On our last full day of birding we visited the ATLANTIC PUFFIN colony at Elliston, a small town just below Cape Bonavista. The weather was incredible and had amazing views of nesting PUFFINS flying to and from their nesting burrows. Below are some of my favourite pics from the visit.


PUFFIN taking off from burrow

PUFFINS trying to avoid a  marauding Herring Gull

wide shot of the PUFFIN colony at Elliston

visitors enjoying the PUFFINS




I have been to Cape St. Marys on at least five occasions and every single time it has been foggy. This is not unusual at this time of the year as on average the cape is fogged in for 27 out of 31 days in July! Indeed when we visited on July 9th, it had been foggy at the cape for the last 17 days in a row. I prepared Kathi for the inevitable fog that would greet us at the cape even though it was sunny and clear on our drive south. Incredibly when we arrived at the cape, it was stunningly clear and we had incredible views of the ocean, birds and cliffs. Below is a scenic of the gannet colony.

It was a pleasant one km walk along the shoreline to the gannet colony. When we reached the site it was an absolutely spectacular view and the NORTHERN GANNETS were so close it felt like you could touch them.

 Just a few feet from the cliff is a large stack of rock separated from the main cliffs by about a hundred feet. This stack is literally covered with nesting GANNETS.

We spent almost an hour photographing GANNETS, KITTIWAKES, RAZORBILLS, MURRES and other seabirds nesting on the cliffs. I managed to convince Kathi to sit out on the promontory of rocks which were labelled "WARNING UNSTABLE CLIFFS" for this photo. 


My old friend Bruce Mactavish from St. Johns joined us for a foggy but fun day. It was great sharing some birds and a few humorous stories from our youth. He told us to keep an eye out for southern terns, as this was prime time for one to turn up. As luck would have it, the very next day we were scanning through the gull and tern flock at Holyrood Pond (inshore side of St. Vincent's Beach) when I was stunned to see an adult ROYAL TERN sitting on a small rock!! I told Kathi to sit tight in the vehicles until I could get the scope set up and confirm the ID and digiscope a few images. After a few tense moments, the crew slowly got out without flushing the tern and everyone had great views of this exceptional rarity.

ROYAL TERN - one of about a half a dozen records for NF

For me this was a particularly exciting sighting because this was my 500th species for CANADA! There was no cell service here so we had to wait about half an hour until we were near the small town of St. Mary's so I could call Bruce. When I did get through he sounded pretty excited about the find and he promised that "people would be on their way in a few minutes"! Later that evening he emailed me to let me know that he and at least a dozen other birders had managed to find not just one, but TWO ROYAL TERNS! This was a first for his Newfoundland list.


 Kathi and I made the lengthy hike out to Mistaken Point with Julie Cappleman as our guide. This site is along the road to Cape Race just east of Portugal Cove South in the southern Avalon peninsula. It was cool and foggy which helped to reduce the biting insects and make the walk out very pleasant. Julie pointed out a number of flowering plants along the way. To me, the most stunning was this BLUE FLAG.


 The hike to the fossil site was just over three km, with some tricky spots along the way. Here we are just above the fossil beds.

Mistaken Point fossils are among the most signficant anywhere. The were recently dated at 575 million years old, making them the oldest known multicellular fossils known to science! Below is one of the most common fossils at this site. 

As we returned from our hike, we were thrilled to find a SHORT-EARED OWL sitting right beside the side of the road. Three carloads of people stopped and took dozens of photos of the owl before it flew off into the fog. It was a great way to wrap up the day!


Kathi and I spent ten days in Newfoundland exploring the Avalon peninsula. One of the big highlights of the trip was a boat trip with Obriens Boat tours out to the Witless Bay bird islands. Below are a few photo highlights from the morning on the boat.

hundreds of GREATER SHEARWATERS were seen

ATLANTIC PUFFIN in flight - one of thousands seen today

RAZORBILL in flight

a pair of NORTHERN FULMARS nesting on the cliff


In late June, Kathi and I spent several mornings trying to view and photograph songbirds at various sites around southern Michigan. She wanted to try using her new Canon hybrid and I wanted to fill in some gaps in my photo collection. Here are some of the best images from those shoots.

Chestnut-sided Warbler male

Hooded Warbler male

Mourning Warbler male


Rose-breasted Grosbeak male

Yellow-throated Vireo male


During our week in the southern Yukon we tallied a total of 158 species. Given that migrant shorebirds were almost non-existent during our visit, we thought this was a great tally. Highlights of birds seen included a male TUFTED DUCK, 2 YELLOW-BILLED LOONS, 3 SMITH'S LONGSPURS, PARASITIC JAEGER, WILLOW and ROCK PTARMIGAN, EVENING GROSBEAK, THREE-TOED WOODPECKERS and multiple BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS. Below is a pic of one of a group of about six BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS hanging around a small lake near Watson lake.

Much our success in finding a good species tally was due to the incredibly generous help of resident Yukon birders Cameron Eckert and Yukka Juttanen and others. They helped us put together a route for a big day that we conducted on May 27th in the southern Yukon. Full details on the day will be published in the Yukon Warbler and in the 2012 ABA Big Day report. A summary appears below.

Our day began around 2 am in downtown Whitehorse and ended at around 10 pm near Watson Lake. We tallied a record breaking 134 species, setting a new all time ABA big day record. The main areas we visited were Rat Lake, Lake LaBarge, both Whitehorse sewage lagoons, Albert Creek and Watson Lake airport. We had great weather and good luck for most of the day, excepting for a lull in the afternoon when a number of stake outs failed to appear.

Juvenile Gray Jay - we had this species in several areas

 At dawn we were on the road up Mt. McIntyre, hoping to get high enough to see either WILLOW or ROCK PTARMIGAN. Unfortunately just before the tree line the road was impassable due to heavy snow cover. Paul's sharp eyes managed to pick out two different ROCK PTARMIGAN by scoping the rocks along the upper slopes above. Surprisingly we couldn't find WILLOW but below is a photo of one of 38 WILLOW PTARMIGAN we had seen the day before on the BC border near Haines Junction.

One of the best surprises of the big day was a SPRUCE GROUSE that popped up right at the side of the road on the way up Mt. McIntyre. This is a species that is really hard to stake out, and always a wild card on any big day.

 Our day ended on the road north of Watson Lake. Below is a photo taken at 10 pm at night at the end of our big day! We didnt find any new birds here but it was a wonderful way to end our day.


One of the great things about touring the Yukon is the great roadside mammals and birds. In under a week we spotted almost fifty bears! This cinnamon BLACK BEAR was one of several seen grazing along the roadside. 

Black Bear

 Bison and caribou were seen regularly along the Alaska Highway. This individual was part of a family group we watched feeding for about fifteen minutes.

On several occasions we came across small groups of "STONE" SHEEP. This ram had a small harem of about four females. The group was remarkably tame grazing within a few feet of hordes of tourists, cars and RVs. 

The scenery along the Alaska Highway is breathtaking in places. Below is a scenic from the BC part of the route just a few km from the Yuikon border.