Vol. 4 No. 3, October 2022

Canada Pledges Continued Support for Biodiversity

On October 5, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) announced approval of an extension of funding for the Community-Nominated Priority Places (CNPP) Long Range Biodiversity project for continued work in species recovery over the next three years, 2023-2026. Led by Intervale Associates and in partnership with several non-profit and First Nation groups as well as federal and provincial governmental departments, the project focuses on coordinated, multi-partner conservation actions towards the protection and recovery of at least 17 species at risk and their habitats in western Newfoundland. Major partnering organizations implementing the activities are Qalipu First Nation, Nature Conservancy of Canada, limestone barrens researchers, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Parks Canada, and ECCC. Several other non-profit organizations, businesses, and stakeholder groups contribute in important ways to the project’s overall goals for biodiversity conservation and community well-being.

The Shallow Bay Beach and dune system is where a team from Parks Canada discovered a new Bank Swallow colony, one of four new colonies recorded by partners of the Long Range Biodiversity project in 2022. Photo ©Parks Canada.

The news comes one month before partners will gather for a workshop on 7-9 November at Tuckamore Lodge in Main Brook, Newfoundland. At the workshop, they will review project accomplishments, strengthen collaborative efforts, and plan project strategies for the next few years. Partners will also meet members of the community, tour limestone barrens habitats, and explore by boat the inner islands of Hare Bay on the Great Northern Peninsula.

Jonathan Strickland, Director of Qalipu Environment and Natural Resources, leads the partnership of Qalipu First Nation in the Long Range Biodiversity project. Sandy Point (pictured) is an important site within the Community-Nominated Priority Place of western Newfoundland. Photo by Alyssa Hunter.

IN THIS ISSUE, project partners share some highlights of the recent summer field season. Thanks to the many individuals who contributed field season accounts: Eric Bennett, David Billard, Kathleen Blanchard, Greg Campbell, Cassia Foley, Shelley Garland, Claudia Hanel, Luise Hermanutz, Alyssa Hunter, Holly Lightfoot, Jennifer Sullivan, Russell Wall, and Nathan White.

We devote the final section of the newsletter to photos taken by Russell Wall of the beaches of southwestern Newfoundland following post-tropical storm Fiona. The storm surge and winds that severely damaged homes along the south coast on September 24th also drastically changed the beaches, which include nesting habitat of the endangered Piping Plover, and destroyed sections of the provincial T’Railway. Work next spring to locate nests and assess new ATV routes will require close collaboration among community leaders and conservation experts.

Ken White teaches new trappers at the Trappers’ Education

course held 8 October in Deer Lake. Photo by David Billard.

Spotlight on Local Partners

We salute members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Trappers Association (NLTA), who for many years have been promoting the adoption of water-based mink box traps that prevent the accidental catch of Newfoundland marten. According to Ken White, instructor for the Trappers’ Education courses held each year, “The Newfoundland and Labrador Trappers Association is pleased to contribute to recovery efforts for Newfoundland marten by encouraging our members and people involved in our trappers’ education courses to adopt the use of water-based mink box traps.”

Intervale wildlife technician, David Billard, recently presented on Newfoundland marten at the Trappers’ Education course held on 8 October in Deer Lake. The NLTA has invited Intervale staff to speak at courses to be held in Stephenville, Corner Brook, Grand Falls-Windsor, and St. John’s later this Fall.

Chimney Cove, near Trout River, NL, is site of a new Bank Swallow

colony recorded by Intervale. Photo by David Billard.

Highlights from the 2022 Field Season

Bank Swallow. Several partners collaborate to periodically monitor activity at each of nearly 20 colonies of Bank Swallows that have been recorded in western Newfoundland. The increased attention partners have given to this threatened species has resulted in the discovery of four new colonies found in: Shallow Bay in Cow Head, Chimney Cove near Trout River, Bottom Brook, and Shoal Point near Boswarlos. Initial investigations into potential impact caused by Fiona have revealed little evidence of damage thus far; more assessments will be conducted next spring.         

Staff of Qalipu Environment and Natural Resources monitored Piping Plover such as the one pictured on the beach in Stephenville Crossing. Photo by Randi Morgan.

Piping Plover. Long Range Biodiversity partners monitored 12 Piping Plover nests on 15 beaches. These included four nests in the Sandy Point and Stephenville Crossing areas that were monitored by Qalipu First Nation, one monitored by the Wildlife Division at Big Barasway Wildlife Reserve in Burgeo, and the rest monitored by Intervale on southwest coast beaches. These nests fledged a total of 27 young Piping Plovers, with an average of 2.25 per nest. According to Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) biologist, Greg Campbell, this is the second consecutive year of productivity values above 2 chicks per pair, and both years are among the highest productivity years since 2012. It is hoped that the results will lead to an increase in Piping Plover population numbers for Newfoundland in the near future.

Red Knot. It was a good season for Red Knot sightings at Anchor Point, where knots were observed on nine occasions from August 11 to September 10 including a high count of 95 Red Knots (4 adults, 91 juveniles) on August 23rd. The Intervale team led by Kathleen Blanchard spotted a banded adult with a pale green flag that was faded and illegible. The flag colour was indication that the bird had been banded in the USA, much like the Red Knot with green flag T>Y observed at Anchor Point in 2021. This was the team’s third sighting of a banded and flagged Red Knot at Anchor Point in recent years.

Anchor Point, NL, is an important stopover for the endangered

Red Knot. Many Red Knots stop to feed and rest on the intertidal

limestone flats. Photo by Clarence Goodyear.

Short-eared Owl. Shelley Garland, who coordinates Short-eared Owl records for the Endangered Species and Biodiversity section of the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, reports that it was likely a good year for small mammals, as there were many sightings of Short-eared Owl from the Great Northern Peninsula, Labrador Straits, and elsewhere in the province. She and her team spotted four different Short-eared Owls in four days, a highlight of her field work this summer.

Parks Canada staff found abundant evidence that bats were using

bat boxes installed at the construction site for the Visitor Center

 at Gros Morne National Park. Photo ©Parks Canada – Annalee Hynes.

Bats. During the 2022 field season, Qalipu Environment and Natural Resources staff surveyed for bats at two sites, in the Port au Port and Robinsons areas, using stationary and mobile recorders. Meanwhile, at Gros Morne National Park, Parks Canada staff worked collaboratively with contracting crews on the construction of the new Visitor Center to efficiently manage and monitor bat activity at the construction site. Staff also conducted annual bat monitoring within the park.

Public Knowledge about Bats. As of late October, a team from Intervale completed 46 cabin conversations in 2022. This multi-year activity involves interviewing residents of western Newfoundland. To date, interviews have been completed from Flat Bay Brook north to Flower’s Cove. Cabin owners and rural homeowners are proving to be cooperative with the study. Highlights of this year’s results to date include the following: that 80% of surveyed residents did not know that there are at least three species of bats in Newfoundland, and 47% reported having seen bats in their area. Only 23% of people surveyed had heard of White Nose Syndrome, and a staggering 89% did not know that the disease had been identified in Western Newfoundland.

Black Ash. Parks Canada staff conducted surveys for black ash and provided data on the species’ health and distribution within Gros Morne National Park. They assessed upwards of 1,000 ash trees, spanning from Killdevil Mountain to the Lomond Peninsula. In September, staff from the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) visited NCC’s Black Ash Nature Reserve to monitor black ash seed production. They discovered that some of the more mature trees had produced seed, so they harvested a small number of seeds to assess viability. Black ash has been assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as a threatened species.

Black ash surveys were conducted at Gros Morne National Park. Photo ©Parks Canada – Darroch Whitaker.

Monitoring on Nature Conservancy of Canada Reserves. Staff of the Nature Conservancy of Canada monitored six nature reserves in the southwest region of Newfoundland, which includes over 2,000 ha of ecologically important conserved land. Staff focused on assessing anthropogenic threats to the environment as well as rare, at-risk, and invasive species.

Rare Plants of the Limestone Barrens.

Claudia Hanel, botanist for the Endangered Species and Biodiversity section in the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, led monitoring efforts for Fernald’s Braya and Long’s Braya in several areas of the Great Northern Peninsula. At Port au Choix National Historic Site, where Parks Canada staff assisted with the surveys, 50 Braya plants were identified. During the survey, the team provided outreach to visitors on the site. Claudia also continued a third Braya census in several areas to ensure that populations are stable. She also revisited permanent monitoring plots for Fernald’s and Long’s braya, across their ranges, to track long-term changes in population numbers and health. Another accomplishment was a completed inventory of signs on Barrens Willow, Long’s Braya, and Fernald’s Braya, which had been placed by the Wildlife Division in 2005 and 2006.

The new interpretive panel installed at Flowers Cove, NL, describes interesting places to visit on the Great Northern Peninsula to view limestone barrens habitat features and plants. Photo by Kathleen Blanchard.

Limestone Barrens Restoration. Limestone barrens field work was conducted by Dulcie House, Casey House, David Innes, and Luise Hermanutz in mid-July under sunny skies! At Sandy Cove, restoration plots were monitored and photographed. Photos have been archived for future comparisons to understand how the limestone barrens and the listed species are recovering after quarrying took place. Data are now being analyzed by Corrina Copp, a former graduate student under Dr. Hermanutz, who now works in Alberta. Team members have been working with staff of provincial government and coordinators of the Key Biodiversity Area program in Canada to establish protection for these unique limestone barrens.

Dr. Luise Hermanutz examines a study plot at the Sandy Cove limestone barrens restoration site. Photo by Kathleen Blanchard.

Researchers have reintroduced Long’s Braya, an endangered species endemic to the Great Northern Peninsula, at the Sandy Cove limestone barrens restoration site. Photo by Kathleen Blanchard.

Limestone Barrens Stewardship. Limestone Barrens Stewardship Coordinator, Nathan White, will soon be visiting schools in the Port au Port area to create awareness among students about the features of the Port au Port limestone barrens and the rare plants that occur there. He has also been networking with current and former Limestone Barrens Recovery Team members to explore effective strategies for stewardship. During a recent trip to the Northern Peninsula, Nathan met with local community leaders to introduce himself and gather ideas on what they would like to see achieved.

Nathan White, Limestone Barrens Stewardship Coordinator, is an experienced fish and wildlife technician and a member of the Qalipu First Nation. Nathan, who lives in the Town of St. George’s and works for Intervale, will interact with community leaders, industry staff, and stakeholder groups in both the Northern Peninsula and Port au Port limestone barrens areas. Photo courtesy of Nathan White.

Education and Outreach

Project partners led many workshops for adults, school students, and youth groups in western Newfoundland and the Labrador Straits, including 20 workshops presented by a team of four instructors working for the Quebec-Labrador Foundation (QLF), a partner of the Long Range Biodiversity project. For the sixth consecutive year, the team led bird observation workshops for youth from the Labrador Straits at the Point Amour Lighthouse Provincial Historic Site. Several youth who attended the workshops during multiple years are becoming adept at identifying seabirds and sea ducks and, as a result, they have begun teaching birding skills to first-time participants.

Youth identify seabirds at the two-day workshop organized by QLF and local partners, held each summer at the Point Amour Lighthouse Provincial Historic Site. Photo by Kathleen Blanchard.

Rachel Godinho from QLF taught youth about birds

they observed at the Point Amour workshop.

Photo by Kathleen Blanchard.

As part of their annual monitoring of nature reserves in western Newfoundland, staff from the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) conducted two successful outreach events in the Codroy Valley: a spring bird survey and an educational outing for elementary (K-6) students at Belanger Memorial. The NCC staff will share species observation data from the bird survey with organizers of the Newfoundland Breeding Bird Atlas.

Volunteers for the Codroy Valley spring bird survey look for birds in and adjacent to the Grand Codroy estuary.

Photo by Jennifer Sullivan.

Two students from Belanger Memorial in the Codroy Valley examine invertebrates during an NCC-led excursion.

Photo by Jennifer Sullivan.

Impacts of Post-tropical Storm Fiona on Beaches

of Southwestern Newfoundland

The following photos were taken on 4 October by Russell Wall of Intervale, who traveled with Eric Bennett to assess the impact of Fiona’s storm surge and winds on the nesting habitat of the endangered Piping Plover. Much work will be needed next spring to locate Piping Plover nests, install signs, and work with town authorities to develop new sections of existing ATV trails. 

Entrance to Grand Bay West First Beach. Boardwalk was severely damaged and has been removed. The sand was pushed back significantly and may have potentially created new Piping Plover habitat.

Grand Bay West Second Beach, approaching northern end. A single piece of the dune system is left after Hurricane Fiona. The front of the dune, which was of similar height to this section, extended along most of the beach before the hurricane hit. 

JT Cheeseman Provincial Park Beach and parking lot. The steel retaining beams are all that is left to the dune in front of the parking lot. The lot is now covered in sand.

Short Sand Beach, bridge that used to cross stream. All that is left to the bridge at Short Sand Beach are the pillars. Sand backfilled to where the stream used to be and now the stream is running across what is left to the Trailway farther north.

Newsletter edited by Kathleen Blanchard, with Cassia Foley. Design, Cynthia Colosimo Robbins.

We are grateful to the many organizations and individuals who provide financial or in-kind support for the Long Range Biodiversity project, including: