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.

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 (], 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.

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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.


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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

The Forget-me-nots of Newfoundland and Labrador

By Andus Voitk

Posted March 26, 2018



A few years ago John Maunder sent around a note with references, suggesting that most likely Myosotis arvensis was the species of forget-me-not that flowered in Somme during WWI and, therefore, became the floral symbol of the Newfoundland Regiment (Hill 1917). That note piqued my interest in the genus. It took me a few years to find and identify all four of our species: M. arvensis, M. laxa, M. scorpioides and M. sylvatica. The photographs come from an attempt to master a small point and shoot camera; although of limited quality, most demonstrate the pertinent distinguishing features adequately (Figure 1). This short review is dedicated to John with thanks for his untiring efforts to enlighten us, and at the same written for my grandson, Eemil, with whom I have spent part of two summers looking at these small blue beauties. Of the four species, only M. laxa is native; the other three have been introduced to the province, likely as garden escapees.



Figure 1: Four species of forget-me-not of Insular Newfoundland. A: Myosotis arvensis. B: M. sylvatica. C: M. laxa. D: M. scorpioides. A & B grow on dryer soil and have hairs protruding perpendicularly from the stem and calyx. Neither forms a long inflorescence with a scorpion tail or violin scroll curl. C & D grow on wet soil and have hairs adpressed to the stem and calyx, pointed upwards. Both form long inflorescences, with developing buds curled up like a violin scroll. A & C grow on poor soil, have smaller flowers, and have denser hair. B & D prefer richer soil, have bigger flowers, and have less sparse and thinner hair.


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Trip Report: Winter Gull Workshop 2018

By Megan Boucher

Posted March 16, 2018

Jared Clarke talking to the group of participants about winter gulls (Photo by Megan Boucher).


It has been an odd winter here in St. John’s, NL with not much ice or snow leading up to the Gull workshop on February 17th. As usual, it was another cold breezy day at Quidi Vidi with an early morning snowfall. This year our team consisted of Jared Clarke, Lancy Cheng and Alvan Buckley, three knowledgeable local birders to teach everyone about the winter gulls.


Even though there wasn’t any ice on the lake, our group of 60 participants still managed to see five species of gulls. These included Great Black-backed, Herring, Iceland, Glaucous, and Lesser Black-backed gulls. Traditionally the walk follows the trail from the Dominion Parking Lot towards the Virginia River Outflow, however due to the lack of ice this year we remained at the Rennies River area at the west end of Quidi Vidi.


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