Early June is a great time to enjoy birds in Newfoundland – and nowhere is that more true than the southwest coast. Not only is the Codroy Valley one of the island’s most beautiful places, it is also home to its greatest diversity of landbirds. A number of species wander there regularly that are otherwise very uncommon or rare in the rest of Newfoundland, and a few have pushed the limits of their breeding range to include this small region of our island. There are many species that you can expect to find here but nowhere else in Newfoundland!
Bird⋅The⋅Rock just wrapped up its first Codroy Valley & Central Newfoundland Tour (June 1-6), where we enjoyed more than 100 species of birds and other wildlife, incredible scenery, and even some local events associated with the Feather & Folk Nature Festival. Leaving St. John’s, we spent one day/night in central Newfoundland along the way – taking in a short hike in Terra Nova National Park and some beautiful walking trails in Grand Falls-Windsor. We also made two visits to the unique estuary at Stephenville Crossing, and spent three full days exploring the mixed forests, wetlands, meadows, beaches and rugged coastlines of the Codroy Valley and surrounding areas. Below are just some of the many highlights … enjoy, and be sure to save the dates (first week of June) to join us for your own adventure in this beautiful part of the province!
We spent a morning exploring the lovely Corduroy Brook Trails in Grand Falls-Windsor. Traversing a mix if habitats from wetlands to boreal and deciduous forests, we enjoyed a great variety of birds.
Among the highlights were a number of Tennessee Warblers – an endearing little bird that was more abundant here than in later parts of the tour.
We also enjoyed great looks and the interesting song of this Ovenbird, as it sang from open perches right above the trail.
A short detour to Stephenville Crossing was very productive, and included several Black-headed Gulls. This European species has barely colonized North America, and this estuary is the only known place where it regularly breeds. They look stunning in their summer plumage!
We also encountered this American Golden Plover. While a regular fall migrant, they are rare in spring and this was just the fourth spring record for the province! Documenting it required a walk across the wet, mucky mudflats.
The view from our accommodations included not only the internationally recognized Great Codroy estuary, but also rolling fields, lush forests and the majestic Long Range Mountains (a northern extension of the Appalachians!). It was a treat to start and end each day with this beautiful vista.
Gray Catbirds are one of those species that is very uncommon anywhere else in Newfoundland, but is often found in the southwest region. At least four individuals were found during our stay, including this one that was singing away on the Red Rocks Road.
The mouth of the Grand Codroy estuary consists of a large, sandy barachois. Birding along both the inner and outer beaches can produce some great birds, as well as some great scenery.
The sand dunes provide important nesting habitat for a variety of birds.
Both Common (pictured above) and Arctic Terns nest along the barachois, and can cause quite a ruckus when a walker gets a little too close.
The Piping Plover has experienced drastic population declines in recent decades, due mostly to habitat disturbance. Unfortunately, human activity on sandy beaches (and especially the use of ATVs on local beaches) has created a lot of problems for these little birds.
Although numbers seem to be improving, they are still absent from much of their traditional range in Newfoundland. We were fortunate to encounter at least five individuals in the Codroy Valley – good vibes on so many levels!
Just a few kilometres south, the Little Codroy River also flows into the sea at St. Andrew’s. The rich estuary, sandy banks and barren grasslands of this area provide a stunning foreground to the Long Range Mountains.
We also spotted two Semipalmated Sandpipers on the beach one evening. This species does not breed in Newfoundland, and are rather unexpected in spring (though common during fall migration).
A pair of Pied-billed Grebe surfaced from the grass in Loch Lomond – the only place in Newfoundland they have been known to breed. We saw another in a nearby pond, suggesting that this scarce species may still be breeding in this little pocket of the island.
We saw several moose during the tour, including this young bull that was enjoying some tasty bog offerings.
Another highlight was an early morning hike up the Starlite Trail. Under an open canopy of birch trees halfway up, we encountered several great birds. Both Veery and Least Flycatchers are scarce breeders in Newfoundland, and this location may be the most reliable place to find them on the island. Ovenbird are also common on these slopes – moreso than anywhere else in the valley region.
A number of Least Flycatchers were “singing” here, and with a little patience we were able to get nice looks.
We also bumped into this American Toad along the trail. Newfoundland has no native amphibians, but these were introduced several decades ago and are now widespread through much of the island.
Chipping Sparrow is another species that seems at home in the Codroy Valley, but very uncommon in other parts of the island. We saw and heard several during our rounds, including this very photogenic one in a local camping area.
Olive-sided Flycatchers have suffered significant population declines and are considered threatened in Newfoundland, as they are throughout most of their range. We encountered this one on our last evening in the valley – a great cap to our wonderful visit.
We also took in several social and food events at the Feather & Folk Nature Festival. This festival, much like our tour, is scheduled to coincide with the end of migration and peak songbird season in the Codroy Valley (Photo from 2015).
Stopping in at Stephenville Crossing on the way home, we found a single Willet foraging on the shoreline. Another scarce breeder on the island, this is one of its most regular haunts.
We also enjoyed two Gray Jays, hopping around and catching insects in a small bog in a small bog. These birds are never short on entertainment!