20–31 October 2015
The famous autumn foliage will still be vibrant in late October and southbound migration will be in full swing. Using only three bases we intend to target a range of difficult species including Cackling Goose, Ruffed and Spruce Grouse, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Rusty Blackbird, Nelson’s and Saltmarsh Sparrows. We can expect late warblers, early winter visitors and a modest sprinkling of rarities, and all amidst glorious colour and picturesque New England scenery.
Day 1 Flight from London to Boston followed by a steady 90 minute drive to Rye, New Hampshire, where we will stay for the next three nights.
Days 2–3 The rich and varied habitats of coastal New England, such as those at Plum Island, will be full of birds. In the sheltered harbours, bays and tidal marshes and on the beaches we may find Common Eider, Black, Surf and White-winged Scoters, Bufflehead, American Golden-plover, Semipalmated Plover, Semipalmated, Least and White-rumped Sandpipers, Nelson’s and Saltmarsh Sparrows, Snow Bunting and Lapland Longspur. In the adjacent dunes, woods and fields we could find American Woodcock, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-rumped, Palm and Blackpoll Warblers and Chipping, Savannah, Song, Swamp, White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows. Bald Eagle and American Kestrel are among the most likely raptors. One evening we may try to locate Barred and Northern Saw-whet Owls, though both have also been found at daytime roosts on recent tours. Scarcer birds at this season might include Greater White-fronted, Snow and Cackling Geese, American Bittern, Northern Shrike, Orange-crowned Warbler, Clay-coloured Sparrow, Pine Siskin and White-winged Crossbill.
Days 4–6 Birding stops on our journey inland to southern Vermont may include Great Meadows, to look for Sora and Virginia Rails and Marsh Wren, or the scenic Quabbin Watershed, which may hold Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Wild Turkey, Downy, Hairy and Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creeper, Hermit Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Dark-eyed Junco and Northern Cardinal as well as Moose, American Beaver, American Porcupine, Black Bear and even Bobcat! From Brattleboro, where we will spend three nights, we will explore the Connecticut River Valley, searching for Cackling Goose, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, Killdeer, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo, Carolina and Winter Wrens, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Buff-bellied Pipit, Eastern Towhee, American Tree, Fox, Lincoln’s and White-crowned Sparrows, Dickcissel, Rusty Blackbird and American Goldfinch. Red Crossbill, Purple Finch, Evening Grosbeak and even Pine Grosbeak may be found in irruption years. Given favourable conditions, we will attempt some hawk-watching at an official raptor counting point on Putney Mountain as well as embarking on our traditional long day in northeast Vermont to visit the fabulous spruce/fir forests near the Canadian border. Here we will look for boreal zone species including Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Grey Jay and Boreal Chickadee.
Days 7–9 We will leave Brattleboro early for the long drive to Cape Cod with a birding stop en route at Cumberland Farm Fields or perhaps a diversion into Connecticut or Rhode Island, depending on the local bird news. After crossing the Cape Cod Channel we will be on the unique headland of Cape Cod, which curves hook-like out into the Atlantic Ocean. Unsurprisingly, the Outer Cape has an unrivalled reputation for seabirds which, at this time of year, could include large-scale movements of loons and scoters plus Manx, Cory’s and Greater Shearwaters, Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers, Common, Roseate and Forster’s Terns and Iceland (Kumlien’s), Laughing, Bonaparte’s, Black-headed, Little and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Provincetown, where we will stay for three nights, is an ideal centre from which to visit Race Point, Truro, Wellfleet Bay, Orleans and Nauset Beach and many other locations on the Outer Cape to look for Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Tree Swallow and late migrants such as Prairie Warbler and Bobolink. Cape Cod is famous for producing major rarities and we will keep an eye on the local grapevine just in case!
Day 10 We will go birding on Cape Cod until late morning and then drive back to Logan International Airport in Boston to catch a late afternoon flight, arriving in London on Day 11.
General Information New England’s weather is notoriously changeable at any time of year, especially autumn. Expect a mix of warm, sunny days while others may have strong winds and perhaps heavy rain or even squally snow showers. The pace of the tour will be fairly relaxed with only a moderate degree of fitness required. There will be some walking in salt-marshes and long grass, and rubber boots are recommended. One or two early morning starts may be required and we also intend to look for owls on several evenings during the tour. There are no special medical requirements; however, deer ticks, which can carry Lyme disease, can be found in long grass and woodland. Visas are required. Food is excluded from the tour price but is relatively inexpensive; allow about £25 per day depending on your requirements.
Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 9 with 1 leader, 16 with 2 leaders.