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Sandpipers return to Johnson's Mills

Semipalmated sandpipers have returned to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Interpretive Centre.
Semipalmated sandpipers have returned to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Interpretive Centre.

JOHNSON’S MILLS, N.B. – Semipalmated sandpipers have started returning to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’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 three 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 semi-palmated sandpiper population can be seen in the upper Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy is a critical global stopover site for semi-palmated 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 1970’s, 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.

Nature Conservancy of Canada 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 the high tide to two hours after the 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.

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