Tucked away in northeast Alberta is a hidden gem known as Cold Lake. Here, the woods host 23 breeding warbler species, including such stunners as Connecticut, Blackburnian, Cape May, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Bay-breasted and Canada. No "luck of the draw" birding here - almost all of these species are breeding residents that can be found every single day. Sharing the woodlands and marshes with the warblers are such mouth-watering northern specialties as Yellow Rail, Nelson's and LeConte's Sparrows, Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, and Canada Jay. Here is your chance to observe the breeding behaviours of your favourite migrant species - watch Bonaparte's Gulls nesting in trees and hear Common Loons give their haunting calls.
Add to this a fantastic colonial waterbird scene, featuring California and Franklin's Gulls, American White Pelicans, and a huge colony of Western Grebes - as well as the chance to view shorebirds such as Stilt Sandpiper and Sanderling - even Piping Plover - in their breeding finery, AND a high probability of scarce migrants such as Pacific Loon or Sabine's Gull, and you've got an unforgettable birding adventure in the heart of the boreal forest, outside of the usual "birding season" in the south. The secret won't be kept for long!
Booking, registration, organisation of the tour were all very professional, well done Rockjumper. The highlights of the tour were the magnificent observations of the Hawk Owl and the Great grey owl, one great grey could even be observed when it was hunting. For my taste we spent too much time in the cars but I admit that this is largely due to the nature of this tour. Lev and Amanda were very good guides, both having a vast knowledge of the visited habitats and animals. I very much appreciated the very competent explanations and answers to my questions.
Birds aren’t exactly easy to find in Manitoba in the dead of winter, but Lev and Amanda had a great supply of “secret spots” and showed us birds I never would have seen on my own. Their knowledge of the ecology and wildlife of the region is encyclopedic, and their enthusiasm is infectious. This was a challenging trip, with temperatures between 0ºF and -25ºF (-15ºC and -30ºC) the entire week, but the two of them made the trip fun! Seeing my first Snowy Owl is something I will never forget.
The fall colors were spectacular. Lev allowed photo stops to take in the scenery. We had perfect weather for touring, but migration wasn't at a peak on the windless days. I appreciated Lev's eBird talents. We e-birders received all the lists promptly. Despite Lev's characterization of himself as being hindered by his age (!), we found he had boundless energy and was hyper-alert to all bird activity. His enthusiasm for every sighting, new and ""old"", was passed on to all of us. He geared the descriptions of each species to the level of expertise of our amicable group and when I had a taxonomic question, he had detailed answers. He had the birding knowledge of an older leader, but the energy of an almost-30-year-old. I hope to join another Rockjumper trip with him and watch the grey hairs come in.
I loved this trip! Owls, abundant photo ops, good food, great accommodations. Lev and Amanda did a superb job maximizing our birding time, in spite of some hurdles thrown at them by the weather. Both were extremely knowledgeable and were willing to share that knowledge. A special shout out to Lev who always seemed to remember little details or requests long after they were made.
The leaders, Lev Frid & George Armistead, were fantastic. We had snow and heavy winds on a few afternoons, and they drove like champions. They tried so hard to get us on birds. The Boreal Forest is tough birding that time of year. Of the 36 species seen, 11 were life birds. Quality vs. quantity on this trip! There were 10 participants on the trip.