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5 Questions with Ashley Brown

A surf scoter, one of the coolest birds Ashley has seen when surveying
A surf scoter, one of the coolest birds Ashley has seen when surveying

Nature NB has been working with local birders to survey waterbirds in the Port of Saint John region since 2019. The goal of this work is to learn more about the various waterbirds in the area and to inform oil spill preparedness, environmental impact assessment, etc. In 2021, we began transitioning to volunteer community scientist monitoring and these passionate volunteers have been essential to keeping the project going. One of our dedicated volunteers is Ashley Brown.

Ashley initially got involved with bird surveying in 2021 while volunteering with our shorebird fall migration project in Saint Martins. After the project finished, she immediately started looking for other ways to get involved with bird surveying.

We asked Ashley a few questions about her experience volunteering with the Port of Saint John waterbird survey. This is what she had to say:

What is your favourite part about volunteering with the Port of Saint John waterbird survey?

What I love about volunteering for the Port of Saint John Waterbird Survey is that I am able to apply previously acquired skills and learn new ones, while contributing to various conservation projects and initiatives. My favourite part about volunteering is getting to see so many different species of waterbirds throughout the entire year. The influence of breeding seasons on plumage and the spring and fall migrations make each time you survey unique.

What are the new skills you learned while volunteering?

A new skill I’ve learned along the way is how to identify certain species of birds while in flight. Being able to look at their flying profile, the speed of their wing beat, whether they are in large groups, and flight pattern compared to other species in the area has made [it so much easier] to correctly identify birds when they are far away.

When were you first interested in birds?

I have always been interested in birds, but what really got me into birding was being gifted my first pair of binoculars, which let me see every little detail. Then it was this little puzzle of colour clues to figure out what bird it was.

Have you had any notable experiences while volunteering?

The most notable experience for me while volunteering was during the winter survey period. Towards the end of the survey, a female Bufflehead came to rest on the beach close enough to me that I could see her without binoculars. It’s cliche but they’re just so small and cute. I loved being able to watch her in her natural environment.

Did you face any challenges during your surveying experience?

One of the challenges I experience while doing this survey is being able to get the right weather and sea conditions on the days that I want to survey. I think I have 7 apps on my phone now just to help me plan ahead. The other challenge I have is identifying Gull species while they’re in flight. Now I always bring my camera with a 500mm lens to quickly snap a few photos of the birds if I can’t pick out any distinguishable features.


If you are interested in helping out with the Port of Saint John Waterbird survey, we are always looking for more volunteers!

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