They’re Back: Ten-thousand shorebirds arrive in Bay of Fundy
Dorchester Sandpiper Festival celebrates their return July 28-30
Semipalmated sandpipers have started returning to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC's) Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Interpretive Centre on their epic migration from the Canadian Arctic to their southern wintering grounds. On July 23, more than 10,000 birds arrived, the first large group this year. Shorebirds will continue to arrive at Johnson’s Mills until September, peaking in mid-August.
When the sandpipers return to southern New Brunswick they weigh 20 grams — equivalent to the weight of a large strawberry. The birds spend about 3 weeks at Johnson’s Mills, resting, feeding on the rich marine life they find in the Bay of Fundy’s extensive mud flats and gaining strength for the next leg of their journey, a 5,000-kilometre non-stop flight to South America.
At peak, more than 30 per cent of the world’s semipalmated sandpiper population can be seen in the upper Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is a critical global stopover site for semipalmated sandpipers and many other species of migratory shorebirds. Although total populations of shorebirds remain in the tens of thousands, the general trend is concerning: according to the State of North America’s Birds Report 2016, migratory shorebird populations have declined dramatically since the 1970s, by as much as 70 per cent for some species. Habitat loss is a key threat, which makes nature reserves like Johnson’s Mills even more critical to the shorebirds’ long-term survival.
NCC staff keep the Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Interpretive Centre open seven days a week during peak season in July and August, so the public can visit and experience the wonder of this annual migration. The best time of day to visit is during a four-hour window: from two hours before high tide to two hours after high tide. The Centre is located at 2724 Route 935, 8 kilometres from Dorchester.
During the Dorchester Sandpiper Festival and New Brunswick Day celebrations on July 29, the Village of Dorchester will offer a free shuttle bus transporting visitors from the festival grounds to NCC’s Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Interpretive Centre. The Centre has a viewing deck with spotting scopes and high-powered binoculars, and knowledgeable staff are available to answer questions. During the Festival, visitors will have the opportunity to play the Bay of Fundy passport game and view special mud tanks showing the the sandpipers’ food. Call the Centre at 506-379-6347 for details about activities offered during the festival.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation's leading non-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares), coast to coast. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has conserved more than 73,000 acres (29,500 hectares) in Atlantic Canada.
Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Interpretive Centre is one of 20 sites across Canada featured on NCC’s new “Nature Destinations” website. Through Nature Destinations, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is showcasing its most outstanding landscapes and wildlife habitats for visitors to explore. To learn more, visit naturedestinations.ca.
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