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.

The Disappearance of Millions of Newfoundland Seabirds

By Bill Montevecchi

(Reprint of Birds I View from the Northeast Avalon Times August 2017)


Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Oceanodroma leucorhoa. (By Seabamirum from Ithaca (Leach’s Storm Petrel) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)


Where have all the storm-petrels gone? Storm-petrels are the most abundant seabird breeding in eastern Canada. They appear at night in dizzying millions at major colonies on our coast. When a species is so prolific, population changes are actually often difficult to detect until they reach crisis proportions – think cod, capelin, caribou.


Seabirds are the primary indicators of ocean pollution. They have been the focus of environmental monitoring plans since offshore oil exploration began on the Grand Banks. Under the “regulation” of the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), these have been irrelevant paper exercises. The nocturnal Leach’s storm-petrel or carey chick as fishermen refer to them is the most vulnerable seabird to offshore platforms. These tiny robin-sized seabirds are attracted to platform flares and lights where they succumb to collisions, burning and oiling.


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Pike Population in Minipi Lake, Labrador

By R. John Gibson and Richard L. Haedrich


Editor’s Preface: Dr. John Gibson and Dr. Richard Haedrich were long time supporters of Nature Newfoundland and Labrador (Nature NL) and they made many contributions to science. I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Gibson through Nature NL and Dr. Haedrich through my studies at Memorial University. Within the past two years, these two “greats” in fish biology have passed away. The following is a reprint of their article on pike in Minipi Lake (Gibson and Haedrich 2010). While technical in nature, the article shows the scientific lens through which these men explored the natural world and how much they enjoyed it. Special thanks to Jack and Lorraine Cooper of Cooper’s Minipi Lodge for providing additional photos for the article. – Justin So


John Gibson holding a pike. Photo courtesy of Jack and Lorraine Cooper, Cooper’s Minipi Lodge.


This past summer we were invited by Jack Cooper (of Coopers’ Minipi Camps, Labrador) to his camp at Minipi Lake. The camp is at the northern end of the lake, near the outlet river, about 90 km southwest of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and is reached by float plane. Jack has four well equipped camps throughout the watershed, with every modern convenience. The system is best known for giant brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) which can be caught up to 10 lbs in weight. Large Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) also provide angling, averaging 7 lbs but also up to ten pounds. Angling is permitted by fly only, and most fish are returned to the water. The system therefore retains its unique giant brook trout stocks. Jack’s motto for his camps is “The Way It Was Is How It Is,” an unusual and very welcome situation in these modern times.

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Wild Things Scholarship 2017 Report

Rita E. Anderson, Wild Things Scholarship Coordinator


The Wild Things Scholarship annually recognizes the enthusiasm and efforts of a resident whose volunteer activities have helped to enhance or conserve nature in Newfoundland and Labrador and who is or will be a student in a post-secondary program.  NatureNL conducts the competition for the scholarship, which is supported by Wildland Tours ( and an anonymous donor.


Annually, we continue to be thrilled by learning about the passion for and energy to conserve our natural heritage shown by our applicants.  Thank you to all applicants.  Keep it up!  Members of our scholarship committee (Doug Ballam, Emma Bocking and Laura King) independently evaluated the applications and identified three outstanding applicants.


Brendan Kelly, from Paradise, NL, is the 2017 scholarship winner. Brendan completed his Fish and Wildlife Technician program at the College of the North Atlantic in Corner Brook this spring. He intends to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in wildlife conservation at the University of Prince Edward Island starting this September, with future plans for graduate work in ornithology.   Continue reading

The Charlie Horwood Memorial Pink Lady Slipper Orchid Walk, June 24, 2017

Allan Stein, Nature Newfoundland and Labrador

Mount Scio seems to have an ideal micro-climate for Pink Lady Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium acaule).


For 12 or 15 years, until his death in 1992, Charlie Horwood led a few trusted friends to view his favourite pink lady slipper orchid patch. (Cypripedium acaule).   It was the highlight of the spring for the lucky few.  Charlie seemed to have direct communication with the orchids and knew some of his favourite plants intimately.  He knew exactly where to find each of the three albino plants and the massive plants that had thirty or more flower stems.  Charlie was among the naturalists who resurrected the Newfoundland Natural History Society (for the third time!) in 1970 and served on the executive, including as President for years.

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Appreciating Conservation


By David Rendell, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter



Through personal contacts, my wife and I were able to visit the designated Nature Conservancy of Canada site at Shampers Bluff, New Brunswick. The owner and donor of most of the 110 hectare site, photographer Freeman Patterson, provided us with a personal tour of the main features of the site, and his approach to the site.


Last August, while visiting our son Christopher, he suggested a visit to Shampers Bluff, partly because of its reputation as a conservation area, and partly as he is actively developing his own eight acre site near Hampton, NB. He had a friend who was able to contact Freeman and got his agreement for a visit. So, on a beautiful warm day, Chris, his wife Laura, Joan and I drove the half hour to get there from Hampton. We were greeted half way down the driveway by Freeman coming to meet us.


Shampers Bluff overlooks the Saint John River.


In the 1980s, Nature Newfoundland and Labrador (Nature NL; or the Newfoundland Natural History Society (NNHS) as it was then) invited Freeman Patterson to give a series of illustrated lectures, in the Little Theater in the Arts Building at Memorial University, on his photography of nature (Photography for the Joy of It, Photography and the Art of Seeing, Photography of Natural Things,  …), so there is a connection with Nature NL as I remember the talks clearly.


Upon coming home, I realized that I had a lot of photos, and wondered what best to do with the many photos I had taken. We all take lots of photos when on a visit to some special place. When traveling to India, Japan, Israel, I routinely used to take 20 rolls (36 exposures) of Kodachrome per trip. Now with digital cameras, the situation is compounded! So the idea gradually grew to offer to share the experience with a local group, Nature NL as an example of a real conservation project, and hopefully encourage others to get involved through one (or more) of the local environmental organizations.


Nursery stump.


The site is where Freeman lives, and the general public does not have access. He screens potential visitors for real interest in conservation, and not just a casual interest. He mentioned that, for example, school groups have to have a project started before being allowed to visit. We passed the test somehow.


The photos were taken “on-the-fly” as we were introduced to the various features, both large and small. There was no time to compose a scene, or wait for better lighting. The area includes the farmstead area, house, barn, guest house, paths. In the former fields, around the house, the annuals are left to do their own thing, and are mulched each autumn to inhibit tree growth. The age and composition of the forest stands at Shampers Bluff range from shrubby areas with most trees under 25 years old to mature stands with trees over 200 years old. It is a fascinating area with paths in portions. The forest floor has fallen tree stumps used as protection, host for new shrubs, plants, and rhodos to keep their feet dry. In our short visit we were able to see only a small portion of this magnificent and diverse site.


The former fields around the barn.


Path to the woods.

The area took a long time to come under protection. After a single threatened plant was discovered the provincial government (New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources as ‘Ecologically Sensitive Lands’) became involved to designate a conservation status for some portions and other blocks of land were added from time to time.


In The Photography of Natural Things, page 95, Freeman comments on a Cape St. Mary’s photo:  “These towering cliffs on the south coast of Newfoundland are an ideal nesting site for gulls, gannets, and other birds. The grandeur of the location and the sound of the sea and the birds provide a memorable wilderness experience. A visitor becomes deeply aware of the value of leaving large areas of land undisturbed for the protection of natural things. The size of the birds in relation to the cliffs helps to produce the sense of height, and side lighting defines the shapes of the landscape.”


In our own province, there are many sites that can and should be added to the dozen or so local NCC sites in Newfoundland. At the presentation, there were several groups present, each with a special niche interest, but all are part of a consistent whole: e.g. CPAWS has a focus on public lands with a goal of preserving of half of all public lands; NCC has a focus on maintaining special private lands, Nature Canada has a broad conservation and education focus.


As with my presentation, I close by challenging all local environmental organizations to do something special in forwarding conservation goals for Canada’s 150th birthday.


Dave is a retired member of the Physics Department at Memorial University who has a long history of promoting the conservation and appreciation of nature in this province.  Among other activities, he served on Nature NL’s board of directors (1985–1993), was a National Trustee for Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and currently serves as treasurer for CPAWS-NL.

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