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This view from Signal Hill in St. John's was a beautiful way to start a fun tour through Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Summer in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia: seafood, puffins, gorgeous vistas, breeding warblers, and, of course, lots of gannets… this tour had it all! Chris and I were happy to share the above perks with a fun bunch of birders for another successful tour of a few of Canada’s finest Atlantic provinces.
We met in St. John’s under a gray sky, but thankfully the weather cleared out and we remained extremely lucky in terms of weather. Our first day of birding took us to some urban spots like Kenny’s Pond where we enjoyed crippling views of a male Tufted Duck trying to blend in with the Mallards (by taking a snooze, apparently). We continued out to Blackhead and Cape Spear where we chanced into a singing Gray-cheeked Thrush, enjoyed some views of whales offshore, found some Pine Grosbeaks high in a spruce, and saw our first gannets flying by offshore. The boat trip out of Bay Bulls gave us our first taste of seabirds and folks had great looks at the quintessential Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, and even a Thick-billed Murre trying to pretend it was a Common Murre.
The following morning proved to be gorgeous and we enjoyed an early vista atop Signal Hill in St. John’s first thing. Mundy Pond hosted a Black-headed Gull, Bidgood Park in Goulds provided us with Wilson’s Snipe and Wilson’s Warbler, and the trails at La Manche Provincial Park gave us our first taste of Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Black-and-white Warbler, and many others. We ended the day in Trepassey to the sounds of a Greater Yellowlegs calling from a wetland nearby.
We started out the next morning birding towards Cape Race where we saw a few shorebirds, an out-of-place Mourning Dove, and some spectacular scenery before coming back for breakfast. The road out to Cape Pine, cutting through the tundra, delivered some highlights including Caribou and an amazing Willow Ptarmigan encounter! We then headed through St. Vincent’s where the Northern Gannets put on a spectacular show of diving and the Arctic Terns were floating overhead. We ended in Placentia where even an urban stop netted us a cooperative Boreal Chickadee.
Certainly one of the highlights of the tour came when we visited Cape St. Mary’s, where we witnessed the thousands of Northern Gannets nesting on the rock spires right offshore. The sight and sound of the gannets was truly incredible, but nature outdid itself when we watched from above as Humpback Whales swam underneath us in full view, a Razorbill filled the view in our scopes, and the warm morning put the Savannah Sparrows and American Pipits in full song. Eventually, it was time to leave Newfoundland and board the ferry towards Nova Scotia. Birding from the deck of the ferry was fun and we added some seabirds like Sooty Shearwaters and even a couple of Leach’s Storm-Petrels.
Once we docked and unloaded the ferry the following morning, it was off to bird at the Morien Bar where we encountered the coastal subspecies of Nelson’s Sparrow and we found another Black-headed Gull. Point Aconi delivered a scope view of Great Cormorant before we followed the scenic Cabot Trail up to Pleasant Bay, our home for the next couple of days. We spent those days exploring areas of Cape Breton Highlands National Park including various trails and roadside birding stops. We explored bogs where the sounds of Lincoln’s Sparrows and Common Yellowthroats were persistent and we even bumped into a couple of specialized bog species like Palm Warblers and Alder Flycatcher. One of the highlights of our stay in the highlands was a boat trip out of Pleasant Bay where we came face-to-face with the summering Long-finned Pilot Whales.
The following day found us with Cape Breton in our rear-view mirrors as we drove south into new territory. A quick stop in Cheticamp provided our only Surf Scoter of the trip and Pomquet Beach Park was a fun stop where we watched a family of Piping Plovers scurrying along on the beach. We ended at Liscombe Lodge where a Mink scampered along the rocks and Purple Finches were commonplace at the feeders.
We knew we were in for a treat at Liscombe Lodge when early the next morning we ventured off on foot and promptly found a stunning male Black-backed Woodpecker! The lush Waternish Road area was a whole new world, and we picked up loads of new goodies like Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Evening Grosbeaks, Winter Wrens, and even a Veery. The highlight for many was a cooperative Black-billed Cuckoo that we not only saw, but watched through the scope as it sang!
After it was all said and done, we think this trip was a great success, and Chris and I want to thank you for making this a memorable trip through some of Canada’s spectacular Atlantic provinces. A major thanks goes out to Roy and Joanne for their patience and expert driving. Until we meet again, safe travels and good birding!
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
CANADA GOOSE (Branta canadensis)
WOOD DUCK (Aix sponsa)
AMERICAN BLACK DUCK (Anas rubripes)
MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)
NORTHERN PINTAIL (Anas acuta)
GREEN-WINGED TEAL (AMERICAN) (Anas crecca carolinensis)
This Tufted Duck in St. John's had made friends and decided to spend the summer instead of migrating back to Europe where the species is usually found. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
RING-NECKED DUCK (Aythya collaris)
TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula)
GREATER SCAUP (Aythya marila)
COMMON EIDER (DRESSER'S) (Somateria mollissima dresseri)
SURF SCOTER (Melanitta perspicillata)
WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (NORTH AMERICAN) (Melanitta fusca deglandi)
HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus)
We had a fabulous morning on the tundra near Cape Pine where we found Caribou and this Willow Ptarmigan. Photo by participant Mona Gardner.
Phasianidae (Pheasants, Grouse, and Allies)
RING-NECKED PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus) [I]
RUFFED GROUSE (Bonasa umbellus)
SPRUCE GROUSE (Falcipennis canadensis)
WILLOW PTARMIGAN (Lagopus lagopus)
COMMON LOON (Gavia immer)
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
NORTHERN FULMAR (Fulmarus glacialis)
SOOTY SHEARWATER (Ardenna grisea)
The Northern Gannets, captured here nicely by participant Mona Gardner, were a major highlight when we visited Cape St. Mary's in Newfoundland.
LEACH'S STORM-PETREL (Oceanodroma leucorhoa)
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)
NORTHERN GANNET (Morus bassanus) [N]
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo)
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax auritus)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (Ardea herodias)
OSPREY (Pandion haliaetus) [N]
This Merlin, a species of falcon, was surveying the tundra hoping to find a tasty morsel to chase down. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
NORTHERN HARRIER (Circus cyaneus)
NORTHERN GOSHAWK (Accipiter gentilis)
BALD EAGLE (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
SORA (Porzana carolina)
On a broader scale, the number of Northern Gannets at Cape St. Mary's was astounding. We got to see and hear these magnificent seabirds at close range. Photo by participant Mona Gardner.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
PIPING PLOVER (Charadrius melodus)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (Limnodromus griseus)
WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata)
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)
GREATER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa melanoleuca)
WILLET (EASTERN) (Tringa semipalmata semipalmata)
Alcidae (Auks, Murres, and Puffins)
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge)
THICK-BILLED MURRE (Uria lomvia)
RAZORBILL (Alca torda)
One of the highlights of the trip was watching the many Atlantic Puffins as they added personality to the offshore areas. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
BLACK GUILLEMOT (Cepphus grylle)
ATLANTIC PUFFIN (Fratercula arctica)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla)
BONAPARTE'S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia)
BLACK-HEADED GULL (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
RING-BILLED GULL (Larus delawarensis)
HERRING GULL (AMERICAN) (Larus argentatus smithsonianus)
One of the surprise finds in Newfoundland was this Caspian Tern sitting on a rock near Renews. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL (Larus marinus)
CASPIAN TERN (Hydroprogne caspia)
COMMON TERN (Sterna hirundo)
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea)
We had chances to compare Common Terns with the similar Arctic Terns several times. Here's one of the latter that flew by to check us out. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
MOURNING DOVE (Zenaida macroura)
BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus erythropthalmus)
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (Archilochus colubris)
BELTED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle alcyon)
Black-billed Cuckoos can be hard to find even in the core of their range. However, we chanced into this beauty and everyone enjoyed watching it sing quietly from the shadows. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER (Sphyrapicus varius)
DOWNY WOODPECKER (Picoides pubescens)
HAIRY WOODPECKER (Picoides villosus)
BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER (Picoides arcticus)
NORTHERN FLICKER (Colaptes auratus)
PILEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus pileatus)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
One of the quintessential northern woodpeckers is the Black-backed Woodpecker. I'll never forget watching this fascinating species face-to-face near the Liscombe Lodge. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
MERLIN (Falco columbarius)
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (Contopus virens)
YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER (Empidonax flaviventris)
ALDER FLYCATCHER (Empidonax alnorum)
LEAST FLYCATCHER (Empidonax minimus)
EASTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus tyrannus)
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
BLUE-HEADED VIREO (Vireo solitarius)
RED-EYED VIREO (Vireo olivaceus)
While in Newfoundland, we enjoyed the wheezy song of this Boreal Chickadee near Placentia. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)
GRAY JAY (Perisoreus canadensis)
BLUE JAY (Cyanocitta cristata)
AMERICAN CROW (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
COMMON RAVEN (Corvus corax)
HORNED LARK (Eremophila alpestris)
TREE SWALLOW (Tachycineta bicolor)
BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)
Paridae (Tits, Chickadees, and Titmice)
BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (Poecile atricapillus)
BOREAL CHICKADEE (Poecile hudsonicus)
This iceberg near Renews was a nice sighting (although we couldn't find it in the checklist!). Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH (Sitta canadensis)
BROWN CREEPER (Certhia americana) [*]
WINTER WREN (Troglodytes hiemalis hiemalis)
GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus satrapa)
RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET (Regulus calendula)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
VEERY (Catharus fuscescens)
Here's our group seawatching from Cape Spear on a gorgeous morning! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH (Catharus minimus)
SWAINSON'S THRUSH (Catharus ustulatus)
HERMIT THRUSH (Catharus guttatus)
AMERICAN ROBIN (Turdus migratorius)
EUROPEAN STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris) [I]
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
AMERICAN PIPIT (Anthus rubescens)
CEDAR WAXWING (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
OVENBIRD (Seiurus aurocapilla)
NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (Parkesia noveboracensis)
BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER (Mniotilta varia)
More nuthatch in behavior than warbler, the Black-and-white Warbler was a fairly common species throughout the tour. This particular one was photographed by guide Cory Gregory at La Manche Provincial Park.
NASHVILLE WARBLER (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)
MOURNING WARBLER (Geothlypis philadelphia)
COMMON YELLOWTHROAT (Geothlypis trichas)
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
NORTHERN PARULA (Setophaga americana)
MAGNOLIA WARBLER (Setophaga magnolia)
BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER (Setophaga fusca)
YELLOW WARBLER (Setophaga petechia)
The show that this Mourning Warbler put on for all of us was spectacular. Not only did it show itself nicely, but it sat in the open as it sang... minute after minute. Scope views were had by all. Wow! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER (Setophaga pensylvanica)
BLACKPOLL WARBLER (Setophaga striata)
PALM WARBLER (YELLOW) (Setophaga palmarum hypochrysea)
YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER (MYRTLE) (Setophaga coronata coronata)
BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER (Setophaga virens)
CANADA WARBLER (Cardellina canadensis)
WILSON'S WARBLER (Cardellina pusilla)
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
NELSON'S SPARROW (ATLANTIC COAST) (Ammodramus nelsoni subvirgatus)
FOX SPARROW (RED) (Passerella iliaca iliaca)
One of the signs that you're in a northern forest is the presence of Pine Grosbeaks. We saw this beauty our first day near St. John's. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
DARK-EYED JUNCO (SLATE-COLORED) (Junco hyemalis hyemalis)
WHITE-THROATED SPARROW (Zonotrichia albicollis)
SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis)
SONG SPARROW (Melospiza melodia)
LINCOLN'S SPARROW (Melospiza lincolnii)
SWAMP SPARROW (Melospiza georgiana)
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
The tour had a fun selection of marine mammals as well! The most common of the whale species we saw was the Humpback Whale. Here's a photo by guide Chris Benesh of one below us at Cape St. Mary's.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelaius phoeniceus)
COMMON GRACKLE (Quiscalus quiscula)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
PINE GROSBEAK (Pinicola enucleator)
PURPLE FINCH (Haemorhous purpureus)
RED CROSSBILL (Loxia curvirostra)
COMMON REDPOLL (Acanthis flammea)
PINE SISKIN (Spinus pinus)
AMERICAN GOLDFINCH (Spinus tristis)
EVENING GROSBEAK (Coccothraustes vespertinus)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
The Long-finned Pilot Whales offshore at Pleasant Bay were quite curious! We found several pods and this particular one came up for closer looks. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
SNOWSHOE HARE (Lepus americanus)
PLAIN EASTERN CHIPMUNK (Tamias striatus)
RED SQUIRREL (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
LONG-FINNED PILOT WHALE (Globicephala melas)
COMMON MINKE WHALE (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)
FIN WHALE (Balaenoptera physalus)
HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae)
This female Gray Seal was having all sorts of fun being the one atop the rock! We saw these a few times including at Cape St. Mary's and this one offshore from Pleasant Bay. Photo by guide Chris Benesh.
AMERICAN MINK (Mustela vison)
HARBOR SEAL (Phoca vitulina)
GRAY SEAL (Halichoerus grypus)
MOOSE (Alces alces)
CARIBOU (Rangifer tarandus caribou)
GREEN FROG (Lithobates clamitans)
Totals for the tour: 130 bird taxa and 12 mammal taxa