Spot the shorebirds at Johnson’s Mills

Viewers can watch thousands of shorebirds resting at the Bay of Fundy on their migratory journey. 

Each summer, tens of thousands of shorebirds descend on the muddy flats of the Upper Bay of Fundy to gorge on mud shrimp and gain the energy they’ll need to fly 3,000 kilometres to South America where they winter.

“It’s one of the only spots in the world where you can see so many birds in one area,” says Kerry Lee Morris-Cormier, manager of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Shorebird Interpretive Centre at Johnson’s Mills, New Brunswick. “On one day in late July, we counted 145,000 birds, and it’s not uncommon to see 50,000 birds flying in unison or resting on the beach. It’s an awe-inspiring sight.”

Thanks to a live cam connected to the TELUS LTE network, this remarkable experience is now available to anyone with an Internet connection.

This summer, NCC installed a live cam to record the annual migration of the shorebirds that fly from their breeding grounds in the sub-Arctic to the feeding grounds of Johnson’s Mills, where they eat and rest before continuing south. More than 30 per cent of the world’s semipalmated sandpipers stop off in the area each year.

Given the site’s remote location, installing the technology posed some unique challenges.

“Like many of our properties, Johnson’s Mills is in an area that’s hard to get to and where cellphone coverage can be problematic,” says Aaron Bilyea, national director of marketing at NCC. “We therefore needed a solar-powered camera, and we worked with a local partner to make sure the camera gets adequate sunshine and offers a good view of the birds. We’re streaming the live cam footage over the TELUS network to share the migration of these shorebirds with those who can’t make the journey to the NCC interpretive centre in this remote area.”

Morris-Cormier says that the birds typically rest at the site for three weeks, eating enough mud shrimp to double their weight before their southern journey. “The birds rest onshore at high tide, and if they’re disturbed by people or predators, they expend a lot of energy and ultimately may not be able to make a successful flight south,” she says. “That’s why the Johnson’s Mills property is so important for the birds’ survival. We have 560 acres (226 hectares) of protected coastal land, and NCC staff monitor 4.5 kilometres of the coastline.”

With the live camera in place, nature enthusiasts can now unobtrusively watch the massive flocks of birds – making it easier for the birds to conserve their energy and gain the weight they’ll need to fuel their journey. Live cameras are increasingly popular as a non-intrusive way for people to connect with nature and witness animal events and behaviour that would otherwise be difficult to access due to geographic location and other factors.

When the birds move on, NCC will move the camera to document other species at various properties across the country. “The live cam is a great way for people to witness incredible things like the shorebird migration and to better understand the importance of the work NCC does to protect areas of crucial habitat for so many species,” says Bilyea.

Watch the birds on NCC’s live cam.

Please note, the ideal time to spot the birds is two hours before and two hours after high tide. See the tide table (times in AT) →