NatureNL Blog

Welcome to the 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.

Birdathon writeup: Quest for 100 birds

Read about Alvan and Catherine’s Birdathon efforts in The Telegram (by Bruce Mactavish).

Thank you to all contributed to their Birdathon and to us! It is one of our biggest fundraisers of the year.

Research Spotlight Series: Jeffrey Ethier

By Jeffrey Ethier

Posted May 28, 2018

 

 

Editor’s Note: In our Research Spotlight Series we shine a light on exciting research in our province. In this post we showcase the Jeffrey Ethier from the Wilson Animal Behaviour Lab.

 

Jeffrey Ethier, Wilson Animal Behaviour Lab.

 

My research focuses on studying the influences of habitat structure and composition on the bird assemblages of Labrador using acoustic monitoring techniques. North American landbirds are declining at an alarming rate. Although legislation provides a framework for conservation, basic data on distributions and habitat preferences are lacking for many species.

 

Traditional methods, such as point counts, provide important information about habitat use, but may not provide sufficient spatial resolution to identify a bird’s preferred microhabitat. I used an acoustic localization system that localizes vocalizing birds to within 1 m in three-dimensional space. I deployed the system at 110 sites in forests near North West River and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador during the 2016 and 2017 breeding seasons.

 

 

Common Nighthawk (Photo by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren (Common Nighthawk) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons).

 

In total, I detected and localized over 3 million vocalizations from 30 species, including a species at risk in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Common Nighthawk. I found that habitat variables are not very strong predictors of species richness. However, habitat structure and composition can explain presence/absence patterns of species and that the strength these relationships are species-specific. I also analyzed the microhabitat preferences of Boreal Chickadees and Cape May Warblers, which are both in steep decline.

In Dire Straits With A Plastic Paddle: The Plastic Crisis in our Oceans

By Holly Hogan

Posted May 23, 2018

 

 

Seabirds living in the age of plastic waste (By Tyros.andi [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons).

 

What is plastic and why are we suddenly so concerned about it?

Plastic is a petroleum-based product, made up of many long carbon-based strands. There are different types of plastic; all have strong carbon bonds that make plastic durable and lightweight.   This quality also means that plastic molecules do not break down.  Rather, items simply break into small pieces and eventually become what is known as microplastics.   Fabrics made with plastic (e.g. fleece, polyester) shed fibres when they are washed, adding microfibers to the marine system.

 

…one million water bottles are sold each minute around the world.  Of these, only 8% are recycled.

 

Modern plastics came into large-scale use after WWII, making previously unaffordable products cheap, easy to mass-produce and accessible to everyone.   Plastics are now used in virtually everything.  Single-use plastics are particularly attractive to consumers, providing huge convenience at a very low cost.  In fact, we have become addicted to the convenience plastic has afforded us.  Therein lies the problem.  Because plastics do not break down, they have been accumulating ever since their creation.  In the 1950s, the world’s human population was 2.5 billion.  Today it is 7.5 billion.  With our increased dependence on plastic and coinciding population explosion, we find ourselves in an environmental crisis.  Single-use plastics are the major culprits – water bottles, straws, plastic shopping bags, packaging and so on.  The statistics that have been coming to light are dire and disheartening.   For example, one million water bottles are sold each minute around the world.  Of these, only 8% are recycled.  The rest end up in landfills, or as litter that inevitably ends up in the ocean.  One dump truck load of plastic is dumped in the ocean every minute; 8.8 million tonnes a year.  It is no wonder that marine life is literally choking to death on our plastic waste.  And we’ve seen the images that testify to it –whales starving with stomachs full of plastic bags; likewise for sea turtles and seabirds.  Animals are dying from either ingesting plastic, or becoming entangled in it.  The problem is also not limited to highly populated parts of the world.  Ocean currents mean that garbage travels globally.  I am a wildlife biologist, so I won’t talk about the leachate from plastic water bottles that may be making us sick, or the microfibers that are making their way into the fish we consume.  But it’s worth considering.

 
Continue reading

Birds of a Feather: Interview with Artist Brandy Barry

By Justin So

Posted April 26, 2018

 

 

I was admiring the bird photographs on the Newfoundland Birdwatching Group on Facebook when I stumbled upon Brandy Barry’s redpoll painting that uniquely used a feather as a canvas. The painting was absolutely lovely and clearly showed her enthusiasm for song birds. Brandy shared the redpoll painting on the birdwatching group as she knew the members enjoyed birds as much as she did. She received great response for her work and has since gone on to paint many other beautiful species of birds. In this interview, Brandy shares her inspiration from nature, her admiration of birds, and the importance of art in her life. To see more of Brandy’s work, visit her Facebook Page: Brandy Barry Art.

 

Redpoll in Cherry blossoms.

 

Continue reading

Research Spotlight Series: Colonial Seabird Monitoring in Atlantic Canada

By: Sabina Wilhelm, Canadian Wildlife Service

Posted April 17, 2018

 

Editor’s Note: In our Research Spotlight Series we shine a light on exciting research in our province. In this post we showcase the Canadian Wildlife Service.

 

 

Puffin research on Gull Island (Photo by Pierre Ryan).

 

 

The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) Colonial Seabird Monitoring Program focuses on assessing the population size and trends of 20 species of seabirds across the four Canadian Atlantic provinces, namely Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.  Continue reading

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