The Port of Saint John Waterbird Survey
MARCH 11, 2022 — The cold winter breeze whips over the coastline of the Lorneville breakwater as Lauren Verner, Nature NB’s Conservation Assistant, makes her way along the shoreline on the lookout for birds. She raises her binoculars to her eyes and slowly scans the deep blue waters. A common merganser dips below the surface of the water, startled by the sudden appearance of the lone figure watching. She waits patiently for the bird to resurface, then quickly jots down the species information on her clipboard. This is her first stop of the day as she collects data for the Port of Saint John Waterbird Survey.
The Port of Saint John waterbird survey is a project that Nature NB began in 2019. The project works to collect data on coastal birds in the Saint John area. This data helps monitor trends in bird populations, and produces data that can be used by researchers, planners, and other agencies for purposes like oil spill preparedness. Since its conception in 2019, the project has shifted to a volunteer-based citizen science project, where volunteers from the Saint John area help contribute to the project.
“One of the more memorable moments this season was seeing a harbour seal at one of the Lorneville sites,” says Lauren. “The seal arrived pretty early on during my survey, and swam around poking its head in and out of the water throughout the entire survey. At one point, the seal even took note of my presence and stared at me curiously before disappearing beneath the dark water. I’ve only seen seals a handful of times in my life, and every time truly is magical.”
“Some other highlights for me were watching a Bald Eagle hunt, and seeing Buffleheads for the first time!”
Coastal habitats including shorelines, coastal waters and marshlands all act as important habitats for birds. Sea ducks, shorebirds and marshland birds can all be found frequenting these habitats year round, using these areas to rest, feed and nest depending on the season. At risk birds like the Bald Eagle can be found along our shorelines, and noting their presence is especially important for oil spill preparedness. It is our hope that this project can work towards building an up to date dataset for birds in the Saint John area, so conservation and oil spill response efforts can be focused on target species and habitats.
— Lauren Verner, Conservation Assistant