Quebec in Fall: Birds & Whales

10 Days from
$3,995 USD
Land Tour
Highlights

Highlights

  • Several splendid wildlife spectacles - from thousands of Snow Geese to impressive encounters with big whales
  • Excellent birding for fall migrants, shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors
  • Spectacular autumnal colours
  • Scenic views of the Charlevoix region and the Laurentian Mountains
Map

Map

Tour Overview

Fall is a fine time of year for birding and whale-watching, when autumnal colours cover the countryside in la Belle Province, Quebec!

Our Quebec tour begins in the provincial capital Quebec City, from which we explore Jacques Cartier National Park and Léon Provancher Marsh to get a first taste of Quebec birding.  Heading east, we stop at the famed Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area where we experience the spectacle of thousands of migrating Snow Geese and other waterfowl.  We head north into Grands Jardins National Park to experience a near-alpine boreal forest, then down the north shore of the mighty St. Lawrence enjoying the fall scenery of the Charlevoix region.  Reaching Tadoussac, we head out on the St. Lawrence in search of whales such as Humpback, Minke, Fin and especially Beluga.

We take the ferry across the St. Lawrence, looking for pelagic birds such as Razorbill, Northern Gannet, Common Eider, jaegers and kittiwakes. On the south shore we visit Parc Côtier Kiskotuk to search for waterfowl and shorebirds. Making our way back along the south shore of the St. Lawrence we visit several choice spots for more Snow Geese and other waterfowl, ending back in Quebec City.

Dates & Prices

DATES & PRICES

What's Included

Tour Price Includes

  • All accommodation (Good quality)
  • Breakfasts and lunches included
  • Two whale-watching boat trips into the St. Lawrence River
  • Ferry crossing across the St. Lawrence
  • Guides (4 - 8 participants with one leader, 9 - 12 with two)
  • Ground transportation (One or two 15-passenger vans)
  • Park and entrance fees

Tour Price Does Not Include

  • Travel to and from start/end location
  • Travel Insurance
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Evening meals - you can expect these to be between $45 - $75 per night
  • Taxes (5% GST)

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Québec City

Québec City, a World Heritage City, is the beautiful capital of the province of Québec, situated on the St. Lawrence River. It will be our base for the start of our Quebec birding and whale tour. We will meet for dinner to discuss our upcoming birding adventure. Night in Quebec City, near the airport.

We encourage you to arrive a day prior to the tour, to enjoy Old Quebec City on your own.

Quebec City in fall

Day 2: Cap-Tourmente National Wildlife Area

We will be going to Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area early in the morning, and spend the day exploring the varied habitats of this important refuge; mixed-wood forests, ponds, fields, marshes (fresh and saltwater), and the St. Lawrence River. We will start our visit with a stop at the banding station for a unique opportunity to see from up close very small passerines. The highlight should be the southbound concentration of Greater Snow Geese, with daily counts exceeding 50,000 birds, although many other waterfowl are also expected. It’s a spectacle not to be missed. Depending on the winds there is a chance for songbird and raptor migration as well. Night in Quebec City.

Snow Geese at Cap Tourmente

Day 3: On the way to Charlevoix region

We begin our day with a stop at Domaine Maizerets, the best hotspot in Quebec city. We will then move towards Beauport Bay, a globally significant International Bird Area where we'll scan the tidal mudflats for waterfowl and shorebirds. From there we'll make a brief stop at Montmorency Falls, the largest waterfall in the province. We then continue northeast along the scenic shoreline of the St. Lawrence River to Baie-Saint-Paul. Night in Baie-Saint-Paul or Isle-aux-Coudres.

Day 4: Baie-Saint-Paul to Tadoussac

Plan A : We’ll spend the morning in the Grand Jardins National Park looking for boreal specialties such as Spruce Grouse, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Canada Jay, Boreal Chickadee, several boreal warblers, and White-winged Crossbills, but also many hawks, Bald Eagle and occasionally a Golden Eagle.

Plan B : We will spend the morning on Isle-aux-Coudres, which is very good during migration. Here, we will look for seabirds, waterfowl, shorebirds, passerines because of the diversified habitats we can find on this small island, in a key geographic spot on the St. Lawrence River.

In the afternoon, we will explore the stunning coastal road between Baie-Saint-Paul and Tadoussac, stopping along the shore to look for migrant shorebirds and passerines. Just before crossing the Saguenay Fjord with the ferry, we will stop at the Pointe-Noire Interpretation and Observation Centre for good odds at seeing various marine mammals like Harbour Seals, Gray Seals and Beluga Whales. Night in Tadoussac.

Canada Jay

Day 5 : Tadoussac area

We’ll spend the next three days in the Tadoussac area. We will start our day at the Tadoussac Dunes, a part of Saguenay Fjord National Park that overlooks the St. Lawrence river and is home to the Tadoussac Bird Observatory. Boreal forest predominates here, with migrant landbirds scattered among the residents. Species lists change each day, but we’ll hope for Gray-cheeked Thrush, Fox Sparrow, Canada Jay, American Pipit, and boreal finches.

We will explore the mythical Tadoussac village where vagrants always seem to get caught! The same day, we will go on a whale-watching tour (weather permitting) in the Laurentian Channel offshore of the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord, one of Canada’s premier whale-watching sites. Minke and Fin Whales are the main feature of these whale-watching cruises and resident Beluga Whales are often seen. With luck, a Blue Whale, a Humpback Whale or a pod of White-sided Dolphins could also be seen. The conditions that attract whales are also good for pelagic birds, so we will keep an eye out. Night in Tadoussac.

Humpback Whale near the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Saguenay rivers, near Tadoussac, Quebec, Canada

Day 6 : Longue-Rive and Portneuf Bank

A short drive away from Tadoussac will bring us to the biggest salt marsh in the area where we will spend the day in surrounding habitats looking for any possible birds, but especially for shorebirds. We will visit many points like Émile's Point, Boisvert Point, Fortin Point and Portneuf-at-sea sand bank. A sea-side type of day where we can taste the edible plants that grow on the shore while scoping shorebirds and watching for seabirds. Back in Tadoussac in the evening, we would go for an owl-banding demonstration. Night in Tadoussac

Day 7 : Grandes-Bergeronnes and Les Escoumins area

On that day, we will go on a pelagic birds tour where there should be numerous Black-legged Kittiwakes, and we’ll watch for harassing jaegers. We will observe Razorbills and Black Guillemots from close-up and always have a chance at finding a rare gull or a group of phalaropes. Once we are back on land, we will visit the greatest gull birding spot, the Escoumins bay where Bonaparte's gull can be seen by hundreds on good tides. We will make our way back to Tadoussac with lunch at the most beautiful landscape place in Bergeronnes. We will continue our way on a multi-habitat road that goes from pure boreal forest to blueberry fields, farmlands and lakes. Night in Tadoussac.

Razorbill

Day 8: Cross the St. Lawrence River by ferry – Trois-Pistoles – Rivière du Loup

We will start the day with a last walk on the point in Tadoussac with stunning views of the fjord and the river. We’ll cross the St. Lawrence on a commercial ferry, across the estuary, home of whales, porpoises, seals and a good opportunity for more pelagic birds. Once on the south side, we’ll explore the extensive salt marshes of Parc Côtier Kiskotuk, including the famed Gros-Cacouna Marsh, where there will be a mix of migrant waterfowl and shorebirds, and possibly an elusive Nelson’s Sparrow. Night in Rivière-du-Loup.

Day 9: Travel Rivière-du-Loup to Québec

We’ll spend the day investigating the south shoreline of the St. Lawrence River, with stops in Kamouraska, Montmagny and other locations where we’ll look for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. We’ll check flocks of Black-bellied Plover for possible American Golden-Plover, and listen for Horned Larks among the landbirds. These areas are also good for birds of prey, including the occasional Golden Eagle, and the salt marshes also harbour some marsh birds, particularly Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows. This is a coastal region of the Saint-Lawrence where Harbour Seals and Belugas are also seen. Night in Québec City.

Horned Lark on fence post

Day 10 - Departure

Our Quebec birding and whale tour ends today. Breakfast is available at the hotel, but you can leave anytime. You may have a chance to experience a little more of Québec City before reluctantly heading home.

What to Expect

Most days on our Quebec birding and whale tour begin with breakfast at 6:30 – 7:00 a.m., followed at mid-day by a picnic lunch. Our schedule is flexible as it depends on driving times involved each day. Our longest drive will be from Riviere-du-Loup to Quebec City, a distance of 190 km; other daily distances will be much shorter.

Weather in late September and early October is usually pleasant, with warm days and cool nights. It is a good idea to bring footwear that is waterproof and rubber boots for shore and wetland areas. The whale-watching boat trips will be quite cool, so appropriate layered clothing, gloves and hat are recommended. The ferry is comfortable, with shelter and lots of seating space, but plan for warmer clothing if you want to observe from the outside decks.

Most trails and paths that we follow are moderately easy to navigate. Participants in good health should experience no problems with the terrain, as our pace will be leisurely. We should not encounter significant numbers of mosquitos or black flies at that time of year; however, you may wish to bring mosquito repellent in case of an exceptionally warm day—mosquitoes or black flies are not usually a problem anywhere except perhaps in sheltered trails. Each evening, the list of birds and other wildlife will be reviewed during dinner, and plans for the next day will be discussed.

Featured Wildlife

While we cannot guarantee sightings of the birds or mammals listed below, we believe that encountering these species is quite likely during this tour.

  • Greater Snow Goose
  • Black-legged Kittiwake
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Common Eider
  • Surf Scoter
  • Razorbill
  • Numerous migrating warblers, raptors and shorebirds
  • Beluga Whale
  • Baleen whales possibly including Minke, Fin, Humpback and even Blue Whale

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