What You Didn’t Know About Manawagonish Island

Image of Asma Hassan

Asma Hassan, Guest Blogger

This blog was written by guest blogger Asma Hassan. 

Manawagonish Island is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area or ‘IBA’ located just southeast of New Brunswick. The island has a rich history with regards to the species that inhabit it and the habitat it provides. The Nature Trust of New Brunswick has owned the island since 1992 when the original owners donated the land to the organization. So what is so interesting about the history of Manawagonish Island?

It is a significant research site for scientists.

Scientists have been tracking seabirds on the island since as far back as 1940. One particular area of their study is the effect of pesticides on the seabird population of the island. The Canadian Wildlife Service, scientists at the New Brunswick Museum and a dedicated bird enthusiast named William Astle have made significant contributions to this topic. In addition to their research on pesticides, they have also studied the movement patterns of seabirds such as Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants. This specific study was conducted in 1984 using a banding method to track the movement of the seabirds. The results of the study suggest that both the Great Black-backed Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants move northward into the Northumberland Strait after the breeding season. The research conducted by these researchers is available online for interested academics and fellow bird enthusiasts.Image of a Gadwall

The island has undergone significant ecological changes in the past few decades.

Once upon a time, Manawagonish Island was covered in beautiful spruce and fir trees, but changes in vegetation led to a significant decline in these trees. In order to create a hospitable environment for the island’s avian inhabitants, the Nature Trust actually constructed poles to substitute as trees for the purpose of nesting in 2007.

There have been substantial changes in the island’s sea bird population.

In 1948, two pairs of Great Blue Herons were recorded on Manawagonish Island and by 1979 there were at least 44 active nests. The number of Gadwall birds in Manawagonish Island has also been increasing since the early 1900s, though the population is still very small. The really interesting thing here is that the island was not even a known nesting place for Gadwall until the 1930s. Reports prepared by Astle and Donald McAlpine of the New Brunswick Museum also indicate a large increase in Great Black-backed Gulls since 1940.

Manawagonish Island has a long history of providing a haven to the birds that have made the island their home. Though people are permitted to visit the island, they should take all necessary precautions so as not to disturb this sanctuary. It is an area that Nature Canada wants to see designated as a National Wildlife Area to provide federal protection to all species and habitats on the island. You can also learn about other proposed protected areas here.

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