Nova Scotia - Bay of Fundy

North American bird migration and whale-watching

Destination
Focus
2023 Dates
  • 26 Aug - 03 Sep 2023
Duration9 Days
2023 Price
Price TBC
2025 Dates
  • 23 Aug - 31 Aug 2025
Duration9 Days
2025 Price
Price TBC
More Info

Guides - experienced Leader Greg Smith, joined by another from the Heatherlea team with more than 7 clients.
Max 10 guests.
Direct Flights from London Heathrow - Halifax.
Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are FREE.

THIS PAGE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION - MORE INFO COMING SOON!

Full details shortly. If you wish to register an interest by email, we will inform you when the page is complete.

This corner of Nova Scotia is one of the best places in the world to see whales in close-up, and especially to see Humpback Whales in good numbers. We also expect Fin Whale, Minke Whale and White-sided Dolphin as we take four whale-watching boat trips spread during the week. Our key target will be the endangered Northern Right Whale, not guaranteed but we have excellent chances.

 

Birding is also excellent, and we expect about 100 North American species during the week. We should see a good range of seabirds, both from the shore and particularly on our whale-watching trips, migrants including warblers, thrushes, and a hummingbird, and resident species including raptors, woodpeckers and a range of passerines including Boreal Chickadee, White-winged Crossbill and Cedar Waxwing. Waders will be of special interest, with around 15 - 18 species including many North American species found only as rarities in the UK. We might also see impressive Monarch butterflies in small numbers on migration, both on Brier Island, and also sometimes from the boat out at sea, miles from land.

We fly to Halifax in Nova Scotia, and then drive to Brier Island, taking two short ferry crossings, at the end of Digby Neck. This peninsular reaches out into the Bay of Fundy, and is an excellent base for some spectacular and thoroughly enjoyable wildlife watching. The holiday does not involve any strenuous walking, though there will be plenty of opportunity to stretch our legs!

 

OUTLINE ITINERARY

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1 Saturday 26 August 2023
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we will fly from Heathrow to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Our transfer to the hotel will take between three and four hours. Brier is a small island at the end of a long wooded peninsula jutting out into the bay, ideally situated for migrating birds and for reaching the best whale feeding grounds. With luck, we might see Ring-billed Gull and Double-crested Cormorant en-route as we take two ferries to reach our destination. We are situated in one place for the whole holiday, the south-east corner of the Bay of Fundy, in an area with the highest tides in the world.

Our base is the Brier Lodge Hotel, a comfortable tourist hotel on the shoreline of Brier Island, with magnificent views across the sea, from a cliff top location above the village of Westport. Most rooms have an oceanfront and lighthouse view. All rooms are smoke free with private bath and shower and cable TV. Traditional dishes are served, and local seafood is a speciality.

Days 2 - 7 Sunday 27 August - Friday 1 September 2023
Birding close to our hotel will produce passerines and other migrating birds, perhaps including Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Osprey, Northern Flicker, Tree and Cliff Swallows, Golden-crowned Kinglet and warblers including Black and White, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped, Yellow, Blackpoll, and Magnolia, plus Red-eyed Vireo, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Ovenbird and Northern Waterthrush. Other local birds should include Cedar Waxwing and Song Sparrow, and elsewhere resident species of note include Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Pileated, Downy, Hairy and Black-backed Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwing, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-winged Crossbill and Boreal Chickadee. Common Nighthawks are often visible during the day, and we will watch out for their distinctive flight. If available, we will go to the ringing station nearby and perhaps see migrants in the hand. We will drive short distances to inspect suitable habitat on neighbouring islands, and spend a lot of time investigating bushes and trees close to our hotel - it could be different every day!

This is a great place to concentrate on North American wader species; Baird's, Buff-breasted, Solitary, Least, Semi-palmated, White-rumped and Spotted Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher, Willet, Killdeer, Semi-palmated and American Golden Plover and more should be on our lists - next time you hear of an American rarity in the UK, chances are you will already have seen it! We should find time to identify waders at our leisure, covering the key features and comparing birds. En-route to the airport on our final day we may see tens of thousands of waders migrating in large flocks.

Seabirds form a major attraction on this holiday, and we should see Great Shearwater in large numbers, good numbers of Wilsons Petrel, and spectacular flocks of migrating Grey and Red-necked Phalarope during our seaward explorations. More familiar seabirds which will be welcome include Pomarine and Arctic Skua (called 'Jaegers' on this trip!), Gannet, some commoner auks, gulls and terns and perhaps Great Northern Diver. Raptors should include Bald Eagle and Turkey Vulture, there are Merlin and Marsh Hawk local to our hotel, and other North American species should include American Kestrel and Broad-winged and Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Our key activity however will be whale-watching, and we take FOUR trips with the area's top operators to get the very best whale experience. Of all the world's outstanding whale 'hotspots', the Bay of Fundy is perhaps the most accessible for British travellers, and we expect tremendous excitement taking to the sea to find Humpback Whales in good number, Fin Whale, Minke Whale and White-sided Dolphin. Our key target will be the endangered Northern Right Whale, and we will be planning with our boat operator to take an extended voyage if needed to see these rare and special mammals. Please note we have timed this holiday to give you the best chances of seeing Right Whales, though of course nothing is guaranteed!

Our thanks to our experienced local guide Greg Smith, for these notes, written on his recent Brier Island whale trip.

'When we left the dock at 1330 today, sun and broken fog were ahead of us, but even that cleared up as we rounded the point to the Bay of Fundy. 

Common Eider were lounging on rocks along the water’s edge, with female and young in family groups and solitary males moulting further offshore. The only Black Guillemots we saw today were at the edge of the bay as we motored into open water.

It took a bit of time until we got out to the underwater shelf where a number of birds and the whales would be feeding.  Greater Shearwaters (300+ for the day) started arcing in the distance.  Their characteristic dark cap with a white underbody made them easy to differentiate from 200+ Sooty Shearwaters we had for the day. 

A number of these larger shearwaters would allow us to cruise very close to them as they sat unperturbed on the water’s surface.  There were many satisfying looks of this dynamic soarer.

 

Off in the distance we could see a small feeding frenzy with shearwaters and storm-petrels as we neared an undersea shelf.  There were also crescents of white water breaking the surface that turned out to be small groups of harbour porpoise pursuing herring.  Flocks of Red (Grey) Phalaropes blasted by as we headed in that direction and then we were there.

Small black storm-petrels were dancing on the water’s surface in the distance. Once they got closer to the boat we could see they were Wilson’s Storm-Petrels (150+).  Their pitter-pat water dance are much different than the strong direct flight of the Leach’s Storm-Petrel that we see later in the day.  Picking small bits of plankton and other food from the surface gave us great looks at this little white-rumped ocean dancer.

Our only look at Manx Shearwater was in this frenzy as one lighted on the water and observed us at a safe distance.  Even at this distance it was easy to see the white undertail coverts that distinguish this bird from others.

As with most feeding frenzies in this area, there soon appeared a Humpback Whale.  Humpbacks are easy to identify given that the undertail markings are as identifiable as fingerprints. This animal was named Badge and had been first observed in the Bay of Fundy in 1987.

He surfaced repeatedly very close to the boat and was also observed blowing humpy’s bubble nets followed by lunge feeding.  The Captain was careful to observe the safe viewing distance, but Badge seemed determined to always get closer.

He would surface so close to the boat at times that our bins would have fine mist of whale breath.  He put on quite a show for all of us!

While watching the whale show, you would see these tiny little footballs with wings buzzing by the boat.  Once you got your bins on them their rainbow-colored beaks identified them as adult Atlantic Puffins.  We had six of them make an appearance before they disappeared just as quickly as they arrived.

The puffin’s flight was so different than that of the Northern Gannet (30+) that were plunge diving in the middle of this feast.  A couple of adults were joined by birds that were all less than four years in age (the minimum time to reach adult plumage).  As with boobies that occur further south, their feeding success is due to diving in the water adjacent to their prey and coming up underneath for the capture.  A treat to watch these high divers hit the water and surface with a herring!

We headed out a little further to look around and found a half dozen light phase Northern Fulmar.  These birds had no compunction about landing at the back of the boat and following us for a while.

Last birds for the day were about twenty-five Leach’s Storm-Petrel.  Much longer winged than the Wilson’s and with a much more direct flight pattern, these birds flew like the terrestrial Common Nighthawk (one of which we saw migrating over the water). Leach’s seemed to be further from shore than the Wilson’s and when we turned back, they simply disappeared from our view and the Wilson’s re-appeared.'

 

Day 8 Saturday 2 September 2023
After a final day birding, we return to Halifax and board our overnight flight home. We arrive back to London Heathrow the following morning (Sunday 3 September).

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

More Holiday Information:

Accommodation is in a comfortable hotel with all rooms en suite.
Food full-board accommodation, including picnic lunches. The hotel restaurant enjoys a panoramic waterfront view where you will experience the excellent regional dishes.  All of the seafood is purchased on the island, so you are assured of the freshest, finest seafood available. Traditional dishes are also served.
Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. An average level of fitness is the only requirement.
Weather Summers tend to be warm, with temperatures around in the 70º F (20º C) and the coastal areas are cooler than inland. Fog is prevalent in early summer and the province receives frequent rain. It will be cooler on boat trips.
Insects There are biting insects, though not usually a major problem.
Group size is restricted to 10 clients maximum.
Flights return scheduled flights from London Heathrow – Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Your Leader:

Greg Smith has birded and searched out nature's wonders on all seven continents and has led natural history and birding tours many places. Recently retired after a 27-year career with the California State Park System, Greg was a superintendent of eight park units, focusing on education on the importance of preserving natural and cultural resources. An accomplished wildlife photographer, he is the perfect choice to lead this trip. Greg will be joined by another from the Heatherlea team with more than 7 clients.

What's included in your holiday price:

* Scheduled Air Canada flights London Heathrow - Halifax, Nova Scotia, Halifax - London, airport taxes and fees, transfers from and to airports (where appropriate).
* ground transportation as outlined.
* accommodation and all meals (as specified), including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
* the services of your leaders.
* four boat trips
* The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions.  Read more..

What's not included in your holiday price:

* personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, esta costs where necessary, optional tips to the local guide, hotel/restaurant staff, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.
 

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Canada

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in the Americas?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

Trip Reports

Coming Soon

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248

E: