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.

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 letstalkparkscanada.ca. 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

R. John Gibson 1931-2016

On May 7th, Nature Newfoundland and Labrador lost one of our stalwarts.  Dr. R. John Gibson, scientist, naturalist, and conservationist, passed away peacefully at his home on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake.

 

John Gibson served for many years as a member of the Natural History Society’s board of directors and continued through our transition to Nature Newfoundland and Labrador. He was awarded the society’s Tuck Walters Award in 1986, in recognition for his many contributions, including his efforts to have the urban rivers of St. John’s restored and valued as the exceptional natural features that they are.

 

John Gibson explaining the complexities of brown trout spawning to young naturalists during a Nature NL hike along Rennies River, 23 October 2011. (Photo by J. Jacobs)

John Gibson explaining the complexities of brown trout spawning to young naturalists during a Nature NL hike along Rennies River, 23 October 2011. (Photo by J. Jacobs)

 

In 2008, John was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 19th annual Government of Newfoundland and Labrador environmental awards ceremony (see The Osprey Summer 2008).  In the case of Sandy Pond, John was the key scientist in the Sandy Pond Alliance, a group organized to challenge the powers of governments that allow pristine waters to be turned into dumps for mine and mill waste.

 

“Science is being bent for the benefit of mining companies with the loss of natural heritage for future generations of Canadians” (R. J. Gibson, 2011. Why should pristine lakes be conserved? The Osprey 42(3): 17-24).

 

John Gibson lived to see Canada beginning to emerge from its dark period of antiscientific governance.

 

Retiring from the Nature NL board in 2014, John continued with us as a highly valued volunteer, lending his expertise and experience to our various outdoor and educational activities. He continued to research and publish articles in professional journals, as well as in The Osprey, the most recent being a major piece on developing a plan for Atlantic salmon conservation (Vol. 46 Issue 4).

 

On May 28th, John Gibson’s life was celebrated by his family and many, many friends at a gathering at the Quidi Vidi Royal St. John’s Regatta boathouse.  John will be missed, but he leaves a lasting legacy in his contributions to the appreciation and preservation of our rivers and fresh waters.

 

John Gibson angling for salmon on the Exploits River, following a visit to the Duck Pond mine site with members of the Sandy Pond Alliance, 27 August 2009. (Photo by J. Jacobs)

John Gibson angling for salmon on the Exploits River, following a visit to the Duck Pond mine site with members of the Sandy Pond Alliance, 27 August 2009. (Photo by J. Jacobs)

 

“…We will miss you. But we will also take comfort in knowing that you are walking along the river and its primeval flow of life and resiliency….” Bill Montevecchi, in his eulogy for John Gibson.

John D. Jacobs

Time to Act on Biodiversity and Species at Risk in Newfoundland and Labrador

Óðinshani - Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus (3651385111)

Red-necked Phalarope  is a small shorebird that appears to be in decline. This species is proposed to be listed Special Concern under the Species at Risk Act. (Photo By Elma from Reykjavík [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

 

According to Nature Canada’s calendar, May 20th is “Endangered Species Day”. Established by the United States Congress in 2006 (endangered.org/), it is not  officially recognized in Canada. However, we do recognize May 22nd , the International Day for Biological Diversity, which celebrates the International Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), finalized by the United Nations in 1992.

 

As a signatory to the CBD, Canada has set specific goals and targets to be attained by 2020. Included is the following: (Target 2.) “By 2020, species that are secure remain secure, and populations of species at risk listed under federal law exhibit trends that are consistent with recovery strategies and management plans” (biodivcanada.ca).

 

The federal Species at Risk Act (or SARA) serves the purpose of preventing the disappearance of wildlife.  We can do our part for biodiversity by participating in the SARA process.

 

Species are assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), made up of experts from across Canada ( cosewic.gc.ca/ ).  SARA is implemented through its Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.  Species on this list classified as Extirpated, Endangered or Threatened receive the protection of prohibitions and are subject to recovery planning requirements. Species listed as Special Concern are subject to management planning requirements. Schedule 1 currently lists 521 wildlife species at risk (registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/schedules_e.cfm?id=1).

The SARA Registry office is seeking informed public input regarding proposed Schedule 1 amendments relating to 25 terrestrial species, of which four are found in Newfoundland and Labrador.  These are:

 

  • Griscom’s Arnica – a flowering plant with very limited distribution in limestone landscapes on the Northern Peninsula. Proposed to be listed as Threatened.
  • Yellow-banded Bumble Bee – an important North American pollinator that is in decline across much of its range. Proposed to be listed as Special Concern.
  • Red-necked Phalarope – a small shorebird that appears to be in decline. Proposed to be listed Special Concern.
  • Caribou (Newfoundland Population) – experiencing habitat loss and excessive mortality rates. Proposed to be listed Special Concern.

 

Nature NL has already provided comment on the first two species in advance of a May 4 deadline.  The Red-necked Phalarope and Newfoundland Caribou are part of an extended consultation process with a deadline of October 4.  Members and others are encouraged to inform themselves about these species and the SARA listing process (registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/document/default_e.cfm?documentID=2749) , and  make comments directly to the SARA Registry or as part of a Nature NL submission by contacting us at: naturenl@naturenl.ca .

John Jacobs

Nature NL – Species at Risk

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