Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Schedule update

I’ve just uploaded a revised schedule and route map.  It is a good thing that birding is slow in February and March because trip scheduling and logistics take a lot of time.  With a team of 4, planning has been a challenge but doable despite a number of events to plan around – wives’ birthdays, anniversaries, eye surgery, vacation travel (Thailand, Hawaii), destination wedding of a daughter, family visits to BC, ON, NS, MN and the UK, other birding plans (Texas),  and the upcoming birth of grandchildren (twins).  Fortunately, we started planning this year in 2010 so we all kept our schedules fairly open for the birdiest times of the year.
Our preliminary schedule was drawn up last year based on published trip reports and seasonal checklists for various locations in Canada.  Airline seat sales tend to be the catalyst for locking in the dates for the trips – in February we arranged our flights for our Point Pelee spring trip and our East Coast summer trip.  Flights have proven to be the easiest part of planning – the airlines’ websites are easy to use and the various options can be explored quickly.  Car rentals, on the other hand, have been much more of a challenge.

We have found that one way rentals are either not available or often outrageously expensive.  For example, the drop off fee after driving from Whitehorse to Inuvik is $1200!  It was even more going from Charlottetown to St. John’s so we will likely be dropping our rental car in Sydney, NS and then busing it from Argentia to St. John’s.

We have modified our original plans for three trips – Manitoba & Nunavut, East Coast summer and Yukon/NT.
I visited Churchill in northern Manitoba in 1994 and was really looking forward to visiting it again.  Our original plans included a short flight to Arviat to incorporate Nunavut into our travels.  Then came Arctic sticker shock … the Winnipeg-Churchill-Arviat-Winnipeg flights would cost more than $1800 – more than our trip to Ontario and two trips to the east coast combined!  OUCH!  After some more research, we have decided to drive to Thompson, MB, birding southern MB en route, and then take the overnight train to Churchill.  It will save us some money and we’ve got our fingers crossed that the train’s reliability problems are a thing of the past.

From Churchill, we will fly to Rankin Inlet – opting to go a little further north for more of an arctic experience and hopefully some northern mammals.  We are still researching Nunavut locations while we wait for an arctic seat sale.
We debated the best way to incorporate Quebec into our itinerary and finally settled on Blake Maybank’s suggestion to visit les Iles de la Madeleine via ferry from PEI.  We researched the islands and are very much looking forward to visiting them.  This type of location – interesting from a birding and tourist perspective and off the beaten track – embodies the type of travel we were hoping to do on our big year.

We have pushed the Yukon/NT trip back to August as June was a little too crowded.  We had hoped to drive the Dempster Highway just one way but will be doing the return trip instead. 
Our fall travel plans are still open … we plan to visit both the west and east coast.  Timing is dependent on arranging a west coast pelagic trip sometime between Labour Day and Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, we learned about a BC pelagic trip on April 29 a little too late to adjust our schedule.

Enough of this planning stuff – it’s time to go birding!  We will soon depart for BC and hopefully lots of new species.  Current total is 152 (Mike and I picked up Cackling Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose at Inglewood Bird Sanctuary this morning) and we expect to be around 220 when we return home from BC.

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