Autumn Grand Manan Aug 31—Sep 06, 2009

Posted by Barry Zimmer


Barry Zimmer

Barry Zimmer has been birding since the age of eight. His main areas of expertise lie in North and Central America, but his travels have taken him throughout much of the wo...

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Once again, the boat trip on our Autumn Grand Manan tour produced staggering numbers of seabirds. Few trips anywhere in the world can match the diversity of species and the sheer volume of birds as are regularly found in the Bay of Fundy in September.

Shearwaters were abundant with an estimated 1,000 Greater and 300 Sooty in one day, many of which were nearly at arm's-length coming in to chum off the bow. Though much less numerous, we had good looks at Manx Shearwater as well, tallying a total of 9 birds for the tour. Periodically a Northern Gannet came by to survey the scene, or a Pomarine or Parasitic Jaeger would swoop in to harass the other birds. Alcids were plentiful with 67 Razorbills, 71 Atlantic Puffins, and 48 Black Guillemots tallied. Migrant flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes dotted the surface of the ocean, and small numbers of Common and Arctic terns were regularly encountered. Black-legged Kittiwakes joined the masses of Great Black-backed and Herring gulls behind our boat, as did 4 rare, but increasing, Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Most impressive, however, were the Wilson's Storm-Petrels, which were present in ridiculous numbers. At one point, a quick count around the boat revealed over 1,500 visible. Estimates for the entire day ran from a low count of 20,000 individuals to upwards of 50,000! Literally everywhere you looked, for most of the day, you could see swarms of storm-petrels skittering about the surface of the water. It was an incredible sight.

In addition to all the birds, we also enjoyed a great whale show with northern right (5), humpback (6), finback (19), and Minke (2) all seen well. Toss in gray and harbor seals, many harbor porpoises, and an amazing creche of 400+ Common Eiders looking like a huge brown carpet on the ocean, and you can see what a superb pelagic trip we had. Perhaps the most amazing thing was that this was not an unusual day, but rather a typical fall boat trip off Grand Manan! 

Of course, seabirds and whales are not the only attractions in Grand Manan. Our tour is timed to coincide with the peak of passerine migration as well. We often see 20 or more species of warblers. This year we tallied 16, including the likes of Black-throated Green, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Palm, Ovenbird, Black-and-white, and American Redstart. We also had exceptional views of Philadelphia, Blue-headed, and Red-eyed vireos, Alder and Least flycatchers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak among others. At Castalia Marsh we enjoyed superb studies of a Nelson's Sparrow creeping along the edge of the water line, a tour highlight for many.

September is also a good time for migrant shorebirds and we totaled 16 species including Black-bellied Plover (49 in one flock), Semipalmated Plover, Solitary Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, and Red Knot. Other notable birds included White-winged Scoter, Bald Eagle, many Broad-winged Hawks, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Winter Wren.

All this, against a backdrop of the scenic New Brunswick coastline and regular doses of lobster and blueberries in various forms, was a hard-to-beat combination!