Wednesday 25 November 2015

Know your Wetlands Classes, Part 2: Beautiful Bogs

Did you know that there are 5 classes of wetland in Canada? Learn to recognize them and get acquainted with the wetlands near you. You can learn about all 5 classes of wetland in greater detail by reading the Canadian Wetland Classification System. This post is Part 2 of a 5 Part series entitled Know Your Wetland Classes. 

The theme this week is Bogs, and if you missed Part 1 (Fentastic Fens), you can find it here.
Bog complex near Sir Richard Squires Provincial Park, NL.


Bogs and fens are peatlands, meaning they have at least 30 cm of organic soil (peat). Unlike fens, a bog is ombrotrophic, meaning that the only source of water is precipitation, whereas a fen is minerotrophic, meaning it also receives water from surface and/or groundwater. Because of this, bogs are more acidic, nutrient poor and generally more dry than fens and other types of wetland. This creates a tough environment for plants, but those that do thrive here have developed some very interesting adaptations.

Pitcher plant in winter, NL.
Pitcher Plants

Most interesting among these species might be the carnivorous plants that have adapted to a lack of nutrients by feeding off of insects. In Newfoundland and Labrador, we might be most familiar with the pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea), because it is the provincial flower. These vase-shaped plants entice insects to their water-filled leaf pouches with attractive patterns and colours. Once inside, smooth, downward-facing hairs inside of the leaves make it almost impossible for the insect to escape.  The insects drown in the 'bellies', where they eventually decompose and the plant can absorb their nutrients. 

Bogs in Newfoundland and Labrador

Bogs are the most frequent wetland type in Newfoundland and Labrador, and a common site as you drive across the province. A recent project to map the wetlands of the province using remote sensing will provide valuable insight into the total cover of the different wetland classes. Many of our stewardship communities have management units that include bogs, including Gambo, GanderWinterland and Happy Valley - Goose Bay.
The View from Joey's Lookout, Outside of Gambo, NL.

Friday 30 October 2015

All About Eiders: Eider shelter installation near Musgrave Harbour

A volunteer carries an eider shelter on South Penguin Island
This is South Penguin Island, a small uninhabited island located north of Musgrave Harbour and northeast of CarmanvilleIn addition to being incredibly scenic, it is also important nesting habitat for several species of seabirds, including the largest duck in the Northern hemisphere: the common eider. Of the three sub populations that breed and winter in Canada, two are found in Newfoundland and Labrador: Northern and American.
SAM President Linda Bailet checks old eider shelters for signs of nesting.

On a calm afternoon in late September, Carmanville Councillor and new SAM President Linda Bailet accompanied local fishermen and residents of Musgrave Harbour and surrounding area on a mission to install 20 new eider shelters. Nest shelters, which were built locally with funding provided by Ducks Unlimited Canada NL, have been installed by volunteers and DUC NL staff for several years, and both North and South Penguin Island are now host to dozens of nest boxes. Common eiders nest on the ground under low, shrubby trees called tuckamore or in thick grass near the shore. Constructed shelters protect nesting eiders from predation when this natural shelter is not available. 
Eider shelters old and new, South Penguin Island
In addition to installing new shelters, old shelters were checked for signs of use by nesting eiders and other seabirds. Eiders line their nests with a distinctive soft grey down that is one of the most effective natural insulators in the world. 

A peek inside an old eider shelter reveals eider egg shell fragments. 
Organizations like Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Sea Duck Joint Venture support research programs to study these birds, but there is still a lot to learn about their migration routes, characteristics of the best breeding spots and how population trends are changing over time.

Volunteers carry eider nest shelters on South Penguin Island


Sea Duck Joint Venture
Ducks Unlimited Canada
Carmanville Wetlands Nature Trail

Monday 5 October 2015

SAM Fall Meeting: October 2-3 in Deer Lake

SAM Members, October 3 2015, Deer Lake
Last weekend, SAM representatives from 18 municipalities across Newfoundland and Labrador, and several partner organizations of the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture, gathered in Deer Lake to share recent stewardship and conservation initiatives from their communities. In the past year, several municipalities have constructed community gardens, expanded trail systems, installed interpretive signage, added stewardship zones and hosted engagement events such as birding workshops. Overall, it was an excellent year for SAM, with two new members (Bauline and Portugal Cove-St. Phillip's), and several more in the works. Dr. Kelly Vodden, of the Environmental Policy Institute, presented her research on source water protection in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
New (and returning ) Executive Officers
Geoff Gallant (Torbay) stepped down as President, after dedicating five years to the role. His hard work on behalf of SAM and the Town of Torbay is much appreicated, and the SAM community wishes him all the best in his future endeavours. He was replaced by Linda Bailet (Carmanville), the former Vice-President, with Tony Chubbs (Happy Valley - Goose Bay) stepping up to fill her position. Cathy Kleinwort (Spaniard's Bay) and John Norman (Bonavista) remain in their positions of Treasurer and Secretary, respectively. 

SAM Executive 2014-2015, L-R: Vice-President Linda Bailet, President Geoff Gallant,
Treasurer Cathy Kleinwort, Secretary John Norman
SAM Executive 2015-2016, L-R: Secretary John Norman, President Linda Bailet,
Treasurer Cathy Kleinwort, Vice-President Tony Chubbs
Thank you to the town of Deer Lake for all of your hospitality. Many participants enjoyed the organized evening walk in the sunshine that showcased Deer Lake's beautiful beach and stewardship areas. Christopher Mitchelmore (MHA - The Straits-White Bay North and Environment critic with the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador) generously offered his time to give a guest presentation about the importance of wetland conservation in this province.
Thank you to everyone who participated, we look forward to seeing you at the next Annual General Meeting in spring 2016!
SAM Members enjoying the sunshine on the hike to the
Deer Lake stewardship areas.
Deer Lake


Friday 18 September 2015

Upcoming Nest Box Build Event in St. John's

Our partners over at Ducks Unlimited Canada are hosting a Build Your Own Duck Nest Box event in Pippy Park, St. John's on October 3rd. There is plenty of space still available, and a free lunch is provided. Email Danielle to reserve your spot:

Attendees will have the option of signing up to become a nest box steward. Stewards commit to installing a nest box in suitable habitat for nesting ducks, maintaining the box and reporting any bird activity for a five year period. 

High quality nesting sites are important for maintaining waterfowl populations, and nest boxes can create artificial nesting habitat for several species of birds. The data that nest box stewards collect provides valuable insight into breeding bird populations across the province. 

Check out the flyer below for all of the event details.

Thursday 10 September 2015

Know Your Wetland Classes, Part 1: "Fentastic" Fens

A few weeks ago I helped out my colleagues over at Ducks Unlimited Canada with wetland classification surveys near Deer Lake (a wetland stewardship community!). The field work was part of a large project to map the wetlands of Newfoundland and Labrador using remote sensing techniques. It was challenging, and fun, to classify over 30 wetlands in a three day period!

Did you know that there are 5 classes of wetland in Canada? Learn to recognize them and get acquainted with the wetlands near you. You can learn about all 5 classes of wetland in greater detail by reading the Canadian Wetland Classification System. This post is Part 1 of a 5 Part series entitled Know Your Wetland Classes. This week, I'll start with Fens.

Wetlands with a build-up of organic soil, or peat, are called peatlands. They are found in cool, wet environments where decomposition is slow, allowing for this build-up of organic material. Most of the natural wetlands in Newfoundland and Labrador are peatland, so chances are, you've seen one before! There are two types of peatland: Fen and Bog. 


Fens are peatlands that receive at least some of their water input from groundwater inflow. Water table fluctuates throughout the year, and is usually close to or above the ground surface. 

Fen Plants
Because groundwater is rich in dissolved nutrients and is less acidic than precipitation, fens have a higher diversity of plant life than their peatland compatriots, bogs. You'll find all sorts of neat plants here, including sedges, moss, Scheuchzeria (left) and Grass of Parnassus (right).

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Birding Workshop in Spaniard's Bay

Last Friday, 20 local residents and visitors from St. John's gathered in the Spaniard's Bay Legion to learn about local environmental issues and bird watching basics. The event was organized by Cathy Kleinwort, the Chair of the Joint Management Committee. The JMC is composed of members from the Town of Bay Roberts and Spaniard's Bay, and oversees the stewardship of the Shearstown Estuary, which forms a boundary between the two communities. 
The Shearstown Estuary

Suzanne Dooley of CPAWS

Birders gathering for a photo
Our guest speaker was Suzanne Dooley from CPAWS. Her talk on the Newfoundland and Labrador Shorebird Survey piqued the interest of several attendees, many of which are already avid observers of shorebirds on the local beaches. 

The bird watching hike was very successful, and we were fortunate to have the company of two experienced birders from Nature NL. The highlights were close-up shots of two bald eagles, a short-billed dowitcher (uncommon for the area) and a great show of an osprey diving for its dinner. You can check out the eBird checklist for the day here

A new culvert at work

A key feature of the birding hike was the newly placed culverts under the berm in the estuary. This project, orchestrated by the JMC, allows for greater flow of water and exchange of nutrients between the Bay and the wetland. Water that was stagnant before the culvert placement is now receiving an influx of oxygen. Long-time residents can already see a drastic improvement in water quality. 

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Welcome to our new blog!

Welcome to SAM's new blog! Here you'll find weekly updates on events and goings on in our member communities, as well as general news related to wetlands, wildlife and habitat stewardship in Newfoundland and Labrador. Check in often to see what's new!

Need a quick refresher of SAM's purpose? 

The Stewardship Association of Municipalities Inc. works with the partners of the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL EHJV) to secure, enhance and restore important wildlife habitat within municipal planning boundaries. As a network of communities that practice environmental stewardship across Newfoundland and Labrador, SAM contributes to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity in the province.

This week, the Joint Management Committee in our member communities Spaniard's Bay and Bay Roberts are holding a birding workshop in the lovely Shearstown Estuary. Check back next Wednesday for pictures. 

Wetland Habitat Stewardship area, Steady Brook.