Tuesday 28 November 2023

New England - May 2023 - Logistics and Itinerary


  • A five day trip in the third week of May leaving after work on a Friday evening, returning overnight on the following Wednesday and going straight back to work. I used air miles to upgrade to a flat bed on the return - this is how I max out on holiday and avoid jetlag.
  • Flights: British Airways from Heathrow to Montreal and booked with a car to turn it into a holiday and thus defer payment until a few weeks before departure. You also get a slightly better deal than when booking the two separately.
  • Car: I had a very nice Chevrolet Blazer in bright red and with all mod cons. There are no issues taking Canadian cars over the border into the USA.
  • Accomodation: first three days booked in advance via Booking.com, somewhere different each night. I mostly planned my itinerary in advance and crossed my fingers on the weather which mostly worked apart from my scheduled boat trip to a seabird colony off the Maine coast which was cancelled.
  • My aims for the trip were threefold. 1) to add to my ABA list; 2) to increase my eBird and general coverage of US States and Canada; and 3) to enjoy some spring songbird migration.
  • Literature/Resources: I used eBird for up-front planning and on-the fly birding (using the "explore" functionality in the App). For literature I used the Sibley East Coast field guide. I also used Merlin (a vocalisation ID tool) sparingly - I have some rules for this which I will expand upon later. As a supplement to visual birding it can work really well. The Audbon App was used when I wasn't carrying my book, and was useful for calls and songs.
  • Food - well there is a lot of it in America. I tended to eat on the go, and try and have something more substantial in the evening. One night in New Hampshire there was nothing open but I survived on fat reserves...
  • Insects - Jesus H Christ! The boggy woodlands of New England are a mosquito paradise. Even worse they are a deer tick and Lyme Disease epicentre. I was amazingly careful but I only just got away with it. Beware!

I actually drove 2509km with various little detours.


  • Day 0 - Evening flight departed London just after 6pm, landing in Montreal at 8pm local time. I drove about an hour east and stayed in a bare bones motel that was close to some birding spots for the following morning.
  • Day 1 - The morning spent birding in Quebec around Lac-Boivin and Yamaska NP before crossing the US border into Vermont and heading to Moose Bog about an hour south-east where I dipped Black-backed Woodpecker. Late afternoon at Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire, another site chosen in advance for species diversity. Overnight in coastal Maine north-east of Portland, a further three hours drive. Quite a long day.
  • Day 2 - Planned day trip to the migrant hotspot of Monhagen Island cancelled due to rough seas so instead birded around Pemaquid and Boothbay all morning before driving south (as per original plan) to Biddeford. Dusk at Kennebunk Plains for Eastern Whip-poor-will. Overnight on NH / Massachusetts border.
  • Day 3 - All morning on the migrant hotspot of Plum Island in MA, part of the Parker River NWR, before driving down to Revere beach in Boston for some bizarrely regular Manx Shearwater. Somewhat stubbornly continued down to Rhode Island for a State tick and birded coastal areas before an early evening walk in some woods just over the border in Connecticut for another new State. Then drove all the way back to NH to be in position for the replacement ME boat trip the following afternoon. A crazy day but very satisfying.
  • Day 4 - Early start at a site in NH for Upland Sandpiper before birding back up the coast to New Harbor in ME for the rescheduled 'Puffin Cruise' boat trip which was a massive disappointment. Birded in ME for the rest of the day before a long drive west via Augusta and into NH to be in position at Moose Bog.
  • Day 5 - Various NH sites at first light as I made my way to Moose Bog in VT for another attempt at the B-b Woodpecker, this time successfully. Then birded slowly west through VT with the afternoon spent around Missisquoi NWR before crossing back into Quebec for a late evening flight back to London.

Unexpected and very very close Canada Jay in Vermont


  1. From Oahu to Revere Beach? That's quite an interesting transition. I joke because I actually used to live on Revere Beach in one of the incredibly ugly highrises there. I was not very serious about birding back then, but I do believe I saw a Manx Shearwater on one occasion. In the winter the bay would fill with sea ducks - lots of White-winged and Surf Scoters and sometimes Eiders. The duck hunters would be out too, shooting them, I'm sad to say, because they are not good to eat and I hated the sound of all those gunshots. Anyway. Looking forward to hearing about your experiences.

    1. The Manx were visible from a large pink apartment block, also near some kind of police station. Very odd place for them to be!