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).