Newfoundland and St. Pierre and Miquelon 2023

Atlantic Puffins have such interesting faces! - Photo: Melissa Hafting

I recently led a birding tour to Newfoundland for Avocet Tours, just like I did last year  but this time with Chris Charlesworth. You can read about last year's trip HERE. This year was great as well and was sold out once again. If you are interested in joining this tour next year click HEREAlso if you enjoy arctic tundra landscapes and have done NFLD before I have another tour going to Nome and Barrow in 2024. If you want to sign up for that click HERE

Newfoundland 2023

We got in to St. John’s a day before the tour started on July 8th and headed to Burton’s Pond, to look at the long staying Pink-footed Goose. Here we saw a rare for the time of year Eurasian Wigeon, some Common Terns and pure American Black Ducks and Hooded Mergansers. We went to Mundy’s Pond hoping for the Tufted Duck that was there on July 5th but it seemed just like the rare Black-tailed Godwit and Little Blue Heron, that was present in June, had also both flown the coop!

Next, Chris and I were off to Signal Hill, there were no foxes this year but since last year I was here in June with Ilya the shearwaters were not back then. This time in July we had several Manx and Sooty Shearwaters. There were also Northern Gannets and a few Atlantic Puffins, Black Guillemots, Great Black-backed Gulls and Black-legged Kittiwakes. White-throated and Fox Sparrows were also singing.

We then went to Cape Spear and saw a couple Pine Grosbeaks but it was too foggy to scope on the water. We took a walk on the Blackhead Trail and got a rare declining Gray-cheeked Thrush. We also had Hermit Thrushes, Swamp and White-throated Sparrows and many Yellow-rumped and Blackpoll Warblers.

We ended the birding day by looking at Mun’s Bontanical Garden , where we picked up Boreal Chickadee, Blue Jay and a Common Loon as highlights. We had a delicious dinner at Oliver’s in downtown St. John’s.

Day 1 of tour, July 9

The tour began in St John’s. We took the group to see the stunning but tame Pink-footed Goose at Burton’s Pond. It was foggy so we didn’t bother going to Signal Hill, since the participants wouldn’t be able to see the ocean. We decided therefore to go to Blackhead Trail and walked in the stunted Black Spruce Forest. Here we saw several White-throated Sparrows, Blackpoll Warblers and Hermit Thrushes and Pine Grosebeaks. Sadly, we came up empty on the difficult and shy Grey-cheeked Thrush.

Long-staying Pink-footed Goose in NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting

American Black Duck in St. John’s, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Male Pine Grosbeak on the Blackhead Trail in St. John’s - Photo: Sabine Decamp

We finished the day with a delicious Lobster Dinner at Saltwater Restaurant finished with a yummy Tiramisu cake. Tired and happy we went to bed with the thought of Willow Ptarmigans and Steller’s Sea Eagles in our heads.

Day 2, July 10

The next day after breakfast at Tim Horton's we were off to Cape Pine to look for Willow Ptarmigan. We stopped in a t St. Vincent’s on the way to look for a reported Brown Booby, Franklin’s and Black-headed Gull. It’s also a great place to scope for Shearwaters and Leach’s Storm-Petrels.

The capelin (fish) were running, so lots of birds were going after the fish! The gannets were dive-bombing in which was incredible to watch. I met Newfie expert birder Bruce Mactavish there and saw Northern Gannets torpedoing into the water for fish. I spotted a Parasitic Jaeger for the group but did not spot the Booby. We did not see any of the rare gulls either. Last year we were lucky to find our own Black-headed Gull at Signal Hill and hoped to find one as the trip went one. We did watch some Humpback Whales and many Black-legged Kittiwakes, a couple Greater Yellowlegs and Spotted Sandpipers, which was nice. 

We then drove on to Cape Pine and had Horned Larks, a Northern Harrier and a Blackpoll Warbler (despite no trees) but sadly no Willow Ptarmigan, like we had here last year. We also didn’t see any Short-eared Owls as last year but we were fortunate to see 4 Woodland Caribou! 

Woodland Caribou in St. Shott's, NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We continued on to St. Shott’s ,where we had our packed lunches. Here we had great views of Great and Sooty Shearwaters and I spotted some uncommon Pilot Whales which was exciting! There were also Humpback Whales here. American Pipits were singing and we also had Razorbills, Common Murres and 14 beautiful Common Eider! A Great Black-backed Gull was nesting with its huge chicks on the rocks below us. Lots of Black-legged Kittiwakes had tiny chicks peeking out from the nest, which were visible when the adults stood up. We also saw Black Guillemots.

Beautiful St. Shott’s, NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Common Eiders in St. Shott’s, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

American Pipit carrying food in the tundra in NL at Cape Pine - Photo: Sabine Decamp

On our way now to Cape Race we stopped at Trepassey to look for a reported Laughing Gull. We didn’t see the Gull (or any gulls for that matter) but we saw a Belted Kingfisher and a few Common Loons.

We drove on to Cape Race to look for Willow Ptarmigan. The road to the lighthouse was littered with Robins and some Horned Larks. 

Horned Lark at Cape Race, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

We stopped by a little pond with stunning handmade wooden boats on it. It was sunny and clear but when we got to the end of the road, where the lighthouse was,  the fog had rolled in. We still were able to see hundreds of Sooty and Great Shearwaters, Razorbills, Atlantic Puffins, Black Guillemots and Black-legged Kittiwakes. We were so happy to spot a rare Wilson’s Storm Petrel at Cape Race! It flew fairly close to shore that we could all view it in our bins. It looked really to have a lot of white on its rump. Sabine Decamp got some record photos which after review helped us to confirm the broad paddle shaped wings and more white in the rump and shorter rounded off non-forked tail. It also dragged its feet on the water too, unlike Leach’s. It was a lifer for me and most in the group!

Wilson's Storm-Petrel in the fog at St. Shott's, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Part of the group at Cape Race, NL - Photo: Chris Charlesworth 

The final stop was Clara’s famous feeder at Renews. We were hoping for Type 8 Red Crossbills like we had last year and to see her rare Gray Catbird. Clara the homeowner usually has a Ruby-throated Hummer and other rarities but there was a Merlin in the area and it was rather quiet. We just saw a Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tree Swallows, Purple Finch, Slate Junco, White-throated Sparrow and American Goldfinches.

A few in our group saw a Moose spotted by Chris. Sadly we drove by a Black-headed Gull unknowingly but reported after the fact on eBird. We finished the evening off with a delicious dinner at St John’s Fish Exchange. We were very tired but happy.


Day 3, July 11

We woke up and had breakfast at Tim Horton's and went to Bidgood Park in Gould’s. Here we had Black-and-White Warblers, White-winged and Type 8 Red Crossbills, Wilson’s Snipe, Blackpoll Warbler, Swamp and White-throated Sparrows and Boreal Chickadees.

Swamp Sparrow in Gould’s, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Blue Jay in Gould’s, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Boreal Chickadee in Gould’s, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Northern Waterthrush in Gould’s, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Wilson’s Snipe in Gould’s, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Blackpoll Warbler in Gould’s, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

We then went on our boat trip to Witless Bay Ecological Reserve with O'Brien’s Boat Company. They are awesome are entertaining and sing to you on board. It was foggy but still a visual spectacle and we picked out 9 Thick-billed Murre. We loved watching the Atlantic Puffins and Common Murres fly out from their nests like insects in the sky. We had good up-close views of Razorbills as well! We also had incredible views of Humpbacks and had Great and Sooty Shearwaters right beside our boat sitting on the water and Black-legged Kittiwakes with chicks in the nest.

2 Thick-billed Murres (note white in the gape) at Witless Bay, NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Black-and-White Warbler in Gould’s, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

It was so foggy though and we didn’t see a Manx or Northern Fulmar. We passed by an island where Fulmars breed but it was impossible to see because of the fog. There were plenty of Gannets to be found though.
Great Shearwater in Witless Bay, NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Black-legged Kittiwake with chick at Witless Bay, NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Razorbills at Witless Bay, NL - Photos: Sabine Decamp

6 Thick-billed Murres at Witless Bay, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Razorbill at Witless Bay, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Great Shearwaters at Witless Bay, NL - Photos: Sabine Decamp

Sooty Shearwater at Witless Bay, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

After this we had a delicious lunch of fish and chips and seafood chowder at Jigger’s in Bay Bulls. The staff are so friendly here. We then drove to Port Union for the night and stayed in the cute Seaport Inn where we had a lovely dinner.

Day 4, July 12 

The next morning we woke up and went straight to the Atlantic Puffin Colony at Bird Island in Elliston. Here we saw hundreds of Puffins and this spot is where the Puffins walk up and sit by you on the grass. You don't approach them just sit still and let them go about their business collecting nesting material. This year the puffins were nesting later than last year. It was incredible to watch them so close, with their cute waddling walks and amazing clown faces.

Atlantic Puffins in Elliston, NL - Photos: Melissa Hafting

I got a cute video of them, shared below. We met a gent there who had been photographing them for 20 days!

At this site we also watched nesting Double-crested Cormorants, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Black Guillemots and we saw Common Murres and Razorbills. Also we watched Great Black-backed Gulls eating adult Puffins and Common Murre chicks. Sadly we saw dozens and dozens of dead Leach’s Storm-Petrels. I contacted researchers at MUN University through my friend Alvan Buckley. The researchers told me that the sea surface temperature within the foraging range of Storm-petrels from Baccalieu is very hot right now,  4 to 5 degrees Celscius above normal in places along the Flemish cap/Grand Banks area. The wreck could be a result of issues finding food due to this marine heatwave. They did collect some birds to test for Avian Flu as well. These seabirds have a lot stacked against them.

Dead Leach’s Storm-Petrel at Elliston, NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting 

Black Guillemots at Elliston, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

We then went to Mifflin’s Tea Room in Bonavista for a delicious bacon and egg breakfast with toast and partridge berry jam. We stopped at Old Day’s Pond to see if a reported adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was still there but no dice.

Next, we went to Cape Bonavista Lighthouse and here we saw our first Manx Shearwaters for the group. We also had Great and Sooty Shearwaters, Humpback Whales and delighted in the large Puffin Colony and getting flight shots of the birds. Lots of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Razorbills and a huge colony of Common Murres also kept us company. 

A great place to sit and contemplate life (Sabine D. watching Puffins) - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Some of our group looking at Seabirds and Whales at Cape Bonavista - Photo: Melissa H

Rick P. and Robert H. watching Puffins at Cape Bonavista - Photo: Melissa H.

Black Guillemot in Bonavista, NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We stopped and grabbed a Subway lunch and then headed to Trinity where I had chartered a boat with Trinity Eco-Tours to try and see the Steller’s Sea Eagle that had returned to the same area as it had last year.

Trinity, NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We took the boat out all nervous and anxious and boy it was a bumpy ride. Like we got air type of bumpy! I couldn’t stop laughing I was that scared haha! We saw Arctic Terns as we were searching for the Eagle and lots of Puffins and Guillemots as we bounded out.

There was no sign of the eagle at Spaniard’s Cove (its usual haunt), so we continued on and we spotted it in Ragged Rock Cove. I almost started to tear up. I couldn’t believe I was seeing this magnificent bird in Canada. They are normally found in places like Russia and Japan. It was huge with this parrot-like yellow bill and white patches on its wings. When we watched it fly I did shed a few tears. It flew and we followed it by boat and relocated it on a nest!!!! It was also rearranging sticks on the nest! we didn’t see it paired with any Bald Eagle but the behaviour was sure interesting. The bird was most likely not nesting but broody and perhaps will attempt to nest next year with a Baldie? It’s all speculation but local birders Jared Clarke, Alvan Buckley and Bruce Mactavish told me that my group and I were the first to document this incredible occurrence!  I wish I had been able to call my dad after seeing this eagle and to share my excitement with him! He would have been so damn happy for me. I thought of him a lot during the tour as I do every day but especially when I saw this incredible eagle. To me, it is the best bird I’ve ever seen, with the Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Thailand being my second.

Steller's Sea-Eagle rearranging sticks at an old Bald Eagle nest near Trinity - Photo: Robert Holland

The magnificent Steller's Sea-Eagle near Trinity, NL - Photos: Melissa Hafting

We were so very happy!!! High fives all around and cheers and we decided to celebrate by driving to an iceberg near New Bonaventure in the little town of Remote Passage. We saw it from land and it was huge but could only see the top. This was very unlike our experience last year of a smaller iceberg viewed completely on the water from land.

Iceberg near New Bonaventure, NL - Photo: Chris Charlesworth

In hindsight I should have asked the zodiac captain Steve to take us to the iceberg after we had seen the eagle as it was only 5 mins away! Silly me!  We drove back to our hotel in Clarenville (The Clarenville Inn) and had a nice dinner at Bella’s.

Day 5, July 13 

Today was our big Hiking Day at Terra Nova National Park. We started at Sandy Pond and hiked around the entire lake. We had beautiful views of Palm Warbler, Black-and-White Warblers, Magnolia and Common Yellowthroats. Also many Northern Waterthrushes, Yellows, Yellow-rumped, Wilson’s and a few Blackpoll. We also had several good views of White-winged Crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks, Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets. There were tons of White-throated, Swamp and even a couple Lincoln’s Sparrows and slate Dark-eyed Juncos.

Palm Warblers at Sandy Pond at Terra Nova National Park, NL - Photos: Sabine Decamp

Common Yellowthroat at Sandy Pond - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler at Sandy Pond - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Male White-winged Crossbill in NFLD - Photo: Sabine Decamp

We then went to Louil Hill Trail, here we were searching for Black-throated Green Warblers and boy did we find them. We also had our first Yellow-bellied Flycatcher of the trip. The trail had many Boreal Chickadees and Magnolia Warblers and Kinglets as well. 

Magnolia Warbler on Louil Hill Trail in TN - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Black-throated Green Warblers in Terra Nova National Park - Photos: Sabine Decamp

After this 3.4 Km hike , we went to the visitor centre for lunch. We had a Canada Jay here and enjoyed resting our feet by the water. 

Canada Jay at Terra Nova, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

After lunch, we headed to Ochre Hill Trail and walked up to the view point. Some of the brave souls in the group climbed the fire tower. We enjoyed the beautiful views of the entire park from the top. 

Ochre Hill at Terra Nova National Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We then went to Dunphy’s Pond Trail and were hoping for Black-backed Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo and Spruce Grouse like we had here last year but we didn’t get those. We did find a lot of mosquitoes and black flies though haha and some beautiful warblers that we saw elsewhere in the park like Magnolias and Yellow-rumped and Black-and-White. We also had a few Downy Woodpeckers and many White-throated Sparrows and White-winged Crossbills. After walking 12km that day, we drove back to our hotel and had a great dinner at Stellar Kitchen.

White-throated Sparrow in Terra Nova - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Female Black-and-White Warbler in Terra Nova - Photos: Sabine Decamp

Magnolia Warbler on Dunphy’s Pond Trail - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Day 6, July 14

After a lovely breakfast at our hotel we headed to White Hills Resource Road, which is a logging road that is full of warblers, flycatchers, grouse and vireos. Last year we found a rare Tennessee Warbler (TEWA) here. This year no TEWA but we did find several Mourning Warblers (a lifer for many) and a Blue-headed Vireo. We also had great views of American Redstarts, Black-and-White Warblers and several Yellow-bellied Flycatchers. Lots of Hermit Thrushes were singing, including an uncommon for here Swainson’s Thrush! As we were getting into our car a large hawk most likely a Northern Goshawk passed over us in the distance. They do not have Red-tailed Hawks here, only Osprey and Sharpies and it certainly wasn’t one of those!

Male Mourning Warbler in Clarenville, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in Clarenville, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Yellow Warbler carrying food in Clarenville, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Male American Redstart in Clarenville, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Next, we drove on to Arnold’s Cove and Arnold’s Pond, where we saw our first Lesser Yellowlegs of the trip and several Greater Yellowlegs. We also had our first Least Sandpipers of the trip! There we also found Green-winged Teals and Greater Scaup, Common Terns, Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls, Spotted Sandpipers and Tree Swallows.

Common Tern at Arnold’s Cove, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Great Black-backed Gull in Arnold’s Cove - Photo: Sabine Decamp 
Least Sandpiper at Arnold’s Cove - Photo: Sabine Decamp

We stopped for lunch in Placentia and had some yummy food at Harold's Restaurant. We picked up breakfast and lunch at the grocery store and were on our way to Branch; before spending the night in St. Bride’s. 

We searched for Caribou along the way and Willow Ptarmigan. We had Caribou here last year but sadly with the heavy fog there was not a chance today. When we got to Branch we searched for Common Grackles we had  seen here last year. We did not find the Grackles but found a Canada Goose instead. We also watched the shore and saw a lone White-winged Scoter, Blue Jay and several Spotties and Greater Yellowlegs.

We drove back to St Bride’s and on the drive home had Horned Larks, American Pipits and a Northern Harrier. We checked into the beautiful Capeway Inn and then had an early dinner at Da Bird’s Eye. The food was so delicious! Everyone enjoyed the Newfie hospitality and the down to earth food and friendly staff, that were sometimes hard to understand, with their thick Gaelic accents.

Spotted Sandpiper at Arnold’s Cove - Photo: Sabine Decamp 

Day 7, July 15 (Last day of tour)

This morning we all had our own breakfasts in our private rooms and then headed straight for Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve. Staff told us they had 40% declines in numbers, since last year, in the seabird populations on site, due to Avian Flu. I really noticed the differences in the number of Northern Gannets and Razorbills and it made me quite sad. 

Water Irises at St. Bride’s, NL - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Northern Gannet with chick at Cape St. Mary's - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Northern Gannets have suffered major losses at the colony due to Avian Flu - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Northern Gannets at Cape St. Mary’s, NL - Photos: Sabine Decamp

It was extremely foggy here this time but I was able to pick out 3 Thick-billed Murres for the group. Sadly, I could not pick out any Great Cormorants in the thick fog. The Common Murres had cute chicks and the Black-legged Kittiwakes as well. There were several Common Ravens, Bald Eagles and a Peregrine Falcon taking advantage. 

Common Murre at Cape St. Mary’s - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Bridled (East coast subspecies) Common Murre at Cape St. Mary’s - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Bridled Common Murres with chick at Cape St. Mary's, NL - Photo: Sabine Decamp

Just sitting and watching the Northern Gannets with their elegant faces, doing their unique courtship displays and flying by our heads was more than enough for me. These truly are captivating and graceful birds. Well maybe I take back the graceful part, after watching one Gannet fall clumsily down the hill after fighting with another, who it got too close to! I took a video of some of the birds, note the prominent young chick (bottom left).

Part of the group watching Northern Gannets at Cape St. Mary’s - Photo: Melissa Hafting

After an incredible morning here, despite the fog, we headed back to St. John’s. A Tufted Duck had been reported yet again at Mundy and Kenny’s Pond and we checked both but could only find Ring-necked Ducks and Greater Scaups. A nice consolation prize at Kenny’s Pond though was finding a Common Grackle!

Next, we went to Signal Hill to finish off the tour. We scoped and saw some Shearwaters but no Manx like when Chris and I had come here prior to the tour. There were also Northern Gannets and Atlantic Puffins but no Black-headed Gull like last year but the views and weather were sunny and spectacular. It was a perfect way to end a wonderful tour with wonderful people.

Our group with co-leader Chris Charlesworth - Photo: Melissa Hafting

July 16 (on my own)

After the tour ended. I spent the night in St. John’s and then drove to Fortune and took the ferry across to St Pierre and Miquelon in France. Getting to the Canada/France border crossing was strange indeed.

Canada/France Customs - Photos: Melissa Hafting

The French flag is used very prominently here - Photo: Melissa Hafting

After crossing French customs, it felt like I was truly in mainland France. The architecture was very French nothing like the homes in NFLD. The road signs were just as they were in mainland France. No English to be found and not everyone spoke English. The banks and post office and cars like Peugeot were even the ones seen only in mainland France. They use the Euro too. Also, almost every restaurant and store closes between 12-2pm. You need a reservation in this 6000 person town, if you want to eat! Even the appliances used French European plugs only. You must bring a converter, if you want to charge anything made in the US or Canada. It is so close to Canada but it felt like a world a way. My mom always wanted to go there and I went there carrying her with me in my heart. I stayed in this charming apartment I rented.

Ile au Marins (no one lives here anymore) - Photo. Melissa Hafting

French scenes in the territory of St. Pierre and Miquelon, FR- Photos: Melissa Hafting

I rented an electric bike and took it up to Etang Frecker in the mountains. There I met a huge black dog. He looked half Mastiff, half Black Lab. He was very friendly and came right up to me. Nasty horseflies were biting it. There was no name tag on his collar. He followed me everywhere by bike and it was hot. I felt sorry for it. I led him into a river stream where he drank and drank and then he swam in the lake. We sat for a while looking at an American Black Duck family and listening to warblers and pipits. On my way down the mountain I decided to stop at every door I could find on the route when I got to town but no one knew the dog. It was a long way back to town many many kilometres. He followed me all the way. I felt really sorry for the dog now. It was hot and so periodically I got off the fast electric bike and walked with it because I had no water for it. Finally, we made it to the Veterinarian clinic. The vet was out smoking and he was friendly. He couldn’t believe I had got the dog to follow me all the way here with no leash. The dog seemed to have imprinted on me. 

Before I continue, I felt quite lonely in St. Pierre. It was a place as I said my mom always had wanted to visit when she hoped to visit NFLD. NFLD was another place she really wanted to get to, which she sadly never got to.

When I met this dog, it felt like I was meant to come here. I was missing my mom a lot and my dad while walking around this cute place until the dog appeared and it gave me a purpose.

Anyways, when I got to the vet he scanned the dog for a microchip and found it had one! The vet called the owner but he was in St. John’s, NL. Apparently, a friend was doing a very poor job of looking after the dog and when the vet called the friend he refused to pick it up. So the vet agreed to me to keep the dog until the owner came back from Canada. He would feed it and keep it hydrated and safe in the clinic until the man returned. It was a beautiful dog. The vet told me his name was Tarot. The dog was so exhausted when we reached the vet he got much needed water and just collapsed and lied down... poor thing. 

After this, I needed a break and my reservation time came and I went and had some really good French food at the restaurant Le Feu de Braise.


July 17

The next day I took a 3 hour boat tour with the Municipal Sailing School out to Grand Colombier and Langlade.  The tour was all spoken in French. Grand Colombier is a large puffin, murre and seabird colony. I saw thousands of nesting puffins and Common Murres. The Common Murre chicks were fledging right in front of our eyes which was so cool to watch them fling themselves off the cliffs and call repeatedly for their parents who would reunite with them on the water. It is the males that teach the chicks in the water how to hunt for food. Sometimes it didn’t end so well and Great Black-backed Gulls would snatch and eat the babies and bang them to death on the rocks it was brutal to watch. There were many Razorbills as well and nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes. I also saw many Manx, Great and Sooty Shearwaters and Leach’s Storm-Petrels. A few Gray Seals and Harbour Seals were about as well. It is very nice to see Gray Seals as I rarely have seen them.

Common Murre Chick at Grand Colombier in St. Pierre, France - Photo: Melissa Hafting
Common Murre adult male with chick at Grand Colombier, FR - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Common Murres nest in huge numbers (5000+) at Grand Colombier - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Common Murre adult with chick before jumping in at Grand Colombier - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Great Cormorants with Great Black-backed Gulls at St. Pierre - Photo: Melissa Hafting

What was coolest was seeing all the nesting Great Cormorants at Grand Colombier and on the island of Langlade where the boat also went to. I had never seen that many and their chicks before. It was only my second time seeing them in Canada oh wait France! At Langlade there was also a Winter Wren singing its head off, which was nice, since I didn't hear any in NFLD.

Great Cormorants at Miquelon-Langlade, France - Photo: Melissa Hafting

July 18

After one more night’s sleep I took the ferry back to Canada. I wish I had more time to explore the Island of  Miquelon which is better for birding and has Piping Plovers and more shorebirds and rarities like Fork-tailed Flycatcher at the Grand Barachois area there. Next time I will bring my car and just do that! The ferry ride back was amazing with hundreds of Great and Sooty Shearwaters and over 35 Manx Shearwaters! I had never seen so many in all my life! I also had my lifer White-beaked Dolphins and saw two Northern Fulmars on the Canadian side, some Leach’s Storm-petrels and 3 rare Great Cormorants also in Canada. A lot of people had seen multiple Dovekies from this ferry in June along with Wilson’s Storm-Petrels but sadly not I. It’s also a good spot to nab a rare Corey’s Shearwater! With the amount of Shearwaters I wasn’t surprised but alas did not see one. A couple days before I went someone had a Brown Booby too!

I cleared Canadian Customs in Fortune and was on a 4 hour drive back to St John’s, where I would fly home to Vancouver later that night. It was a great and wonderful trip back to NFLD and to St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Northern Fulmar between St. Pierre and Miquelon and NFLD - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Manx Shearwater off St. Pierre ferry - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Leach's Storm-Petrel between St. Pierre and Miquelon and NFLD - Photos: Melissa Hafting

White-beaked Dolphin with Great Shearwater off the St. Pierre and Miquelon ferry - Photo: Melissa H.

    Great Cormorants in the fog in NL, Canada - Photo: Melissa Hafting


  1. PacificnorthwestkateJuly 27, 2023 at 7:07 PM

    What a blog post!! And such wonderful images!! Thank you for sharing your trip with us all!! It sounded and looked wonderful! So many beautiful birds - and the Stellers sea eagle! Fantastic!! And I loved the tale of Tarot! Thank you for this awesome blog full of stories and images from your trip - I felt as if I was there!! One day maybe!!

    1. Thank you so much Kate! I miss Tarot and think of him often!

  2. A fantastic write-up of an unbelievable trip Mel. I'm envious of the eagle of course.

    1. thanks not sure who you are as this is anonymous but thanks!hope you see the eagle one day!

  3. Lovely blog, Mel. You and Chris certainly gave the tour group a fantastic experience with the sea-eagle as an amazing bonus. Good on you and the vet taking care of that mistreated dog in St. Pierre.

  4. Mel this was one of your best posts ever! I was waiting for it and it was not a disappointment. You got incredible photos of the eagle and I am sure your dad was with you the whole time. Trust me he knew you got it! Perhaps he even helped you see it! Also I am sure your mom was with you and that dog in France. I really enjoyed hearing about the common murre chicks at Grand Colombier. I need to get to NFLD with you one year as many of these would be lifers. The people on the tour certainly were lucky to have you guiding them. Your first puffin photo is among the best I have seen!

  5. What an amazing trip you led! Fantastic photos and amazing you saw such a rare bird!

  6. Mel this was a great read. I really enjoyed all the beautiful photos you shared. I can't imagine being so close to a Puffin like that. Your photos are truly wonderful. I am glad you had a great trip. You have been through a lot of tragedy the last two years and I am glad you are so real and open about your grief. It is one of the hardest if not hardest thing to endure losing someone and you lost 2 you were incredibly close to. Know they are proud of you and you helping that dog shows your compassion. I can honestly say many would of carried on with their day.

    1. thanks so much Mark... yes grief is way too taboo in our current society. i miss my parents every single day thank you for your kindness

  7. Oh geez I almost forgot congratulations on seeing that spectacular eagle wow!!

  8. superb job, Melissa! the pictures, the lively and deeply thoughtful narration-- informative, enlightening, beautiful. Really appreciate it and must tell my friends!

  9. i meant to ask 3 things - what are the yellow spots on the sea eagle, why are the murres in the last pictures brown, and where is that fulmar's tail? just curious!

    1. the fulmar's tail is there just a poor photo i took haha and yes that adult murre was more brown than usual. there are no yellow spots on the sea eagle i can see?


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