagrant. We will travel back to St. John's on this day, stopping along the way for birding opportunities as we see them. We will have dinner at a nice restaurant in the evening, relax and recount our adventure from throughout the week.
Everyone gets their things gathered and heads for the airport, hopefully with a few new ticks their lists and birding mem
Our priority with all of our tours is that our participants are completely satisfied in every way possible, from the birding to the accommodations and everything else that makes for a successful tour. While there is a strong potential for European vagrant species to be seen on this trip, they are not guaranteed. However, I have designed this trip to give us the best opportunity to see any vagrants that are around; to have the opportunity to find our own; to experience the various seabird spectacles and to see our breeding Boreal species. One should be prepared to be satisfied with the seabird and Boreal birds. The possibility of exciting vagrants is always there and just adds to the flavour of what will already be an exciting experience.
*** we encourage people to travel light, we have two high quality spotting scopes, but you are certainly welcome to bring your own. Temperatures are expected to be between 0 C and 15 C, so dressing in layers is important. Coastal locations can be chilly, as can boats, so it's important to be prepared. There are no vigorous hikes, but waterproof hiking boots or shoes are recommended, as are a warm pair of gloves and a warm hat. Cold weather in Spring means N and NE wind. Those are the winds we want to bring in the vagrants, so we are hoping for chilly weather :)