Hi John & Brenda,
Sorry for the late reply ... it was a busy long weekend ;)
I'll break the bad news first - mid-October is not really an ideal time to see "bird life of Newfoundland". As you mention,
it is well into the fall season and many of our breeding birds have left. The seabirds (puffins, murres, razorbills and gannets)
will have vacated the breeding islands and are difficult to find. Dovekies will be beginning to arrive, but are better observed i
n winter when they feed close to shore. Our terns will have all headed south, and our winter finches may or may not have
arrived in any numbers. The peak of our shorebird migration will be well past. (However, local birders love fall and we'll all
be looking for vagrants that would otherwise be less interesting to you - warblers and vireos from mainland Canada and south).
The good news is that October is a beautiful time of year here - the scenery is fantastic, even if the days are getting colder.
Starting from St. John's, I would recommend visiting areas near the city (Cape Spear, Signal Hill, Logy Bay-Outer Cove) on
you first day or so. Some arctic gulls (Iceland, Glaucous, along with the year-round Great Black-backed) will be arriving by
this time, and Black-headed Gulls may be around. European ducks such as Tufted, Common Teal and Eurasian Wigeon often
arrive in October and can be found around the city.
A nice day trip is to drive around the "Irish Loop", the southeast corner of the island. The seascapes there are amazing, and a
20 km detour out to Cape Race makes for excellent scenery and birding on the barrens (however it is a dirt road, so allot 2
hours for a leisurely drive). Woodland Caribou are common on the southern part of that loop, with a quick detour to the town
of St. Shott's being the best place to look for them. Late whales can often be seen along that coast in October. Several
species of sea ducks (scoters, oldsquaw, mergansers, maybe eiders) should be observable by that time of year. The whole
loop can be done easily in a day with plenty of time for birding and scenic stops.
Another day trip from St. John's (or on your way west across the island) is Cape St. Mary's. Unfortunately, the gannet colony
will be all but abandoned by mid-October -- it is an amazing spectacle in mid-late summer. However, the scenery alone is
worth it, especially the seascapes and cliffs. Lingering barren birds (whimbrel, horned larks, pipits, short-eared owls, kestrels, etc)
should still be around. There are nice sand dunes in the nearby town of Point Lance where some birds gather.
Further west, Terra Nova National Park might be a nice place to spend a day/night. The hiking is nice and ranges from easy/short
to challenging/long. Common boreal birds there that time of year are gray jay, northern goshawk, pine grosbeak, various finches,
and several woodpeckers.
Just north of Deer Lake is Gros Morne National Park -- some of the most amazing scenery in the province, with the long range
mountains, fjords and thick boreal forests. The geology is especially interesting, with the mountain range and the "table lands"
(one of only two such locations in the world). Birding will be similar to that of Terra Nova Park.
I hope I'm not making this sound like a scenery-oriented vacation, but the fact is birding may be slow. Still, I am certain you
will see lots of interesting birds. Please feel free to touch base with me anytime before your visit so I can update you on any
interesting birding opportunities (you never know when something will happen here, from a huge finch irruption to a rare
European vagrant). I will likely be around the city in mid-October and would be happy to show you some of the sights if we
can arrange it.
Take care -- and don't hesitate to ask me for more specific info or advice.