Saturday, March 30, 2013

Recognizing the Value of Nature's Wonders

The Ecological Reserves at Witless Bay and Cape St. Mary's and Baccalieu Island are natural treasures on Newfoundland and Labrador's Avalon Peninsula. They're linked in more than geography, though; they're all under the oversight of the Parks and Natural Areas Division, Department of Environment and Conservation and they're very precious places indeed. They serve as nesting areas for a number of seabird species and among them they contain the world's largest and second-largest Leach's storm petrel breeding colonies along with North America's largest Atlantic puffin colony, and North America's most accessible northern gannet nesting area. Cape St. Mary's is the nesting site for roughly 70,000 nesting pairs of birds, the Witless Bay Reserve houses 620,000 pairs of Leach's storm petrels and 260,000 pairs of Atlantic puffins, while Baccalieu Island hosts an incredible 3,360,000 pairs of these petrels along with a diverse range of other seabirds.

These birds aren't here just for the scenery, although it's admittedly beautiful. They're here because the islands and coastal cliffs are composed of a variety of nesting options from earth for digging burrows to narrow rocky ledges. Their fecundity is immense; 3.36 million pairs of Leach's storm petrels, or over 6.7 million individual birds, at roughly 13 oz. (380 grams) per bird adds up to nearly 5.5 million pounds of petrels. That's not counting the year's hatch of nestlings! The nesting areas are situated near immediate sources of food, ranging from plankton and krill to massive schools of caplin; it takes a vast quantity of marine life to sustain this population, and the nesting season is linked to the arrival of these vital food sources; it's all part of the intricate balance of seabird life.

These reserves are special places that truly are among the world's wonders. They deserve protection, preservation, and recognition.

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