Never a dull day working in conservation in Maritimes

Siobhan Darlington

As a Haligonian (a person from Halifax, Nova Scotia) I’ve had little experience with the province of New

Brunswick. I’ve driven through with my family, and I’ve camped at Kouchibouguac National Park with friends, but that’s about it. I now work at the NCC office in Fredericton, NB, but I’m not always at my desk. With NCC, I have been able to travel to several New Brunswick protected areas so far, including the Musquash, Escuminac, and New Horton Nature Reserves.

In Musquash, our field team visited Black Beach which holds up to its name with graphite sand and cliffs where we hiked the 4 km loop trail to look for areas needing maintenance. We then visited the Five

Fathom Hole trail in Musquash which is a five kilometre linear trail along the Musquash River and estuary, where 86 percent of the coastline is protected by NCC and other conservation groups. This trail was very rustic and provided many lookout points over the river and estuary where you could see red spruce and fir trees all around the coastline. As a novice birder, I relied on my fellow interns to help me identify birds by sight and sound. During the first CV event of the season, Musquash Trailblazers, I was able to hike the trail again, only this time I shared the experience with local volunteers, showing them what NCC has protected.

On our way to Escuminac to scout, we stopped in Miramichi and Kouchibouguac to promote our next event Escuminac Bioblitz & Clean-Up. I never realized how many rivers there are in New Brunswick until now; the landscape is surprisingly different from Nova Scotia. Finally, I arrived in Escuminac and walked the south beach with my fellow interns to monitor NCC properties. This area has peat cliffs that are over 10 feet tall and 9,000 years old at the edges of the coastal bog. Within these peat cliffs, we saw hundreds of little holes along the top layers which are created by bank swallows for nesting. As we walked along, these swallows would fly out of the holes behind us and fly in pairs over our heads. From the lighthouse at the point, we could see peat cliffs on the beaches at either side, and see out into the Northumberland Straight. During this CV event, our volunteers helped us collect marine debris from the beaches, and we were fortunate enough to have an expert zoologist show us how to catch and identify butterflies in the bogs and fields that I had come to know.

A few weeks later, we drove up to the New Horton Nature Reserve; a trip which took us through the beautiful Fundy National Park and town of Alma where there are massive hills and views of the Bay of Fundy. We hosted the CV event New Horton Trailblazers and trimmed back sections of the trail that were overgrown down to a small and pristine beach where we collected a few bags of garbage. The tide was in and Tom’s island was surrounded by water, a small but very tall island with vegetation that seems strangely out of place. Despite the blood-thirsty mosquitoes eating my arms and legs the entire time, this may have been my favourite spot to date.

My most recent trip with NCC was to the five Murray Harbour islands in Prince Edward Island where we hosted the CV event Murray Harbour Kayak & Clean-Up. Here, NCC has helped to preserve Reynolds

Island, and is currently working to protect Thomas Island. We had a great turn out for this event, with 22 volunteers participating in kayaks to clean-up marine debris. Some of my family members are islanders so I visit PEI every summer, though I’d never been to Murray Harbour before. Kayaking out from this little beach out into the ocean to Thomas Island was exhilarating for a nature-lover. There were thousands of jellyfish on the red sands, cormorants feeding off the water, juvenile bald eagles and osprey soaring, and curious harbour seals poking out of the water now and again. Together, we collected around one ton of marine debris off the islands which was a very satisfying and rewarding experience.

Siobhan Darlington worked as a Conservation Volunteer (CV) Program intern NB-PEI for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in 2014