NatureNL Blog

Welcome to the new Nature Newfoundland & Labrador Blog. Here we share interesting local nature stories, photos from our hikes and events, selections of articles from our publication ‘The Osprey’, and more.

Second annual Grad Student Talks a success


Nature NL was lucky to have three bright and motivated graduate students from Memorial University speak with us last week. Being able to hear about cutting edge research straight from those in the lab and the field was wonderful. Connecting those interested in nature with Memorial researchers at is one of our interests at Nature NL and this well-attended evening certainly accomplished that.


This year’s theme was Air, Land, & Sea. Leanne Guzzwell, MSc candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Bill Montevecchi started us off with Air by speaking about nest abandonment in Northern Gannets. This occurs when adult birds permanently leave their nests and usually results in the deaths of chicks and juveniles. She discussed various factors that have been proposed for why this occurs, such as warmer temperatures and precipitation, and her research to link abondonment with some of these environmental factors.

Next up, for Land, Quinn Webber, a PhD candidate in Eric Vander Wal’s group, spoke about spatial ecology of the caribou herd on Fogo Island. He showed how tracking collars can be used to determine which individual animals associate with others, and what implications these types of social behaviour may have for parasite transmission.

Justine Ammendolia, of Annie Mercier’s lab, took us under the Sea and showed off her technologically advanced research to assess whether marine invertebrates such as sea stars and sea cucumbers can adapt to the enormous amount of pressure found at depth. Turns out some adapt better than others, which has implications for what may happen as climate change shifts distribution patterns of some of these fascinating animals.


It was fantastic to hear about these diverse projects and the lab and field challenges these young researchers face. We look forward to hearing more about your findings and seeing you advance further in your scientific careers!



Winter Gull Workshop 2017 – Trip report


It was a cold day at Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s with low numbers of gulls however we had a great turnout of 35 people! We were able to see the usual winter gulls including Iceland, Great Black-backed, Herring, Glaucous, and the Ring-billed Gull. We also sighted the Lesser Black-backed Gull at Virginia River outflow area of Quidi Vidi.

The Pied-billed Grebe, Red-winged Blackbird, female Ring-necked Duck, and the American Coot were nice additions to the day.


Thanks for all who participated today.  Here is the Ebird list of the 25 different species of birds sighted today during the workshop:


If any  participants would like to be added to the Ebird list, please send your Ebird username or email associated with your Ebird account to Megan Boucher, who can be contacted via the Nature NL contact info or the Facebook event page. See you next year!


Parks Canada consultations

Parks Canada consultations about the future of our national parks are available until January 27th 2017. They are interested in your ideas.
Take the time to submit your thoughts – they don’t have to be long and involved. Let them know what your concerns are. Representation and ideas from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador are important – add your voice to the national conversation on this important conservation and recreation issue.
The easiest way to provide your input is through the eworkbook Parks Canada provides at There is also room to include your own thoughts.

Lichen Field Trip to Sir Robert Bond Park (2016-08-20)

Saturday, August 20th was a fine day at Sir Robert Bond Park in Whitbourne. Sunshine, a light breeze, and cool morning temperatures made for perfect field conditions. Sixteen enthusiasts joined naturalist Mac Pitcher to view the many old trees and the diverse and abundant lichens growing on them. The trip had been advertised as featuring some 20 species of lichens, some rare, and, although no one kept a count, we were not disappointed.

Nature NL group at the Sir Robert Bond Park “Lichen Forest”

Nature NL group at the Sir Robert Bond Park “Lichen Forest”

The star attraction was the Blue Felt Lichen – Degelia plumbea (or Pectenia plumbea , according to the revision proposed by Ekman, et al. 20141). This rare lichen is found elsewhere in Newfoundland growing on Yellow Birch, but in this park it has taken well to Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), one of many European tree species introduced to the site by Sir Robert Bond in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Mac Pitcher pointing out Degelia plumbea thallus on a Norway Maple

Mac Pitcher pointing out Degelia plumbea thallus on a Norway Maple


Close-up of D. plumbea surrounded by Lobaria quercizans

Close-up of D. plumbea surrounded by Lobaria quercizans

In their 2006 Degelia lichen inventory for the park, Pitcher and Cbislett reported this species as occurring on Norway Maple, Hawthorn, Trembling Aspen, and European Birch2.


Blue Felt Lichen, along with the Boreal Felt Lichen (Erioderma pedicellatum), is listed as “Vulnerable” in the Newfoundland and Labrador species at risk registry. Boreal Felt lichen is designated “Of Special Concern” on the Canada SAR registry, and the Committee on the Status of Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has recommended such listing for Blue Felt Lichen.

Three prominent lichen species on this Norway Maple: Lobaria pulmonaria (green), L. quercizans (gray) and Nephroma parile (brown).

Three prominent lichen species on this Norway Maple: Lobaria pulmonaria (green), L. quercizans (gray) and Nephroma parile (brown).

While the “Lichen Forest” was the main attraction for our field trip, there were plenty of other things to observe and discuss: orchids, Phantom Crane Flies, a juvenile Wood Frog, common loons on Junction Pond, and of course the history of the park.  Sir Robert Bond Municipal Park is only an hour’s drive from St. John’s and well worth visiting for a few hours.

– John D. Jacobs

1The Lichenologist 46(5): 627–656.

2 The Osprey 37(2): 55-57.

Commentary and Photos by John Jacobs, Nature NL. Our thanks to Mac Pitcher for guiding us and confirming the labeling of the images.

The Annual Charlie Horwood Pink Lady Slipper Fieldtrip, 2016-06-18

En route to the University’s Vivarium parking lot for the 10:00 am start of the field trip this June 18, 2016, my car thermometer read plus three degrees. That prompted one of the seven participants to suggest we should consider the fieldtrip the last of our winter’s offerings!


Most people associate orchids with hot, steamy jungles but the pink lady slipper orchid is a temperate zone one. Given that our spring has been as much Arctic as temperate, it is perhaps no surprise that the orchids are two or three weeks late blooming. It took diligent searching to find perhaps seventy blooms and a number of buds. The plants were much shorter than usual—generally only about 10-15 cm tall– and many of the flowers were remarkably pale, some only off-white, and/or unsymmetrical as though shrivelled. When I checked the area for flowering orchids five days earlier, I found about one-tenth the number, six or seven, most of them only partially open. A few warm sunny days, if we are lucky enough to have some, may encourage the orchids to display their expected beauty. One can only hope!


Allan Stein pointing out Lady slipper Orchids hiding along the trail.

Trip leader Allan Stein pointing out Lady slipper Orchids hiding along the trail. (Photo by John Jacobs)


Just in case, I brought along one of NatureNL’s lovely information/post cards, the one with a lovely photograph of a lady slipper orchid. Fortunately it was unnecessary to hold it up and say, “This is what we came to see.” Regardless of the possible improvement with a few degree days, it is unlikely there will again be 500 and more orchids spotted on the half-hour stroll as was still the case a decade or so ago.


Ladyslipper orchids in bloom. (Photo by Justin So)

Ladyslipper orchids in bloom. (Photo by Justin So)


This year, there was a dearth of other blooming plants too. Usually on the orchid walk we see beds of clintonia (corn lily, blue bead), lily of the valley, star flower, bunch berry and trees and shrubs (blueberries, pin cherry, mountain holly…) in full bloom. They too are late this year; very few were in bloom on the slopes of Mount Scio.

Allan Stein

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