Beautiful fall colours, tremendous migration, and the great whales!
Good birding and whale-watching at a fine time of the year, the fall, when autumnal colours cover the countryside, in la Belle Province, Quebec! Starting in historic Quebec City, we first explore the Leon-Provancher marsh and woodland trails for waterfowl, marsh birds, song birds and shorebirds along with Ospreys and Peregrine Falcons, then to the Cap Rouge area with its beach and parkland trails for aquatic and shore birds. The downstream view of the red-silted waters of the St. Lawrence River crossed by two large Quebec city bridges is well worth the walk, as is the river moving upstream on a high tide. Next we head down along the mighty St Lawrence River first to Cap-Tourmente where thousands of Greater Snow Geese and other waterfowl have gathered at the national wildlife area, next to the remarkable Grands-Jardins park for boreal and tundra species, followed by a day along the spectacular Charlevoix landscape on to Tadoussac and the mouth of the Saguenay River for shorebirds and whale-watching. Whale-watching boat rides should put us close to many whales of several different species - Fin Whale, Minke Whale, possibly even Blue Whale, and especially Belugas. We take the ferry across the St. Lawrence, looking for pelagics such as Razorbill, shearwaters, Common Eiders, jaegers and kittiwakes to Rivière-du-Loup, where we make an effort to find Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow. We make our way back along the St Lawrence, taking in several choice spots, and end in Quebec City.
• Several splendid wildlife spectacles - from thousands of Snow Geese to impressive encounters with big whales
• Charm of Quebec City
• Spectacular autumnal colours
Day 1 - Arrival in Québec City
Québec City, a World Heritage City, is the beautiful capital of the province of Québec, situated on the St. Lawrence River. It will be our base for the start of our adventure, and if time permits we’ll visit the historic walled Old City, first founded almost 400 years ago. Night in Quebec City.
Day 2 – Léon-Provancher marsh and Cap-Rouge
We take a day-trip to Léon-Provancher marsh and on the way back explore the shores of the St. Lawrence River at Cap-Rouge. We explore the Leon-Provancher marsh and trails in neighbouring woods and along the shoreline of the Saint-Lawrence, where a great variety of ducks, marsh birds, song birds and shorebirds are known to nest or use during migration. Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons, Virginia Rails and Green Herons occur here, and the nearshore adjacent to the marsh and its neighbouring Dombourg islets attract many aquatic birds including herons, sandpipers, goldeneyes and scaups which are plentiful. The Cap Rouge area and the trails of the neighbouring beach and park offer a similar variety of aquatic and shore birds. The downstream view of the red-silted waters of the Saint-lawrence crossed by the two large Quebec city bridges alone is worth the walk. On a rising tide, the river can be seen moving upstream. Night in Quebec City.
Day 3 - Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area
We spend the day exploring the varied habitats of this important refuge; mixed-wood forests, ponds, fields, marshes (fresh and saltwater), and the St. Lawrence River. The highlight should be the southbound concentration of Greater Snow Geese, with daily counts exceeding 50,000 birds, although many other waterfowl are also expected. It’s a spectacle not to be missed. Depending on the winds there is also the chance for songbird and raptor migration as well. We then continue northeast along the scenic shoreline of the St. Lawrence River to Baie-Saint-Paul, stopping wherever seems appropriate. Night in Baie-Saint-Paul.
Day 4 - Baie-Saint-Paul to La Malbaie
We’ll spend part of the day in the Grand Jardins Park, looking for Spruce Grouse, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, several boreal warblers, and White-winged Crossbills, but also many hawks, Bald Eagle and occasionally a Golden Eagle. We then explore the stunning coastal road between Baie-Saint-Paul and Cap-a-l’Aigle, with stops at Cap-aux-Corbeaux, Cap aux Oies, and La Malbaie. We should encounter flocks of migrant shorebirds and passerines, and we’ll look for Common Eider and Great Black-Backed Gull along the estuary. Night in La Malbaie.
Days 5 – Travel to Tadoussac
We’ll explore the superb Charlevoix landscape along the road to Tadoussac, with stops at Port au Saumon, Port au Percil, Baie des Rochers and Pointe-Noire, for forest, coastal and sea birds. Along the way, we’ll keep an eye out for Harbour Seals, Gray Seals and beluga whales. Night at Tadoussac.
Days 6 and 7 - Tadoussac area
We’ll spend the next two days in the Tadoussac area. The core of our visit will be two boat trips (weather permitting) in the Laurentian Channel offshore of the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord, one of Canada’s premier whale-watching sites. Minke and Fin Whales are the main feature of these whale-watching cruises but Beluga Whales are often seen. With luck, a Blue Whale, a Humpback Whale or a pod of White-sided Dolphins could also be seen. The conditions that attract whales are also good for pelagic birds, and there should be numerous Black-legged Kittiwakes, and we’ll watch for harassing jaegers. Razorbills and Common Murres are also a strong possibility. On land we’ll explore trails in different sections of Saguenay Provincial Park, which borders Saguenay Fjord, the longest in eastern Canada, and itself a Marine Park. Boreal forest predominates here, with migrant landbirds scattered among the residents. Species lists change each day, but we’ll hope for Gray-cheeked Thrush, Fox Sparrow, Gray Jay, American Pipit, and boreal finches. Nights in Tadoussac.
Day 8 - Cross the St. Lawrence River by ferry – Saint-Simeon – Rivière du Loup
We’ll cross the St. Lawrence on a commercial ferry, across the middle estuary, home of Belugas and many sea birds. Once on the south side we’ll explore the extensive salt marshes at Cacouna, where there will be a mix of migrant waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows. Night in Rivière-du-Loup.
Day 9 - Travel Rivière-du-Loup to Québec
We’ll spend the day investigating the south shoreline of the St. Lawrence River, with stops in Kamouraska and Rivière-Ouelle where we’ll look for migrating White-rumped Sandpiper and American Golden-Plover among the shorebirds, and Horned Larks among the landbirds. Centre Nature de Pointe-Sèche boasts many forest species, and birds of prey, including the occasional Golden Eagle. La Halte Ecologique des battures de Saint-André de Kamouraska has a similar bird fauna, as well as some marsh birds, particularly Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows. Both parks are in a coastal region of the Saint-Lawrence where Harbour Seals and Belugas are often seen. Night in Québec City.
Day 10 - Departure
Our tour ends after breakfast. You may have a chance to experience a little more of Québec City before reluctantly heading home.
Featured Birds and Mammals:
• Greater Snow Goose
• Boreal Chickadee
• Common Eider
• Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow
• Beluga Whale
• Fin Whale
• Other baleen whales possibly including Blue Whale
Dates: September 26-October 5, 2014
Duration: 10 days
Price: $2,975 USD + 2.5% GST, $2,975 CAD + 5% GST, single supplement $585 USD + GST, $585 CAD + GST
Tour Starts & Ends: Quebec City, Quebec
• Most birding from or near the vehicle
• Short, easy walking
• Whale-watching boat trips into the St. Lawrence River
• Ferry crossing across the St. Lawrence
• Warm to cool weather
• Good quality accommodation
• 4 - 8 participants with one leader, 9 - 12 with two
• One or two 15-passenger vans
Most days begin with breakfast at 6:30 - 7:00 a.m., followed at mid-day by a picnic lunch. Our schedule is flexible as it depends on driving times involved each day. Our longest drive will be from Riviere-du-Loup to Quebec City, a distance of 190 km; other daily distances will be much shorter.
Weather in late September and early October is usually pleasant, with warm days and cool nights. It is a good idea to bring footwear that is waterproof and rubber boots for shore and wetland areas. The whale-watching boat trips will be quite cool, so appropriate layered clothing, gloves and hat are recommended. The ferry is comfortable, with shelter and lots of seating space, but plan for warmer clothing if you want to observe from the outside decks.
Most trails and paths that we follow are moderately easy to navigate. Participants in good health should experience no problems with the terrain, as our pace will be leisurely. We should not encounter significant numbers of mosquitos or black flies at that time of year; however, you may wish to bring mosquito repellent in case of an exceptionally warm day—mosquitoes or lack flies are not usually a problem anywhere except perhaps in sheltered trails. Each evening, the list of birds and other wildlife will be reviewed during dinner, and plans for the next day will be discussed.
Previous checklists from our Quebec in Fall tours: