- Fly from London to Halifax, arriving in the afternoon. A two-hour drive through the Canadian forests takes us to Sackville and our comfortable hotel in the heart of town, close to the Waterfowl Park.
- On the way we stop by the shores of Johnson's Mills where sand and mud create a home for billions of mud shrimps. From mid-July to the end of August, as many as two million semipalmated sandpipers (95% of the world’s population) pass through the Bay of Fundy on their autumn migration.Flocks also include semipalmated plovers, least, western and white-rumped sandpipers. Birds are dispersed over the vast flats feeding when the tide is low but flocks can reach over 100,000 individuals at high tide, roosting on the beach allowing close observation.
- Accommodation: Hotel in Sackville, 2-nights on full board basis.
- Close to our hotel lies the Sackville Waterfowl Park where easy walking trails and boardwalks mean we can sometimes get very close to a good selection of ducks, grebe and wader species. Songbirds – especially North American warblers and vireos – abound in the waterside trees, with yellow-rumped warbler the commonest of the former, and the latter including blue-headed, red-eyed and Philadelphia vireos. Many other species are likely here including the occasional hawk or harrier hoping to secure an easy meal.
- By staying in Sackville for two nights, we can time our visit to Johnson’s Mills to coincide with a rising tide to see the huge flocks of waders that roost on the shore during high tide. As the birds assemble at their roost, occasional sorties by hunting peregrines or merlins will scare the birds into flight and it is then that the twisting and turning flocks take on a whole new, sinuous persona. This really can be absolutely magical to watch!
- In the morning we drive south to Hopewell Rocks, where the world’s highest tides rise and fall the height of a four-storey building, twice a day, every day. At Hopewell Rocks, we walk on the ocean floor at low tide among the giant rock formations carved by the power of the tides. At high tide, kayak the very same spot in and around the rock formations. A truly incredible testament to the power of the tides of the Bay of Fundy!
- We drive to Black’s Harbour, where the ferry leaves for Grand Manan. On the way we’ll watch for raptors with red-tailed hawk, turkey vulture and American kestrels possible. Eastern bluebirds can also be seen along the roadside and we could see our first groundhogs.
- Just waiting for the ferry can be quite entertaining with bald eagles and ospreys soaring past and perhaps a procession of monarch butterflies beginning to migrate south.
- John James Audubon frequented Grand Manan Island. These days birdwatchers from all over North America come here and for good reason: the seabird possibilities are some of the best on the east coast. But perhaps the most spectacular visitors are the whales. Grand Manan has become well-known as one of the best whale-watching sites in North America.
- This is a welcome resting and feeding spot for those birds migrating south. We may get our first glimpse of pelagic birds from the ferry to the island on the 90-minute crossing. Great, sooty and manx shearwaters, together with Wilson's storm-petrels, are possible along with gannets, Arctic terns and kittiwakes. It is not unusual to spot harbour porpoise, minke, fin and humpback whales from the ferry, accompanied by huge flocks of wheeling gulls.
- This evening Laurie Murison will meet us for a lecture. Laurie, who has been studying whales and seabirds off Grand Manan for 20 years, is the director of the Whale and Seabird Research Station on the island.
- Accommodation: Grand Manan Island, 4-nights on full board basis.
- We take a boat trip out for our first whale-watch. Cetacean species common in the bay include harbour porpoises and the rare North Atlantic right whale – arguably the most endangered large animal on earth. These wonderful mammals come to feed their young in this part of the bay and this is probably the best time of year for a sighting. Huge 10-metre basking sharks are also sometimes seen.
- Where there are whales we often watch seabirds since they are attracted by the same food. Flocks of great and sooty shearwaters, Wilson’s and leach’s petrels can be impressive. Other seabirds include Arctic and pomarine skuas, great northern divers, black guillemots, puffins and razorbills.
- We spend the morning on the boat, in the afternoon driving to Southwest Head with its attractive cliffs of columnar basalt and a good range of flowers and butterflies. With sharp-shinned hawk and merlin on the move, the possibility of migrant raptors is good. We will also visit a salt-marsh on which we’ve seen American golden plover, Hudsonian godwit, buff-breasted sandpiper, Baird’s and least sandpipers.
- We take a second morning boat trip in search of whales and seabirds. In addition to the pelagic birds mentioned above we could see leach’s petrels, grey and red-necked phalaropes and, occasionally, Sabine’s gull. Sea-duck can include both white-winged and surf scoters, eider and red-breasted mergansers.
- In the afternoon we will investigate other wildlife sites on the island – perhaps a bog with its pitcher plants and sundews, dragonflies and Garter snakes, and surrounding scrub which can attract flycatchers and blue-grey gnatcatcher.
- We’ll spend the day exploring the island. Anchorage Provincial Park offers lovely trails beside the ocean. Migrants here can be abundant, and we’ve seen ten species of warbler, including pine and prairie warblers together with American redstarts in just one flock. Other migrant passerines can include grey catbird, dark-eyed junco, red-breasted nuthatch and bobolink. Besides wonderful scenery and quaint wooden houses, the island is an excellent area to observe the dynamics of the famous Fundy tides.
- Sunsets can be spectacular from The Whistle, on the west side of the island. The road here cuts through thick red spruce forests which are ideal for migrating warblers and hawks. We have often seen whales playing in the ocean from this headland which also offers a view overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay to mainland USA. A clear sky at night will see us doing a spot of star-gazing.
- We take an early ferry off the island and drive to Fundy National Park via Black’s Harbour. After checking in our hotel and having lunch, we head to Fundy National Park for a natural walk looking for birds.
- Fundy National Park was New Brunswick’s first national park, created in 1948. It covers 120 km of walking and hiking trails in mountains, valleys, past sparkling waterfalls and crystal-clear streams. There are hundreds of different plant species, including the rare bird’s-eye primrose, found only in Fundy National Park. This flowering plant took root in this area when the glaciers melted back from the coast millions of years ago. The park is located on a key position on the Atlantic migration route, and over 260 bird species have been identified in the park or on the adjacent bay. Of those, approximately 95 species have nested in the park. Common species in the park include many types of warblers, pileated wood-peckers, juncos, white-winged crossbills, great blue herons, cormorants, semipalmated sandpipers and semipalmated plovers. The peregrine falcon, which was extirpated by the time the park was established in 1948, has been successfully reintroduced. A common resident of Fundy's forests is the ruffed grouse. Early spring resonates with the deep thumping sounds of the male grouse's drumming.
- Accommodation: Fundy, 1-night on full board basis.
- In the morning we head to Mary’s Point Bird Sanctuary. Here we find a variety of habitats including salt marsh, tidal mudflats, and Acadian and red spruce forest. The forest could provide us with views of northern goshawks, pine siskins, white-winged crossbills and a good range of migrants.
- During the fall migration (mid July to end August), Mary’s Point becomes a stop over site for over 300,000 semipalmated sandpipers (75% of world population) as well as large numbers of other shorebirds species. These Arctic-breeding birds rest here to feast on mud shrimp and other small crustaceans enabling them to double their weight in 2 weeks which then allows them to fly non-stop from here to as far away as South America! It is a very important migratory bird site in the Bay of Fundy.
- We continue through the waterfowl park in Sackville. Despite being in the middle of town this reed-fringed lake is a haven for waterfowl and waders – often ‘spooked’ by patrolling northern harriers. Here we could see our first greater and lesser yellowlegs, short-billed dowitchers and pectoral sandpipers. Wildfowl include ring-necked duck, green-winged teal and American wigeon plus the more familiar gadwall. Pied-billed grebes are often present in numbers, and American coot is possible. American bitterns skulk in the reeds and we have seen them feeding in the past. The lake is frequented by muskrats, and is also an excellent location for dragon and damselflies.
- We will visit the National Historic Site of Fort Beauséjour, strategically situated on a hill with great views all round, and explore its underground rooms. The French were defeated by the British here and the fort then became Fort Cumberland. Given fine weather we may get our first views of migrating raptors from here.
- We then drive back to Halifax for our return flight to London.
Day 9 Arrive UK
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- All meals
- Guided activities
We stay at good hotels with all rooms en suite.
All main meals are included.
The nutrient rich Bay of Fundy attracts concentrations of seabirds and on our boat trips we will see the likes of grey, and red-necked phalaropes, tiny Wilson’s storm-petrels and pelagics. Along New Brunswick’s eastern shore we will come across yellow-rumped warbler, downy woodpecker and rare piping plovers.
- Blue-headed vireo
- Northern harrier
- Semipalmated sandpiper
- Atlantic puffin
Autumn on Canada’s eastern seaboard is possibly the best time for whale watching, with one of the greatest, and most accessible, concentrations of whales – including the rare northern right whale that congregates here in August to feed their young, play and mate.
- Fin whale
- Humpback whale
- Harbour porpoise
- Minke whale
Our tour takes us to one of the marine wonders of the world, an amazing eco-system powered by the highest tides in the world. The intertidal zone is rich in shorebirds and the forests can be full of warblers and other songbirds. We then move onto the Acadian coast, where miles of sandy beaches and shallow lagoons replace the wild Bay of Fundy.
Gentle walks over easy to moderate terrain.
We take two half day whale-watching trips on twelve metre and/or seventeen metre vessels, which take up to 25 or 50 passengers respectively. Both have cabins to provide shelter if needed.
Price includes return scheduled flights London – Halifax – London.
Land transport will be by minibus or mini-coach.