Action: Enhance Wildlife Habitats

Within our municipal boundaries many animal and bird species compete with us for habitat. We can help these species to find ideal habitat by using enhancement techniques and structures such as Nest boxes, nesting platforms, and bird blinds. If  you are interested in any of the projects below contact samcontactus@gmail.com for more information. 

Check out the resources for your next municipal stewardship project!

Waterfowl Nest Boxes

Cavity nesting ducks such as Common Goldeneye and Common Merganser use abandoned woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities caused by disease, fire or lightning. In the absence of these natural cavities, they will also use constructed nest boxes. These shelters need to be installed and placed correctly to increase the success of nest box usage. 

Common Goldeneye,  
(Image DUC)

How To become a DUC Nest Box Steward

  1. The cavity nest box program in NL is coordinated by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC).

    Email the provincial Conservation Programs Specialist to express interest in becoming a Nest Box Steward or starting a program in your community

     

  2. Organize a nest box building or installation workshop in your community. Contact DUC for information on sourcing supplies
     

  3. Place your boxes as recommended in the Nest Box Guide for Waterfowl 
     

  4. Fill out the DUC online nest box placement form
     

  5. Perform annual maintenance & inspection as described in the Nest Box Guide for Waterfowl
     

  6. Fill out the online nest box inspection form.
     

  7. Sign up for the DUC NL Nest Box Newsletter to stay connected to the NL Nest Box Steward community.

Tree Swallow Boxes

Tree Swallows are a typical bird species seen across the province. Their habitat includes open grassy fields and marshy wetlands. In this habitat they can be seen chasing after flying insects as their primary food source. Tree Swallows will also supplement their insect diet with berries and sweet gale shrubs. They nest in tree cavities and will take up residence in nest boxes.

 

On the Avalon Peninsula Swallow boxes are preferred over Waterfowl nest boxes due to the low occurrence of breeding pairs of Cavity Nesting Ducks. Consider hosting a swallow box building workshop in your community!

Image from Audubon Bird Guide

1st CBS Cubs Group (SAM Image)

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Image from The Telegram

Nest Box Resources

Artificial Nesting & Loafing Structures

Many wildlife species, such as terns and waterfowl, nest and loaf on island due to the reduced risk of predation from land-based predators. Many species in wetlands benefit from the construction of artificial islands. These structures can be constructed wooden cribs (e.g. Tamarack / Larch), measuring approximately 4 m2 that have been filled with rock and soil.

 

The islands must be positioned so that they are higher than the highest water mark. Hardy shrubs and herbaceous plants (e.g. alder, willow) must be planted on the islands to provide cover and to prevent occupancy from gulls. Take care to prevent the use of toxic construction materials (e.g. treated wood, contaminated soils) and disturbance to plant and animal communities.

Other forms of artificial islands involve planting native marine plant species into landscaping fabric, which is then fixed to floating structures made of plastic piping or empty gabion baskets (metal mesh cages). This type of floating island requires careful placement in areas that do not have widely fluctuating salinity levels and require placement such that disturbance would be minimal when roots are establishing. Floating islands may be beneficial in terms of oxygenating the water column, as algal blooms would not smother the highly perched plants. The floating plants should, ideally, continue photosynthesizing despite the presence of algae, and may be of benefit in absorbing excess nutrients to deter algae growth.  Annual removal and re-installation of islands may be necessary in response to ice conditions in tidal areas.

Loafing structures and Constructed Floating Island Resources

Image from The Western Producer

Photography Blinds, Viewing Decks and Towers

Adults often enjoy using bird watching towers or blinds as well; these could be fun community building projects or completed with the help of a Green Team, committee, or volunteers. Corduroy Brook Enhancement Association in the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor has experience with these kinds of projects and would be a good contact.

Viewing Deck Winterland_Conservation Pla

Viewing Deck in Winterland, NL (SAM Image)

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Photography Blind in Lewisporte, NL  (SAM Image)

Viewing Tower in Sackville, NB (SAM Image)

Photography Blind in Grand Falls-windsor, NL (SAM Image)

There are many different styles of wildlife/bird viewing structures. It is important to keep the comfortable and accessible for everyone. Use different heights for viewing through blind walls, keep railings at a safe height for viewing towers, and keep disturbance to the environment at a minimum during construction. 

Construction Resources

Yellow Warbler,  
(Image DUC)

Osprey Nesting Platforms

Quite a number of osprey artificial nest designs have been developed for different habitats and sites. It is important to first asses your potential site/municipality. Osprey platforms work best in areas where there are a limited number of large trees for nesting, and are near a large body of water so the Osprey is able to fish. For more information about preferred Osprey nesting sites contact SAM

A platform may be mounted on a single pole (i.e. untreated telephone pole) at least five meters above the ground.  All nail and bolt holes are pre-drilled to prevent splitting.  The wire mesh is nailed in the platform.  Steel braces are bolted to the platform and the lag screws are used to secure the platform to the pole.  Some sticks should be wired to the nest to help stimulate nest building.  The use of tamarack larch or cedar is highly recommended.

 

Nesting structures should be placed within fifty (50) meters of water and at least one hundred meters from the nearest residence.  Regular inspection of the structure is necessary.  After a few years some nests become quite large because the osprey continually adds new sticks.  This weight may cause support structures to break.  If the nest does become large, it is often a good idea to remove some nest material outside of the breeding season.  With proper construction and maintenance, the nest structure may last up to fifteen to twenty years.  It is not uncommon for several years to go by without osprey use of the artificial structure.  Only an osprey can ever truly know what an osprey seeks during placement of nesting structures!

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Osprey Platform Resources

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Image from New Jersey Osprey Project
Image from Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Image from Wintu Audubon Society

Bat Monitoring

Three species of bats have been confirmed to date on the island of Newfoundland and one in Labrador. These are the Little Brown Bat, the Northern Long-eared Bat, and the Hoary Bat. The Little Brown Bat and the Northern Long-eared Bat are known to breed in the province. The Little Brown Bat is the most common on the island and is the only species known to live in Labrador. It can be a challenge to locate, observe, identify and census bats because of their nocturnal and secretive nature. When you can find them, they are likely to be flying around, zigzagging and diving in the dark of the night.

Nearly 40% of North American bat species are threatened or endangered. Around the world, many more bat populations are declining at alarming rates. In Newfoundland and Labrador, our bat populations have been affected by the White-nose Syndrome (WNS). It is caused by a fungus and was first detected in a New York cave in 2006. Mortality rates often exceed 90% in infected hibernating sites. There is no known cure of WNS. 

Bat Myth #1

Bats are Blind

Bat Myth #2

Bats Get tangled in hair

Bat Myth #3

Bats Drink Blood

Bat Conservation Resources

Wetland and Boreal Plants

In Canada there are hundreds of plants that make their home in Wetlands. Many plants have adapted to the unique challenges of surviving in the semi-aquatic habitat. In Newfoundland and Labrador, many interesting plants live in wetlands including our provincial flower, the Pitcher Plant. Wetland plants can help limit the effects of erosion, absorb and release water during times of flooding and drought, create nurseries for fish and invertebrates, and they also uptake excess chemicals and trap sediments. 

When restoring or planting around wetlands it is important not to introduce potential invasive plant species, and to plant the correct species to achieve the greatest success rate. 

Wetland Plant Resources

Dragon's Mouth Orchid

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Sundew

Common Burreed 

© 2019 by Stewardship Association of Municipalities Incorporated