Tree planting at the Torbay Gully Nature Reserve, NL (Photo by NCC)

Tree planting at the Torbay Gully Nature Reserve, NL (Photo by NCC)

How did 15 trees find their way to Torbay Gully?

Conservation Volunteers and NL Team Planting Trees at the Torbay Gully Nature Reserve (Photo by NCC)

Conservation Volunteers and NL Team Planting Trees at the Torbay Gully Nature Reserve (Photo by NCC)

Twelve generous Conservation Volunteers donated their time on a perfect spring day to help bring love and care to the Torbay Gully Nature Reserve, the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) smallest nature reserve. This 0.3-hectare property lies on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula. Located close to an urban area, the Gully stands strong on its own, providing habitat for the wildlife in the area.

The small but mighty Torbay Gully provides just enough space for plants like sweet gale, white meadowsweet and tall meadowrue to thrive. Birds, such as osprey, American black duck and bald eagle, are also seen in the area.

"The Gully is so small that you can easily see one end if you stand on the opposite corner," says Chirathi Wijekulathilake, one of two NCC conservation interns in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This perfect spring day started with introductions and instructions, and just a few safety reminders to ensure everyone enjoyed their day outside safely. Instructions, such as wearing gloves while using equipment and taking breaks during strenuous activities, help volunteers stay on their game and avoid any unfortunate incidents.

The team arrived at the Gully with equipment on their back, ready and eager to dig holes and start planting.

With smiles on their faces, the volunteers successfully planted five paper birch and 10 white spruce. These planted trees will help enhance biodiversity and create more natural habitats for species occupying this urban wetland. But tree planting was not the only kind of help that the volunteers offered that day; the crew helped clear the area of garbage that had accumulated over time.  

Being out in the field offers different learning opportunities for everyone, especially our interns. “When planting trees, we want to make sure that they are strong enough to stand on their own,” Chirathi said of her new plant-staking skills. “Sometimes if they need some extra support, we poke pegs to the ground around the branch to protect them from strong winds.” This extra help gives the tree enough space to grow while keeping it safe from Newfoundland’s strong winds.

Originally from Sri Lanka, Chirathi is an international student completing her master's in cognitive and behavioural ecology at Newfoundland's Memorial University. Since moving to Canada in 2018, she has been actively participating in programs such as bird surveys, puffin and petrel patrol, and East Coast trail maintenance to help protect Canada's wildlife and environment. “This internship program gave me a great opportunity to explore the province and get hands-on experience on different NCC conservation efforts.”

When asked about her favourite encounters in Canada, Chirathi replied, "The different colours throughout the seasons are stunning to observe. We only experience monsoon rain season and dry season back home, so it is exciting to see the seasons change in Canada, especially in fall." A visit to Lower Humber River Area in Newfoundland is on Chirathi’s bucket list for this fall. “I would love to see all those trees turn shades of yellow and orange,” she says.

Sri Lanka’s trees may not turn colourful in the fall, but the rainforests are enough to make Chirathi miss home. "The sound of raindrops and slow streams, the cool breeze and the waterfalls at the Sinharaja Rain Forest are a must to experience," she says.

Although no rainforests exist in Newfoundland and Labrador, new experiences and seeing interesting animals like Atlantic puffins are souvenirs for Chirathi to take back home and tell her friends and family about.

“I am thankful to NCC for providing the opportunity to plant trees with community members and playing an important role in expanding biodiversity in Atlantic Canada,” she says.

These Conservation Volunteer opportunities and restoration planting programs happen thanks to the support of our wonderful donors and partners, such as Ducks Unlimited Canada, TD Friends of Environment Foundation, Stewardship Association Municipalities, Nature Newfoundland and Labrador and the Town of Torbay.

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