Johnson's Mills

New Brunswick

Situated just south of Moncton and nestled along the rolling coastline of the Bay of Fundy, Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve is a part of one of the most biologically productive and vulnerable ecosystems in the world. This majestic coastal region is a significant refuge for massive flocks of shorebirds. Every year approximately two million birds stop to rest and feed in the Upper Bay of Fundy to build energy reserves for their incredible non-stop migration to South America.

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Land

We need to be able to pass this on to others and they should experience it just as we experienced it today, a hundred years from now.”
- Joseph Kotlar (NCC Stewardship Staff)
map of the Johnson's Mills region

Johnson's Mills, New Brunswick

45° 49’ 55" N

64° 30’ 36" W

The Region

Johnson’s Mills is one of the world’s most important ecological landscapes. Thriving ecosystems make it the perfect home for one of nature's great migratory spectacles. The extensive mudflats of the Upper Bay of Fundy, where Johnson’s Mills is located, are unique in North America for their size and for the abundance of mudshrimp that migrating shorebirds feed on, making it an ideal accommodation for a little ‘R & R.’

472
Acres Forever Protected

Coastline

With the highest tides in the world, the thriving ecological landscape of the Bay of Fundy is home to unique and rich ecosystems. Acadian forests, coastal salt marshes, and tidal mudflats distinguish the Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve.

-5°C / 17°C

Johnson’s Mills is characterized by moderate winters with temperatures of -4.7°C to 2.5°C. Summer highs reach approximately 17°C.

122.6 mm

The highest levels of precipitation in Johnson’s Mills happen in May and October with 115.9 mm and 122.6 mm, respectively.

300 m

Johnson’s Mills’ rolling coastline ranges from sea level along its beaches, to elevations as high as 300 metres along its coastal cliffs.

Life

Everything is interconnected, so if we use up all our resources, if we take up all the land and there’s no place for plants and animals, we end up suffering too.”
- Sophie Essiambre (Conservation Coordinator)

Wildlife

Johnson’s Mills is a host to a wide variety of wildlife. The tidal mudflats provide a crucial source of nutrients for migrating shorebirds while the forest and wetlands provide refuge for amphibians, mammals and songbirds.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

  • Every year, the semipalmated sandpiper embarks on a brave, non-stop flight from the Arctic to South America. Their habitat along the shorelines of the Upper Bay of Fundy can be affected by human disturbances, which prevents them from getting the rest they need to complete their rigorous journey.

  • 15-18 cm Commonly known as ‘peeps,’ the semipalmated sandpiper measures 15–18 centimetres in length, and weighs between 40-60 grams.

  • Their diet largely consists of tiny crustaceans. During low tides in the mudflats, mudshrimp are plentiful.

  • Every summer, the semipalmated sandpiper migrates 4300km from their breeding grounds in the Arctic back to South America, all in the name of love. In order to successfully complete their pilgrimage, they rely on the shores of the Johnson’s Mills to help restore their energy.

  • The semipalmated sandpiper population has recently been in decline due to human disturbances. Urban developments like road construction are detrimental to their habitat.

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Black-Bellied Plover

Black-Bellied Plover

  • While they are the largest plovers in North America, black-bellied plovers are still wary of predators, even when at a long distance away. Known as the international bodyguard, the black-bellied plover is quick to give warning calls to other migrating shorebirds who feed in large flocks along open mudflats.

  • 28-29 cm The black-bellied plover measures 28–29 centimetres in length and weighs between 160–277 grams.

  • Their diet consists mainly of insects, larvae, spiders, mites, worms, and snails.

  • Nests are burrowed in the ground and are often lined with pebbles, twigs, or leaves.

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Black-Capped Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee

  • The black-capped chickadee has the memory of an elephant and is about 100 times smaller. The black-capped chickadee is able to remember thousands of its hiding places, storing its seeds and other food items for later.

  • 12-15 cm The black-capped chickadee is 12–15 centimetres in length and weighs between 9–14 grams.

  • Seeds, berries, and other plant matter, as well as insects and spiders, make up their diet.

  • They most often make their homes in natural tree holes, lining them with rabbit fur.

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Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

  • As suggested by their name, ruddy turnstones spend most of their time rummaging through stones, as well as twigs and seaweed along the coast in a constant search for food. Instead of the common courtship dance, males will impress females with their crafty nest building, creating a cozy bed by making a depression in the ground.

  • 24 cm The ruddy turnstone measures approximately 24 centimetres in length and weighs between 84-190 grams.

  • Their diet mainly consists of tiny insects, the occasional mudshrimp found in the mudflats, and even garbage during low tides.

  • Low-lying nests are scraped together with the use of their uniquely shaped bill. Although the male will build nest-scrapes to court a female before any eggs are laid, this initial nest is only for show, as no eggs are ever laid in it.

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Mudshrimp

Mudshrimp

  • The Bay of Fundy’s tidal flats provide ideal conditions for mudshrimp – the most important food source for the semipalmated sandpiper. In a given year, over 80% of the world’s population of semipalmated sandpipers stop to feed on these tiny crustaceans found on the bay’s tidal flats. Mudshrimp can be found in densities as high as 60,000 per square metre.

  • 12 mm When first hatched, the mudshrimp will measure about 1mm in length. The largest reported full-grown mudshrimp in the Bay of Fundy was 12mm, excluding the long antennae.

  • Their diet consists of either particles lying on the seafloor or particles suspended in the water. To feed, they emerge from their burrow and use their large antennae as a rake to pull the particles toward them.

  • Nestled beneath the mudflats, mudshrimp burrow their way down anywhere between 7 and 15 centimetres. The walls of the tiny U-shaped burrows are made from compacted sediment particles bound together with self-secreted adhesive.

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Plant Life

The sediment-rich waters and enormous tides of the Bay of Fundy make it one of the world’s richest marine environments. The thriving ecosystem of Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve includes rich coastal salt marshes, cobble beaches and a diverse forest.

Saltwater Cordgrass

Saltwater Cordgrass

  • 1-1.5 m Saltwater cordgrass may be submerged at high tide and can grow between 1-1.5 metres tall.

  • Saltwater cordgrass is the most productive of the marsh grasses and its decomposition releases nutrients that contribute to the health of the salt marsh. It also protects coastlines against flooding and erosion.

  • Construction of roads and the filling of coastal salt marshes can alter the flow of tidal waters, which can introduce invasive species that disrupt the local ecology.

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Red Spruce

Red Spruce

  • 30 m This beautiful coniferous tree can grow up to 30 metres in height.

  • 400 yrs The iconic red spruce can live for an astonishing 400 years.

  • Its seeds and buds are a popular food source among birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents.

  • In parts of North America, red spruce was the main source for spruce gum during the 19th and 20th centuries.

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American Sea-Rocket

American Sea-Rocket

  • 50 cm Recognized for its ‘rocket-like’ seedpods and small purple flowers, this wildflower can grow up to 50 centimeters in height.

  • The American sea-rocket is one of the first plants to grow each year along the sandy beaches, and is able to survive above the high tide until the winter storm waves wash it away.

  • Its stems and small purple flowers are a popular food source for a variety of species.

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Beach Pea

Beach Pea

  • 0.5 m Native to sandy and gravelly beaches, the beach pea can grow up to approximately 0.5 metres. Its deep roots are crucial in holding coastal beaches and dunes together.

  • With seeds that can float down water during the fall, the beach pea’s beautiful purple blossoms can be seen throughout the coastline for most of the summer season.

  • Beautiful but deadly. The seeds of the beach pea hold a unique type of amino acid that can cause paralysis.

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Mountain Holly

Mountain Holly

  • 3 m Mountain holly is most often found growing in dense colonies in wet woodland landscapes. This multi-stemmed shrub with slender, twisted branches grows to about 3 metres tall and half as wide.

  • In the summer the leaves are blue-green with bright red, solitary berries and in the fall, the foliage transitions to a lemon-yellow colour.

  • The berries of mountain holly do not survive through the winter, but are eaten by migrating songbirds in autumn. Mountain holly is an important native food source that ensures that birds passing through have enough energy to complete their long flights.

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Preservation

There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.”
- Linda Hogan, Writer

The Shorebird Initiative

With the help of Toshiba and the Land Information System, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is able to identify threats, reverse dangers, and record crucial discoveries. ‘The Shorebird Initiative’ is one of the many ways Johnson’s Mills is being protected.

Threat

Threat

Coastal development has been the greatest regional threat to the millions of migrating shorebirds that visit Johnson’s Mills each year. Human disturbances cause skittish shorebirds to fly off and waste their limited energy required for migrating across the globe successfully.

Action

Since 1994, the NCC has protected a 472-acre buffer zone around the shorebird roosting beaches at Johnson’s Mills. The Johnson’s Mills Shorebird Reserve and Interpretive Centre is dedicated to monitoring and minimizing disturbances, all the while promoting conservation efforts, and educating visitors about the sensitivity of the shorebirds and their habitat.

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