Atlantic Puffin, By Frank Toller, Participant

Call Lead-Guide Steve "Esh" Eshbaugh today at 406.570.2428 with your questions about this trip.


Cost: $5,200

Single Supplement: $600

Deposit: $800

Final Payment Due: March 25

Maximum Group Size: 10

Guide: Steve Eshbaugh

Target # birds: 120

Level: Easy to Moderate

Participants must be able to hike 2-3 miles per day, with some hikes including somewhat hilly terrain.

Tour prices are given “per person, double occupancy” and include a donation to BOTH Montana Audubon (Steve Hoffman’s former employer) and Cape St. Mary's Preserve, an effective Newfoundland-based nonprofit bird/habitat conservation organization. Our tour fee includes the following (unless otherwise noted):

  • All trip materials, including detailed daily itinerary, list of what to bring, recommended field guides and pre-trip reading materials, checklist of likely birds & other wildlife.

  • All services of the leaders and guides.

  • All transportation upon arrival to destination city.

  • All accommodations during tour dates.

  • All entrance fees to museums, parks, etc.

  • All meals (except alcoholic beverages) are included, typically from breakfast on the first full day through breakfast on the last full day.

Tour prices DO NOT include round-trip airfare, passport/visa fees, arrival taxes, baggage fees, single-supplement fees, telephone calls, laundry, room service, souvenirs, and tipping of guides & drivers (optional but highly recommended).

Tour deposit is refundable, minus a $100 processing fee up to 90 days prior to departure.

Note: Tour costs, itineraries and dates are subject to change. Prices may be affected by international currency exchange rates or necessary itinerary changes.

New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island Extension: $750

We offset all trip impacts by purchasing carbon offsets to reduce our global footprint.

Register here for this trip

The Maritimes and Newfoundland

June 25-July 10, 2021

This trip is any nature (and seafood) lover's dream! Imagine strolling the stunning beaches of Prince Edward Island National Park, gazing at the gorgeous vistas offered by Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and staring with mouth agape at hundreds of thousands of puffins filling the skies above you. We'll also be looking for up to 25 species of warblers! Seabirds we'll likely see include Razorbill, Thick-billed Murre and Black Guillemot among many others. Mammal targets will include moose and caribou. Humpback whales often come so close to shore you might be able to smell their "blow." An overnight ferry trip from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland is a comfortable adventure, complete with shearwaters and other rarities as the Newfoundland coast looms in the distance. At Cape Saint Mary's Ecological Reserve we'll see Northern Gannets nesting by the tens of thousands (the second largest gannet colony on Earth!), and get close enough for amazing photos! Novice photographers will feel like pros!


At Saint Vincent's beach, Humpback Whales will likely be feeding on abundant capelin. We time our trip for the peak of whale feeding activity close to shore. Breaching whales are a common sight, and while you may have seen humpback whales before, probably not as close as you will here, all while standing onshore. You'll also be awed by the world's largest Atlantic Puffin colony, with these and other birds totaling more than a half-million, filling the skies and shores of Green Island.

The food also sets this trip apart. Those who love seafood will be in paradise. Meals of Maine lobster, scallops, chowder and a wide variety of other seafood will be daily opportunities. We'll have the chance to sample diverse local fare too, like patridgeberry and bakeapple (not a typo). Pies made from local fruits will be available for dessert after dinner... and lunch. This trip will delight foodies who also enjoy exploring nature!


Pre-trip extension - Visit the Maritimes

  • June 25: Fly to Halifax International Airport, Nova Scotia. Arrive Halifax, overnight Halifax.

  • June 26: Drive to New Brunswick (Sackville) and on to Charlottetown, PEI.

  • June 27: Explore PEI National Park, and East Point, PEI.

  • June 28: Ferry to Nova Scotia, (explore Taylor Head Provincial Park).

  • June 29: Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia (Birding the coast, Taylor Head Provincial Park).

  • June 30: Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia (Birding Waternish Road & Port Bickerton).

  • July 1: Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (Birding coastal areas).

  • July 2: Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (Birding Cape Breton Highlands).

  • July 3: Ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland (Birding wetlands, ferry trip).

  • July 4: Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland.

  • July 5: Birding Newfoundland, searching for caribou (Cape Spear, Branch).

  • July 6: Trepassey, Newfoundland (whale watching, birding Cape Pine).

  • July 7: Trepassey, Newfoundland (Mistaken Point, Cape Race).

  • July 8: St. John's, Newfoundland (Birding/whale-watching at Bay Bulls).

  • July 9 St. John's, Newfoundland (Cape Spear, Birding ponds, visiting Signal Hill).

  • July 10: Depart for home from St. John's International Airport.


June 25: Your flight must arrive in Halifax tonight. (We strongly recommend you arrive the day before our trip starts, as your only chance of catching up with the trip is to rent a car and drop it in Charlottetown PEI, an expensive proposition. Overnight at Halifax Airport Quality Inn or similar.

June 26: Leave Halifax for Prince Edward Island

We'll drive to PEI, stopping in Sackville, New Brunswick to bird the waterfowl park. While various ducks can be seen here, we'll certainly search for Virginia Rail and Sora. Other targets will be our first chance at Marsh Wren, Alder Flycatcher, and Purple Finch. After a fabulous lunch, we'll drive to Green Gables for a brief tour of this historic site. We'll head from there to our hotel for the next two nights, the fabulous Rodd Charlottetown. Tonight is capped off with a lobster dinner at the top-rated Walter Prince Corner Shop. Overnight Rodd Charlottetown or similar.

June 27: Prince Edward Island National Park, East Point Lighthouse

The short drive to PEI National Park doesn't hint at the stunning views here. We'll bird the forests, looking for Magnolia Warbler and expect to see American Black Duck and our first chance at a Mourning Warbler and Nelson's Sparrow. Weather permitting we'll take a stroll on one of prettiest beaches you'll ever see. Perhaps Sanderlings will delight us with their antics. After lunch, it's off to East Point, where we hope to see our first Northern Gannets, and Surf, White-winged and Black Scoters along with Great Cormorants. Overnight Rodd Charlottetown or similar.

June 28: Ferry and Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia: This morning we head to the ferry, crossing from Wood Islands, PEI to Caribou Island, Nova Scotia (yes, there were once Caribou in Nova Scotia.) This short ferry trip gives a chance to pick up Bonaparte's Gulls and we're sure to spot several Bald Eagles, with a further chance at some seabird rarities. : We'll stop for a picnic lunch at Abraham Lake. Moments after getting out of our car, we'll hear Black-throated Green Warblers. The hike into this old-growth red spruce forest is an experience not to be missed. These will likely be the largest red spruce you will ever see. Pileated Woodpeckers take advantage of some of the old snags for nesting, and we'll search the woods for them. Winter Wren and Bay-breasted Warbler are also strong possibilities here.

After our picnic lunch and hike, we'll head to Taylor's Head Provincial Park. Here we hope to see our first seals, and Common Eider, Blackpoll Warblers and a variety of shorebirds. It's also a fantastic spot to enjoy the coastal winds and the incredible vistas. Overnight at Fairwinds Hotel or similar.

Willet, By participant Frank Toller

June 29: We'll start out early this morning, exploring Waternish Road to search for warblers. As is always the case with birding, timing is everything, but during June, 21 different warbler species are possible on this road, some at very close range. Warbler species we'll search for include: Northern Parula, Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Pine, Palm, Black-throated Green, Magnolia, Northern Waterthrush and Canada.  We'll take a break, visiting a historic house built in 1892. In the afternoon we'll travel to Port Bickerton for a chance at Blackpoll Warblers, Boreal Chickadees, White-winged and Red Crossbills, and many waterbirds (including Willet, Whimbrel, Sanderling, Great Cormorant and more). Overnight: Sherbrooke Hotel or similar.

June 30: Our travels today depend on our luck yesterday. We may return to Waternish Road, or we can explore coastal areas like Wine Harbour and Tor Bay. Beyond warblers, we'll scan the seas for seabirds (a Dovekie was spotted on a previous trip here.) Overnight at Shebrooke Hotel or similar.

July 1: This morning we'll search for Black-backed Woodpeckers in the dead snags of a coniferous forest. Pine Grosbeaks are often spotted here as well. In the afternoon we'll make our way to Cape Breton Highlands National Park. A late lunch gives us the chance to regroup and enjoy a fantastic chowder. Overnight: Cornerstone Motel or similar.

Yellow Warbler, By participant B. Anne Bauchman

July 2: We'll spend a full day in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Besides enjoying many incredible vistas, we'll also search for Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Mourning and Magnolia warblers. Moose are frequently spotted in the park (and from our hotel), and we'll search the best habitat for these imposing hoofed mammals. If seeing a bog has been a goal, you'll have a chance to walk a boardwalk right through the middle of a bog. One trail here is renowned for a chance for spotting Bicknell's Thrush. This will also be our first chance at spotting Northern Gannets as they plunge dive to catch fish deep below the water's surface. Overnight: Cornerstone Motel or similar.

Nelson's Sparrow by participant Frank Toller

Nelson's Sparrow photo by Frank Toller, tour participant, Port Morien, NS

July 3: We'll bird as we make our way to the ferry that will transport us across the Atlantic to Newfoundland. We hope to spot Great Cormorants and Nelson's Sparrows along the way. The sand bars of Port Morien also present possibilities of Arctic Terns, Black-headed Gulls, Little Gulls and a variety of shorebirds, Birding from the ferry can yield exciting rarities, including Manx, Sooty and Great Shearwaters. Storm-petrels often zip above the water before us, and jaegers also show up occasionally. Overnight on Ferry.

Manx Shearwater

July 4: We should arrive at the dock outside Placentia, Newfoundland at around 10 a.m. Our next stop will depend entirely on the weather. Our final destination is Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, a spot so overwhelming that all nature enthusiasts should be sure to witness this special place at least once. We will giggle at the antics of thousands of nesting Northern Gannets up close, protected from people by a several-hundred foot wide precipice. We also expect to see vast rafts of Common Murres and Black Guillemots floating on the ocean's surface below. In addition, Black-legged Kittiwakes nest here by the hundreds. Other expected bird sightings include  Razorbills and Thick-billed Murres. Overnight at Capeway Motel.

By participant B. Anne Bauchman, Northern Gannet at Cape St. Mary's Reserve

July 5: Weather permitting, we'll head back to Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve. Here we'll search the grounds around the reserve for Swamp Sparrows. We'll also keep a sharp look out for ptarmigans, which are occasionally spotted here. We'll then head out to Point Lance, and Branch, both where we may spot various shorebirds as well as whales hunting capelin close to shore. Herds of up to 100 caribou are spotted here from time-to-time. Overnight at Capeway Motel or similar.


July 6: We'll depart Cape St. Mary's this morning and head over to Trepassey. Along the way we'll stop at St. Vincent's, where humpback whales often feed so close to shore that binoculars are unnecessary. In the adjacent bay, we hope to spot Common and Arctic Terns standing side-by-side.

Humpback Whales, Photo by guide Steve Eshbaugh, St. Vincent's Newfoundland

July 7: In the morning, we'll travel to Cape Pine, searching for Willow Ptarmigan and Short-eared Owls. At the cape, we hope to see Atlantic Puffins along with a variety of other seabirds. In the afternoon, we'll make a visit to Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, so named because of the number of ships that ran aground along this spectacular shoreline. Fossils at this preserve date almost 600,000 years ago and are stunning in their detail. We will contact the reserve manager for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hike into this fossil preserve. Overnight: Edge of Avalon Inn. 


July 8: We'll spend the morning birding the road behind our hotel. We should spot a number of warblers here, as the edge effect between the road and forest is often quite productive. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Waterthrush, Fox Sparrow, Blackpoll Warbler and Boreal Chickadee are just a few of today's target birds. In the afternoon we'll head to Bay Bulls to go on a ferry trip to Green Island, where we'll see hundreds of thousands of Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Common and Thick-billed Murres. The scene before us is simply overwhelming, with birds so dense in the sky and on land that it is truly unimaginable. This is a must-stop for any nature enthusiast. Overnight: Quality Inn Harbourview or similar.

By participant Frank Toller, Commom Murres at Bay Bulls, Newfoundland

July 9: We'll start the day with a visit to the amazingly diverse habitat at Bidgood Park, where Swamp Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings and a variety of warblers abound. We'll also visit the easternmost part of the North American Continent today at Cape Spear. With luck we'll spot a jaeger hunting over the waters, and perhaps a shearwater or two. Signal Mountain, a key defense point of the North American continent for hundreds of years, is of great historic significance. Local ponds are a unique opportunity for picking up rarities, like Tufted Duck. We'll make sure to scour the rare bird alerts for any unusual birds that may be visiting from western Europe. This evening we'll have a final celebratory dinner. Overnight: Quality Inn Harbourview or similar.

July 10, 2019: This morning you'll be transported to St. John's International Airport for your trip home.


"I had an amazing time seeing totally new country for me....incredible birds from warblers to puffins....and enjoying great food and company!!  I would recommend to everyone!"

Ann B., Helena, MT

Merlin Birding Tours offers extraordinary, affordable birding & natural history excursions in the U.S. and abroad.  We provide exceptional, personalized customer service to all clients. Custom ecotours are offered to any destination as requested. Consider scheduling a nature or birding tour with the expert guides at Merlin Birding today.

© Merlin Birding & Nature Tours, LLC 2018

P.O. Box 6788

Bozeman, MT 59771

Phone: (406) 461-5714

(Send us an Email)

Merlin Birding Tours offers extraordinary, affordable birding & natural history excursions in the U.S. and abroad. We provide exceptional, personalized customer service to all of our clients. Custom eco-tours are offered to any destination, as requested. Consider scheduling a nature or birding tour with the expert guides at Merlin Birding today.

© 2020 Merlin Birding & Nature Tours, LLC. All Rights Reserved.