The 2021 SAM AGM is scheduled for this upcoming Friday, June 11, 2021. Though we had hoped to meet in person, member feedback in regards to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic indicated that a virtual meeting would be preferable at this point in time.
Attendance is by invitation only, so check your inboxes! If you believe that you should have received an invitation but didn't, please contact us at email@example.com.
We look forward to seeing you there!
Despite restrictions, the SAM 2020 business meeting was a success!
What have we been up to?
The Upper Humber Wetlands Complex -An Ecologically Significant Habitat -
One of the central goals of SAM is identify our province’s special places - those areas which are significant to our province’s wildlife. We seek to identify habitat protection mechanisms which balance wildlife and habitat conservation with community access and sustainable use. We believe communities understanding and valuing these special places is key to the long-term success of any habitat protection initiative.
For much of 2020 and into 2021, SAM Conservation staff have been focusing on one key aspect of our special places project: the Upper Humber River area north of Deer Lake, Reidville and Cormack.
Area of Interest
This area has long been known as one of the most productive wildlife areas in the province. It first came to most people’s attention because it contains the highest density of inland breeding ducks on the island of Newfoundland and provides valuable staging habitat, where waterfowl can gather together to build up energy reserves before continuing on their migration.
Each year hundreds of migrating birds (primarily American Black Duck, Green Winged Teal, Ring Necked Duck, Common Goldeneye, and Canada Geese) utilise this area. Additionally, the Humber River, which flows through the Complex, has the largest Atlantic Salmon population (estimated 40,000 individuals) of all rivers in insular Newfoundland.
However more recent habitat and wildlife surveys have indicated that the Upper Humber River wetlands complex is also home to abundant populations of the Humber River caribou herd, the Newfoundland marten, Little brown bats, and many rare plant species which had not been previously considered when assessing the ecological importance of the area. We also documented the significant cultural and recreational values of the area to the people of Newfoundland including access to cabins, hunting, fishing, berry picking and for commercial uses such as a outfitting camps and off-grid tour operations.
Given the demonstrated importance of this area to wildlife, we have subsequently sought to promote the Upper Humber River area as provincially significant wildlife habitat.
This designation is a response to the presence of White Nose Syndrome, an invasive fungal disease that has been decimating bat populations throughout North America. In 2017, the fungus was confirmed to be in the province, and bat populations have been declining precipitously every since.
According to a statement released to the public announcing the listing: "Endangered species designation provides immediate protection to these bats and their residences or dwellings. It is illegal to disturb, harass, injure, or capture bats, or to disturb or destroy their residences, including overwintering sites (hibernacula) and roost sites, such as maternal colonies. Individuals who plan to remove bats from homes, buildings or other structures should contact the Wildlife Division for a permit and further advice to limit the impact on the bats."
From our friends at the Nature Conservancy of Canada...
Did you know that SAM regularly partners with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, as we are both core members of the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture? The Newfoundland and Labrador office of the NCC has welcomed two new staff members - Piers Evans, their new Program Director and Jennifer Sullivan, the acting Stewardship Coordinator. Let's hear from them below:
My name is Piers Evans, and I have recently moved into the Program Director position for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s NL Branch. I am looking forward to building on the deep and productive relationships NCC has with our partners throughout the province, including Stewardship Association of Municipalities. During my time in NL, I have been able to explore a great deal of this province through research and work opportunities, and I am very grateful to now be in a position to work toward protecting some of the special and unique places our province holds.
Before joining NCC, I worked with Conservation Corps NL helping small and rural communities in Conception Bay North build new skills and techniques to manage their assets and to recognize the value of natural assets in mitigating climate change risks. I look forward to new and exciting partnerships focused on exploring ways to enhance conservation and awareness of the issues facing our natural areas, and unique and special ecosystems.
My name is Jennifer Sullivan, and I am the acting Stewardship Coordinator for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in Newfoundland and Labrador. Born and raised in St. John’s, I spent much of my childhood camping, hiking, and sailing around the island, fostering a deep-seated love of nature that lead me to work in conservation. Before joining NCC, I completed both a BSc and a MSc at Memorial University in St. John’s, where my graduate research focused on non-native plant establishment within the boreal forest on the Avalon Peninsula.
I began my work with NCC last year as the Conservation Intern for the 2020 field season. Through this role I became very familiar with the great work that NCC does in this province, with the help of many partners, to protect natural areas and species at risk. NCC’s mission greatly aligns with my own values, I believe that there are significant benefits in protecting natural areas so that they may be enjoyed by future generations. I love that my role at NCC allows me to work with so many passionate people to conserve the beautiful, rugged landscapes of Newfoundland and Labrador for the next generations to enjoy as we do today.
New Stewardship Signs
Residents of Come By Chance and Corner Brook may have noticed some new signage around town! A special thank you goes out to the Public Works crew out in Come By Chance, who got the new sign up and displayed in record time.
From our friends at Birds Canada...
Whoooo’s Out There? The Nocturnal Owl Survey comes to NL! By Catherine Dale of Birds Canada
As we all know, April can be a chilly month in Newfoundland. Late one cold evening on the Easter weekend, I found myself shivering on a dark roadside in Terra Nova National Park. Despite the cold, my toque was pulled up over my ears, exposing them to the icy breeze. It was a bit uncomfortable, but I was determined to maximize my hearing potential. I was participating in the NL Nocturnal Owl Survey – and if an owl called, I wanted to be sure to hear it.
The Nocturnal Owl Survey (NOS) is one of Birds Canada’s most popular citizen science surveys nationwide. Every spring, hundreds of volunteers across the country spend one evening between April 1st and May 15th surveying a pre-determined route of 10 stops for owls, alternating between silent listening periods and a broadcast of owl calls.
The survey makes an important contribution to our understanding of owl distribution and population health across Canada. Owls are high on the food chain and thus vulnerable to many environmental disturbances, making them great indicators of environmental health. But monitoring owl populations is no easy task, because most species are secretive and primarily nocturnal. Specialized surveys like the NOS allow us to keep track of what’s going on with these species.
Although the NOS has been running for more than 20 years in some provinces, it has only expanded to Newfoundland and Labrador within the last few years. In 2018, Memorial University graduate student Travis Heckford partnered with Birds Canada to set up 35 owl survey routes, and volunteer citizen scientists across the province took the first step towards collecting the data necessary to evaluate the health of NL’s owl populations.
Since 2018, the survey has continued to grow, and this year it expanded dramatically with the establishment of more than 20 new routes. From its humble beginnings only 4 years ago, the survey has grown to involve more than 60 volunteers surveying 57 routes across the province.
The owl survey is so popular partly because it is perfect for beginning birders. Only 6 species of owls breed in NL, and of those, there are only 3 volunteers are likely to encounter during a nocturnal survey. So those who have never taken part in citizen science bird surveys before can learn the necessary calls relatively easily.
A volunteer field crew heads out on a nocturnal owl survey.
But beyond that is the simple fact that owls are a universal source of fascination: mysterious and stealthy predators of the night, occasionally heard, rarely seen. The Nocturnal Owl Survey provides a window into a world that many of us don’t normally experience.
"Every year, I look forward to the Owl Survey as a sign of spring and the start of breeding bird season,” says Beverly McClenaghan, an veteran survey volunteer. “It's always an adventure getting bundled up and heading out on a cool spring night in hopes of hearing the familiar hooting of an owl…[and] I love knowing that my efforts are contributing valuable information to the study of these creatures!"
Over the next few years, Birds Canada hopes to continue to expand the NL Nocturnal Owl Survey and establish additional routes in many of our coverage gaps. If you would like to sign up for a route or set up a new one near your community, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Hello SAM members and friends! We won't pretend that it has not been challenging to connect with you due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, but the work to identify and conserve the province's important habitats continues. Read on to see some of the things what we have been up to lately.
Eelgrass monitoring and Green Crab trapping in the Codroy Valley
In the early fall, SAM turned its sights to the Codroy Valley Ramsar site. Due to possible concerns about invasive Green Crab in Newfoundland waters, we once again set out to monitor the waters of the Codroy Valley Estuary. We are happy to report that there were no new crabs captured, although continued monitoring in the estuary will be required in the coming years to determine whether or not further intervention may be required in the future.
The view of the Ramsar site from the Wetland Centre in the Codroy Valley.
While in the Codroy Valley, SAM staff also began an eelgrass monitoring program. The rich estuarine habitat protected in the Ramsar site is crucial nesting, staging, and foraging habitat for thousands of migratory birds every year. The richness of the ecosystem and its ability to host such large volumes of migratory waterfowl is believed to be due to prominent eelgrass beds that exist throughout the estuary.
SAM Conservation Biologist Liz Belanzaran sets up a green crab trap in a newly established eelgrass plot.
Invasive green crab are a threat to eelgrass beds due to their aggressive foraging, which destroys the plants at the root. Establishing a baseline understanding for the eelgrass population in the estuary allows managers to better track what is happening with it and quickly identify and address any problems that might arise.
A trip to the Birchy Basin....
A highlight of the late summer for SAM staff was a trip to the Upper Humber wetlands complex. Conservation of the area is impacted by a corporate stewardship agreement between Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd. and the provincial government, which was signed in order to help preserve the natural integrity of this beautiful and ecologically diverse area.
Wildlife Division biologist Jonathan Sharpe shows off the newly updated sign detailing the history of conservation in the area.
In September staff from SAM joined Wildlife Division biologist Jonathan Sharpe for a visit up to the beautiful Birchy Basin to look at the newly renovated water control structure (more on that below) and to replace the sign detailing Corner Brook Pulp and Paper's history of conservation in the area.
Christmas Bird Counts in Corner Brook
The fun doesn't end when the snow starts falling! This year, SAM Conservation Biologist Liz Belanzaran was able to participate in two different Christmas Bird Counts in Corner Brook - the adult version on December 28th, and the Christmas Bird Count for Kids on January 2nd.
What is the Christmas Bird Count? Started in 1900, it is the longest running international citizen science project, and provides invaluable efforts towards the continued tracking of bird populations. To find out more about Christmas Bird Counts check out this info page from our friends at Birds Canada.
The Corner Brook Christmas Bird Count is organized by the Humber Natural History Society and has been running annually since the early 1980s. The Corner Brook count occurs within a 24km diameter circle centered on Ballam Bridge at the mouth of the Humber River. This year, on an unseasonably warm December day, 37 volunteers diligently drove, walked, and hiked roads and trails, while 19 more recorded the visitors they had at their bird feeders. Despite the warm weather, 41 species were reported - including the first record of a Northern Cardinal in a Corner Brook Christmas Bird Count!
Did you know? Though they are common feeder birds in parts of Canada and much of the United States, Northern Cardinals are rare visitors to Newfoundland. Learn more about this beautiful species here.
The Christmas Bird Count for Kids is inspired by the popularity of the adult count. It aims to engage a new generation of birders by getting them excited about citizen science and exploring the great outdoors. This year, our SAM Conservation Biologist partnered with the Humber Natural History Society to plan a COVID-safe event 20 local youth aged 6-11. Along with their parents, the children learned about the importance of conserving migratory habitat, went over the basics of how to identify birds, started their very own field notebooks, and even built a bird blind out of snow. Seven different species were reported, including a flock of 75 American Black Duck.
Local youth aged 6-11 participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids, seen here leaning how to identify and count flocks of ducks in Margaret Bowater Park in Corner Brook. Special thanks to Judy May of the Humber Natural History Society for the use of this photo.
A note from our partners
From our friends at Ducks Unlimited Canada...
The Birchy Basin along the Upper Humber is a stunning swath of habitat used by dozens of species of waterfowl, migratory fish, and the Humber caribou herd.
Ducks Unlimited Canada is excited to announce recently completed restoration work at the Birchy Basin Wetland Complex—a critical swath of wildlife habitat in Newfoundland’s Humber River Watershed.
In mid-August, conservation staff repaired a small maintenance bridge, and rebuilt part of the wetland’s fishway, ensuring that species of migratory fish, including Atlantic salmon, are better able to travel through the wetland system to breed and spawn.
The Upper Humber River and Birchy Basin boast some of the highest densities of wildlife in Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition to waterfowl species including American black duck and common goldeneye, and an estimated 40,000 Atlantic salmon, the wetland is important for other provincially iconic species including moose and the Humber Caribou herd.
The newly renovated Birchy Basin water control structure will help ensure safe passage for migratory fish, including Atlantic salmon.
COVID-19 restrictions have put our biannual in-person SAM meetings on hold, but the virtual meetings have continued! On October 3rd, 2020 SAM members as well as representatives from several EHJV partners joined us for the Fall business meeting.
SAM meetings look a little different these days, but the passion and commitment to preserving the special places we have in this province remains the same.
Are you looking forward to the spring AGM? Attendance is by invitation only and registration information will be sent out soon - so keep an eye on your inboxes!
Wondering what these meetings are all about? Check out our "SAM Meeting FAQs" page for more information.
SAM Scholarship Call for Applications!
The 2021 SAM Scholarship is currently accepting applications.
Every year SAM awards a $1000 scholarship to a post-secondary education student whose interests, activities and post-secondary goals are focused on conservation of habitat in this province.
Who is eligible?
Applicant must be a resident of Newfoundland and Labrador;
Is (or will be) enrolled in a post-secondary program in the 2020-2021 academic year;
Have demonstrated an active commitment to conservation in Newfoundland and Labrador