The Fall SAM Meeting will be held virtually on the morning of October 3rd, 2020
During this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the safety, security, and comfort of all our attendees and members is our top priority and we are sensitive to your concerns. Following recent feedback from members/partners, we have decided to hold the meeting virtually. We are disappointed to take this approach but staff/council travel restrictions and reduced budgets are still impacting our ability to get together in person. We look forward to holding our spring AGM in person in 2021!
Attendance is by invitation only - keep an eye on your inbox for information on how to register coming soon!
Atlantic Salmon in Newfoundland and Labrador
Through a generous grant from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation, SAM has been able to expand our efforts in 2020 to include the protection and stewardship of salmon habitat found within municipal planning boundaries.
Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) has always had an important place in the lives of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This "king of the fish" is important culturally, economically, socially, and recreationally for people from all walks of life.
An anadromous species, Atlantic salmon live both in saltwater and freshwater at different points in their life cycle. They are born and reproduce in freshwater (their natal streams) before travelling to the Atlantic Ocean, where they spent one to four years feeding and growing at a much quicker rate than they would be able to in their natal freshwater streams. Now much larger and less susceptible to predators, the adult salmon return to their native stream to spawn.
Did you know?
Unlike their Pacific cousins, Atlantic salmon do not necessarily die after spawning. Instead, some will return to the ocean to feed and grow for another year or two before returning to spawn again.
Atlantic salmon's complicated life cycle relies on the health of their freshwater natal streams. That means that the health and connectivity of these natal streams is critical to the continued survival of the species - and is something that we can all play a part in ensuring.
Salmon travel home to their native stream when ready to spawn - sometimes travelling hundreds of kilometers upstream. These salmon natal streams have been used for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of years. Maintaining the health and connectivity of these streams is vital to the continued survival of the species.
Because of their sensitivity and reliance on these natal streams, Atlantic salmon are an important indicator species for the health and resilience of our waterways. If our rivers are in trouble, so are our salmon!
Healthy riparian habitat, like this river in Main Brook, are vital to helping maintain healthy populations of Atlantic salmon.
What can you do to help protect Atlantic salmon?
There are a lot of things we can do to help protect salmon and salmon habitat. Some good places to start:
Leave nothing but footprints - pack out any trash, litter, or equipment you brought
With special thanks to our funders at the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation. For more information on their organization and ongoing projects visit their website.
What have we been up to?
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way that we conducted business - but it did not stop us at SAM from working to promote good stewardship and conservation activities in the province!
Outreach with WILD Outside
When COVID-19 struck and quarantine was declared, we had to adjust our plans to deal with the new reality. One way that we did this is through virtual outreach and education events - and that is where the Wild Outside Program came in!
When quarantine first started, the Newfoundland staff at WILD Outside were quick to act, and organized a series of virtual guest talks. SAM was fortunate to participate in this speaker series not once, but twice! Our SAM conservation biologist spoke with youth across the country about municipal stewardship, the importance of conserving wetlands, and on the importance of salmon conservation.
Visiting the Limestone Barrens in the Northern Peninsula
In early August, SAM made a trip to the Northern Peninsula, where a highlight of the trip was a visit to the limestone barrens with officials from SAM member the Town of Port au Choix and Dulcie House, Limestone Barrens Habitat Stewardship Coordinator.
The limestone barrens are a unique habitat feature in Newfoundland - and indeed, in the world. Though they comprise only a tiny portion of Newfoundland's surface area, they support a very high percentage of its rare plants. Of 298 vascular plants considered rare on the island of Newfoundland, 104 of them occur on the barrens, while 22 of them are only found in the Great Northern Peninsula.
Exploring the limestone barrens habitat in Port-au-Choix with Deputy Mayor Susan White and Town Clerk Lizeta Gould.
What are the limestone barrens? As the name suggests, they occur where limestone (calcium-rich) bedrock has become exposed. Further, true barrens habitat can only occur in harsh conditions - the windiest, coldest, coastal and mountain top areas that are unable to support other habitat types like forest or bogs.
These difficult conditions have resulted in unique, resilient plants, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Barrens willow, Long's braya, and Fernald's braya are three such species, and their numbers are so low as to be considered endangered (the first two species) and threatened (the third.) These endemic plants are Ours to Protect, and several communities in the Northern Peninsula have taken the initiative to protect some of their most important limestone barrens habitat through Municipal Stewardship Agreements.
Despite the resilience of the plants living in these harsh conditions, limestone barrens habitats are vulnerable to a variety of threats. Climate change, predation, infection, and human disturbance are all threats facing the limestone barrens today. Today, the local practice of woodpiling and drying fishing equipment on the barrens, where done indiscriminately, can also be damaging to these sensitive plants as can the use of ATVs outside approved trails.
Port-au-Choix, Flower's Cove, and Corner Brook have all signed Stewardship Agreements that protect limestone barrens habitat and species. Their continued stewardship efforts over the years have helped to ensure the continued protection of these unique species.
Above: Socially distance beach monitoring at JT Cheeseman Provincial Park. Below: Both adult plovers and their eggs are well camouflaged against the sand! Plover eggs are laid in simple "scratches" on the sand, making them hard to spot. ATVs, unleashed dogs, and careless beach users can cause damage to nests.
Piping plover are small shorebirds that nest on sandy beaches in Eastern Canada in the spring and summer months, from mid-April to late August before migrating to their summering grounds off the southern coast of the U.S., the Caribbean, and the Bahamas. They are listed as endangered under both the provincial Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.
Their preferred nesting habitat of sandy beaches means that humans also have to be careful when using these beaches - ATV disturbance and unleashed dogs pose significant threats to the species. Always respect posted signage and be mindful of where you put your feet!
Shorebird monitoring and shoreline clean-up in Anchor Point
In early August we spent some time in Anchor Point with Intervale Associates and summer interns from the Quebec Labrador Foundation (QLF) for some shorebird monitoring and a shoreline clean up. A special thank you goes out to the Town of Anchor Point's summer students who also came ready to work!
SAM Conservation Scholarship 2020 - Final call for applications!
Are you or someone you know enrolled in post-secondary education in a conservation related field this fall? Consider applying for the SAM scholarship, which awards $1000 to a deserving student every year. Applications are due by September 20th - for more information check out the application on our website here.
Putting Newfoundland's (Backyard) Birds on the Map - Birds Canada
Thank you to Catherine Dale at Birds Canada for submitting this entry about the upcoming Breeding Bird Atlas in Newfoundland. Catherine is the Coordinator for the Newfoundland Breeding Bird Atlas and is based out of St. John's.
People may be stuck at home these days, but birds are still on the move. As the weather warms, more than 2 billion birds are on their way north to their Canadian breeding grounds. Some of them will end their journey in Newfoundland, where they will establish territories, build nests, lay their eggs, and raise their young this summer.
A Savannah Sparrow stakes his territorial claim at Cape St. Mary’s. Photo Bird Studies Canada
For most Canadian provinces, we have a good idea which species call the province home during the breeding season and where they can be found. But we currently lack that knowledge for the island of Newfoundland – because Newfoundland and Labrador is the only remaining Canadian province lacking a Breeding Bird Atlas.
Breeding bird atlases map the distribution and abundance of all bird species breeding in a jurisdiction. Having solid baseline data about bird population is essential for making sound conservation and management decisions: we can’t know what we’re losing if we don’t know what’s out there. And because breeding bird atlases are designed to be repeated every 20 years, they can help us track changes in populations over time.
Probability of observing Barn Swallows during the first (1986-90) and second (2006-10) Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlases. From Stewart et al. 2015: Second atlas of breeding birds of the Maritime Provinces.
So how exactly do you atlas for birds? The first step is to divide the area into 10 km × 10 km squares – the basic units of an atlas. In Newfoundland, that works out to approximately 1,450 squares. Over the next 5 years, these squares will be systematically surveyed for evidence of breeding birds.
Surveying a square is essentially the same as going out with birding – but with a purpose. Atlassers keep track of the time they spend in a square and the distance they cover, as well as all the species they encounter. They also note any evidence of breeding they observe for those species – for example, whether males are singing, or birds are seen carrying nesting material or food.
Map of Newfoundland showing 10x10 km atlas squares.
Collecting this data over an area the size of Newfoundland is a huge project, and would be impossible without the help of volunteer citizen scientists: people like you who dedicate their time and effort to survey squares.
Surveying for birds in the high alpine habitat of Gros Morne National Park.
Over the next five years, we will be working to ensure atlas surveys are spread out across Newfoundland so that the island’s wide variety of habitats are adequately represented. However, because the health and safety of our volunteers is our primary concern, Birds Canada has suspended any fieldwork or surveys that require travel for the time being.
But even though we all need to stay home at the moment, we can continue birding in our backyards and from our balconies. In fact, there’s no better time to start learning how to atlas. All you need is a pair of binoculars, a keen eye, and some time to watch birds!
Despite these unusual times the work of SAM continues, although we are unable to see you all in person at this time. However, the Officers of the Stewardship Association of Municipalities invite you to Save the Date for our Annual General Meeting to be held June 13th, 2020.
First we would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the Town of Deer Lake for volunteering to act as hosts for the AGM and for completing initial preparations. However, due to the ongoing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the SAM Officers Committee has decided that holding an in-person meeting will not be possible at this time. Instead, this year's AGM will be held virtually (details to follow). We will be in touch soon to invite SAM members to participate.
Stay Connected Through Conservation
During this unprecedented time we have been practicing social distancing and staying inside as much as possible to protect the people of our province. This can make staying connected to nature and conservation challenging. We have pulled together some fun ways to stay connected to nature with your friends and family.
SAM and Nature NL co-host Weekly Online Bird ID Trivia Nights
SAM is pleased to co-sponsor Nature NL's newest initiative - at home bird learning! SAM Conservation Biologist Laura King has been instrumental in getting this new program off the ground. Want to sharpen up your birding skills? Join birding experts virtually every Wednesday to practice bird identification in the Winged Wildlife Wednesday Series. Check out Nature NL's Facebook page for more information, or click here Wednesdays at 7:30 PM to join.
Get your seedling kits out the basement and find a sunny spot in your house to get your seeds started. Also check out the funding announced this month from the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, for the Community Garden Support Program. They are accepting early applications and there is no deadline this year.
There are lots of animal webcams all over the world. From eagle nests to zoo cams there are lots of opportunities to watch wildlife live from our living rooms! We especially like the Sandhill Crane live stream from Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary. Audubon uses this live stream to educate people on the Sandhill Crane. Their vision is to protect and increase essential habitat for cranes, least terns and piping plovers on the Platte River.
Practice your bird id skills and help science with the eBird Photo + Sound Quiz. Create an online Cornell account and all of your quiz answers and ratings will be recorded in eBird. Each custom quiz presents you with 20 birds that occur at a date and location of your choosing, pulled from millions of photos and sounds added to the Macaulay Library by eBirders around the world. Naturel NL has been running public quiz nights. Check out their Facebook page to learn more.
Night Owls - SAM Conservation Biologists Experience with the Nocturnal Owl Survey
While we're still feeling snowed under, it's amazing to think that birds are continuing with their lives and getting their spring and summer lives ready.
Despite still feeling like winter, birds are going to start to reappear here in our province. Can you identify the bird in the image? No? Then it's time to break out the bird books and familiarize ourselves again with our feathered friends.
A Boreal Owl can be identified by its small stature, large square head and yellow eyes. They also sport a streaky breast and have tiny white spots on its back and crown.
Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, there are a variety of wildlife surveys that normally take place each season. Due to the pandemic this year, surveys are on hold; however, we thought we'd share our story and some resources you can work on indoors.
Last year, my co-surveyor and I did our second year of the Nocturnal Owl Survey route in Bauline and Portugal Cove - St. Philip's. It was a truly unusual experience to stand by the side of the road at night, in your safety vest with your phone in hand, playing owl noises, quietly waiting to hear if the owls respond to you. The purpose of this activity is to monitor populations of owls along specific routes every year, so we can tell whether different species are present or not, and if they are increasing, decreasing, or staying at the same population levels.
While we are stuck indoors, you can still learn the sounds of all the owls in Newfoundland (Larkwire is a great way to do this).
In our case, we haven't seen or heard any owls on our route yet, but it is a fairly urban route - and maybe in future years we will detect some. There are lots of spots in central Newfoundland where there may be higher densities of owls - and you could be the one to hear them. If you spend this season working on learning the owls of Newfoundland, and their sounds, you'll be all set for a great survey next year. And even if you don't hear any owls, the sights and sounds of other birds and animals may make your night - we've stood in the silence as we appreciate all the sounds of the snipes flying around us, spotted other birds, cats, and foxes.
We have several different owl species in the province including Great Horned Owl, Short-eared Owl, and Northern Hawk Owl.
While we'll be missing out on the survey this year, we look forward to its return in 2021. It's nice to know that at some point owls and wildlife adventures will bring us together again.
SAM Network News & Updates
Apply for Funding Looking to get your next environmental stewardship project off the ground in your community? Find over 50 potential funding grants here. Need help? Email us for more info.
SAM Scholarship Deadline : SAM has been supporting young conservationists in our province since 2015.The $1000 scholarship recognizes a student from Newfoundland and Labrador that has a passion for environmental conservation and stewardship work in their community. Please note, due to early school closure due to COVID-19, we do not require a school transcript as part of the 2020 application and we have extended the deadline to apply to Sept 20, 2020.