The birds are back at Johnson’s Mills

Returning to shorebird reserve and interpretive centre

Published on July 21, 2014
Visitors to the shorebird reserve and interpretive centre in Johnson's Mills, N.B. are sure to see an aerial ballet.
NCC Photo

Visitors to the shorebird reserve and interpretive centre in Johnson's Mills, N.B. are sure to see an aerial ballet.

JOHNSON’S MILLS, N.B. –The initial wave of migratory shorebirds have started to arrive on the Upper Bay of Fundy at the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada invites the general public, nature enthusiasts, tourists, photographers and travel writers to its 473 acre nature reserve to see a spectacular display of aerial ballet. 

The migration of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds has started, says Kerry Lee Morris-Cormier, who is Manager of the Johnson’s Mills Interpretive Centre.  Every summer, flocks of shorebirds stop here to feed on the nutrient rich mudflats as they trek from their breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic to their wintering grounds in South America.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s facility is open from early July to early September. The first flock of 25 birds was sighted this week by interpreters Rosie Cockshutt and Melanie Bos.  There are now hundreds of Semipalmated sandpipers and other shorebird species present, many of them are unsuccessful breeders.

“During the third week of July, we typically see the number of shorebirds increase to the tens of thousands, just in time for the Annual Dorchester Sandpiper Festival which will be held on July 25,26 & 27,” says  Morris-Cormier.

“The peak of the migration is in mid-August when the number of shorebirds can increase to one hundred thousand or more.”

The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Shorebird Interpretive Centre is located at 2724 Route 935, eight kilometres past the town of Dorchester.

Visitors have access to an observation deck that allows for excellent bird watching with minimal human disturbance for the species.  

The large deck has recently seen the second phase of renovations, thanks to the carpentry students and instructors at the New Brunswick Community College campus in Moncton.  They also helped with infrastructure improvements at the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s researcher cottage, which is used by visiting biologists, scientists, academics and birding experts each year.

 “The carpentry program at NBCC Moncton Campus is really pleased to partner with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. As part of their year-end project, this opportunity has been great for our students to practice their skills in a real-life situation and learn the importance of giving back to the community. In the end, this partnership is a win-win-win for everyone involved,” said Al Dewitt, Department Head of Metals Processing/Construction at NBCC Moncton Campus.

Bilingual interpreters can answer questions about the ecology and cultural history of the area and about the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work in Johnson’s Mills.  They offer the use of high powered scopes and binoculars and have compiled a comprehensive birding checklist that may interest visitors.  Staff also highlight visible locations such as the iconic Hopewell Rocks and the Ecological Reserve at Mary’s Point.

Admission to the centre is by donation.  The Nature Conservancy of Canada is a not for profit organization.  It has just received a 4-star rating by Charity Intelligence Canada who graded over 400 charities.  Nature Conservancy of Canada was ranked highest for private land conservation organizations in financial transparency, accountability to donors and cost efficiency.  MoneySense Magazine has also graded the Nature Conservancy of Canada as the top environmental/conservation charity in Canada in each of the last four years.  

The public is encouraged to call the centre at 506-379-6347.  Staff provide tide times and an estimate of shorebirds present.  Morris-Cormier points out, the best time to view the shorebirds is two hours before to two hours after high tide. 

“This is also when the birds are most vulnerable so we encourage people to please stay off the beach at that time,” she continued”.

On Saturday, July 26th in celebration of the Annual Dorchester Sandpiper Festival, The Nature Conservancy of Canada will present a funny skit, “Shorebirds Talk” at 1 pm in the Village Square and will host an Open House all weekend at the Interpretation Centre, which will also include family games including a Moose Toss.