I'm excited to be able to announce that this tour is coming along nicely. I still have some loose ends to tie together but will have everything finalized, most importantly the price,in the next few days.
This tour will feature three main attractions, Alcids, boreal birding and (hopefully) European Strays!
Alcids- we will see a couple hundred thousand Atlantic Puffins at close range. It is almost overwhelming to be in the presence of so many birds. Aside from Puffins, there will be plenty of Common and Thick-billed Murres, Razorbills and Black Guillemots,all seen at close range.
While viewing Alcids we will also see some Northern Fulmar and possibly Leach's Storm Petrels. Part of one day will also be dedicated to visiting Cape St.Mary's ecological reserve,where we'll enjoy extended views of 30,000 nesting Gannets on nests at very close range. Also in this area will be many more Common and and some Thick-billed Murres and Razorbills. Also, featured at this location will be Black-legged Kittiwakes on nests. If you interested in bird photography a 300 m lens can sometimes be too much here,since the birds get so close!
Boreal Birding- We will also take some time to look for out boreal breeding birds,such as Pine Grosbeak, Boreal Chickadee,White-winged Crossbill and others. Depending on the pace of the trip, we may also visit areas where Spruce Grouse will be possible. At least one evening there will be an optional outing in search of Boreal Owl. The extent of our boreal birding would depend on the interests of the group and also the upcoming section- Euro Strays!!
European Strays- this is probably the most exciting and definitely the most unpredictable feature of this tour. The most likely European vagrants to be seen on this tour would be European Golden Plover and Northern Wheatear. While this is definitely not guaranteed,they are annual on eastern Newfoundland for the most part some time between the last few days of April through the third week of May. The trick is having one turn up during the tour dates! If there are European Golden Plovers or Wheatears reported, we will be prepared to travel extensively to find them. When these birds turn up they are often between the southern tip of the Avalon Peninsula and the Bonavista Peninsula and they usually linger a few days. These areas are both about a 2-2.5 hour drive from St.John's.Both areas offer good birding and we will be visiting both areas anyway,so it wouldn't even really be out of the way, it just might mean juggling things around a little.
Other European vagrants are possible,but unlikely to be found during such a narrow window. However, Common Redshank,Eurasian Oystercatcher,Black-tailed Godwit, Garganey,Eurasian Whimbrel,Redwing and others, have all turned up in spring over the last 10 years. To be sure I'm not misleading anyone,these species are very unlikely at best,but if we get favorable weather systems between Iceland and Newfoundland in spring,these things are possibilities.
To get the most out of this trip you should be prepared to be happy with the seabird spectacle and the boreal birding. There is always the chance of finding an exciting European birds and this creates anticipation and certainly gives one the feeling that anything is possible,especially, if as mentioned above, we get winds blowing from Iceland in April and early May.
Aside from the above mentioned birds,there should be a few lingering Tufted Ducks and probably Eurasian Wigeon and Common Teal around the city. There is perhaps even a very outside chance that there could be a Yellow-legged Gull still in town. I will be closely tracking our YLGU's whereabouts as the tour approaching,so I'll have a good idea if it's worth looking for or not.
To do this tour properly 5-6 full days of birding would be required,also a longer tour increases the chances of finding European birds if they should be around. It is my intention to offer this tour for a very reasonable price,certainly less than other similar tours that have travelled to Newfoundland. I hope to have everything in order and will announce a price by the end of the week. This will be a small tour and I will be accepting an absolute maximum of 5 participants. I'm expecting that this tour will fill quickly once officially released and advertised. If you'd like further details or would like to pre-book,please contact me via email.
Official announcement,including price by Friday of this week!!