New Brunswick & Quebec tour combines two amazing natural events that occur in eastern Canada – the Great Whales that have arrived to the St. Lawrence River to feed, and the passage of millions of shorebirds on the Bay of Fundy, home of the largest tides in the world.
We start in beautiful, historic Quebec City and make our way east towards Tadoussac, where the Saguenay River empties into the St. Lawrence. Here, we will keep an eye out for the most famous residents of the St. Lawrence – Beluga Whales. While the small population that lives here is declining, they are easy to observe from shore, and often with their tiny gray calves accompanying them.
We will search for bigger quarry by zodiac, which we will take into the deep centre of the St. Lawrence where we have great chances at observing Minke, Fin and Humpback Whales, along with the largest animal to ever live – the magnificent Blue Whale. A handful of these titans visit the St. Lawrence each year. Birding around Tadoussac is excellent, and we will be at the bluff each morning to view what can sometimes be enormous morning flights of warblers, many of them sticking around for close-up studies of their sometimes confusing fall plumages. We will take our time and sift through them to find any goodies. Along the river, we will watch for seabirds such as Black-legged Kittiwake, Northern Gannet, Black Guillemot and any migrant shorebirds.
We will then make the drive to New Brunswick, taking in the scenery along the St. Lawrence and searching for lingering Nelson’s Sparrows before turning inland. Our first birding will be at Kouchibougnac Park, where many migrant warblers will be augmented by boreal specialties such as Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse, Grey Jay and Black-backed Woodpecker as well as a variety of finches including Pine and Evening Grosbeaks. We will also be keeping an eye out for Moose, which can be very common in some areas of New Brunswick.
Then we will head to the Bay of Fundy, which is world-famous for two reasons – having the largest tides in the world, and two to three million shorebirds (mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers) that pass through at this time of year. We will be able to observe massive flocks being harried by birds of prey as they swirl through the air in their hundreds of thousands. It is a spectacle unlike any other! We will also make sure to watch the famous “tidal bore”.
Our final stop will be Grand Manan Island, where we will take a pelagic to view a variety of seabirds, including Sooty, Great and Manx Shearwaters, Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, Leach’s and Wilson’s Storm Petrels, all three jaeger species and possibly even Great Skua! We will also take advantage of the world-class whale-watching, getting great views of Humpbacks and, if we’re lucky, North Atlantic Right Whales.
Our Manitoba: Northern Owls tour takes in one of Canada’s best-kept birding secrets. Every winter, sought-after northern owls – Snowy, Great Grey, Northern Hawk and Boreal Owls, emerge from their usual haunts in the depths of the woods to hunt along forest edges, roadsides and agricultural fields only a short distance from the capital city of Winnipeg. Manitoba’s location in the north means that every winter provides chances to see these birds, and in some years their numbers can be astronomical! Add this to a backdrop of flocks of colourful winter finches and a suite of boreal specialty birds and it becomes a fantastic winter escape!
Our Manitoba tour takes us through open agricultural land where we will search for Snowy Owls in addition to Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, Grey Partridge, Sharp-tailed Grouse and others, and seek species such as Eastern Screech Owl and Bohemian Waxwing in suburban parkland, and Bald and Golden Eagles and Northern Goshawk overhead. We will work our way northwards to the vast expanse of boreal forest, where we will look for Northern Hawk, Great Grey and Boreal Owl as well as Red and White-winged Crossbills, Common and Hoary Redpolls, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskin, Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, Canada Jay and others.
We visit two boreal forest parks – Riding Mountain National Park and Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park, which offer unparalleled access into this landscape and its birds, as well as some excellent chances for elusive mammals – most notably Canada Lynx, as well as American Marten, North American Otter, Long-tailed Weasel, Gray Wolf, Red Fox, Moose and White-tailed Deer.
We have many chances to find our targets in a variety of locations, and we will be at the start of the breeding season for many of these birds, which will be singing and easier to find.
Our Northwest Passage birding and wildlife cruise traverses one of the most pristine parts of our planet in search of some very special birds and mammals. Join us as we sail in comfort through the same areas first explored by Barrow, Parry and Franklin almost a century ago. Herds of Walrus, rafts of seals, pods of whales, pre-historic looking Musk Ox and the mighty Polar Bear are all targets. The Canadian Arctic is also host to numerous great birds, including Ivory Gull, King Eider, Gyrfalcon, Snowy Owl and Snow Bunting, to name just a few.