Birding on the Avalon

Some of the most accessible seabird colonies in the world can be found in Newfoundland and Labrador's Avalon region. On this short three-day break, we visit two ecological reserves, and do a day's birding in the capital city, St. John's.

Day 1 - On the Wind

In spring and fall, storms blow migrating birds off course, and that's when rarities from Europe and Asia show up. The trail along Rennie's River is a likely hangout for these lost migrants. Ponds and marshes are good places for ducks and other waterfowl. Long Pond in Pippy Park has a bird blind.

Explore downtown and pick up a copy of the novel Rare Birds by St. John's author Ed Riche for a side-splitting flight into the far side of birding. Enjoy a delicious seafood meal, and spend the night in a bed and breakfast with a great view.

Day 2 - A Blizzard of Birds

Head south on Route 10, down the Irish Loop and hop on a tour boat for a two-hour cruise into the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, an ideal place to see whales. The ocean here teems with small fish that feed both the whales and birds, and the birds are everywhere. There are four protected islands where seabirds nest and raise their young, often in burrows to shield them from marauding seagulls. The small, plump Atlantic puffins, which can dive to great depths, are comical in their efforts to get airborne. Look for kittiwakes and murres, and even a razorbill.

Day 3 - Natural Wonder

Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve is one of the great natural wonders of Newfoundland and Labrador. Here, on a sea stack just 15 metres from the cliff-top lookout, nest thousands of northern Gannets. It's the largest gannetry in the province, the third-largest on the continent - and the most accessible anywhere. There are murres, black-legged kittiwakes, black guillemots, double-crested and great cormorants, northern fulmars, and a few razorbills nesting along the steep cliffs.