4. Nerepis River Kiosk
Route 102, above intersection with Route 177
This site offers expansive views of the lower reaches of the St. John River, at a point where the majestic river sheds its placid river valley character and assumes the presence of a big water estuary flanked by steep coastal-looking hillsides. This is a unique estuary caused by the backing up of river water when the high tides of the Bay of Fundy block the narrow outlet of the river at the Reversing Falls in Saint John. The Nerepis River Marsh, one of the largest wetland complexes of the lower river, weaves its way down from Goose Creek in a ribbon-like system of channels that culminate into two main thoroughfares that empty out under the steel bridges of Route 102. Here the estuary attracts the large gliders like the Osprey and Bald Eagle, and more recently, a new resident to New Brunswick, the Turkey Vulture, or ‘TV’s’ as birders in Ontario might call them. These hunter/scavengers come because of the abundance of food. In this estuary the daily tidal influence churns up nutrients and organisms alike, setting in motion activity and biotic relationships throughout the food chains.
This life cycle of events might even benefit the colonies of Bank Swallows who flirt about chirping gleefully in search of emerging insects that the tide has pushed or the Nerepis has flushed onto the front steps of their nesting colonies.
The significant fluctuation of water levels in the Nerepis Marsh exposes large flats and shallow areas that attract waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds in impressive numbers. Great Blue Herons can be seen here nesting and roosting in its stark-looking and waterlogged clumps of dead trees within the marsh.
Downstream from the steel bridges large regiments of Greater Scaup line up waiting tensely for the signal to move upriver to occupy the breeding colonies at Grassy Island and Hog Island. Is it the last shards of ice floating by them or the message from one of the scouts that the waters have retreated and the islands are now exposed, that triggers the massive movement of these birds upriver? Nesting hens, ready to drop their precious seeds lie restless. But this is a species that is an anomaly in New Brunswick. Their breeding grounds are located almost exclusively in Northern Canada and the Canadian Arctic. Conservation efforts to protect the southernmost breeding colonies of Greater Scaup on Grassy and Hog Island have been a priority since these birds were discovered here in the mid-1980’s. Alongside the Scaup are the bachelor groups of Common Goldeneye. These birds are not part of any mass movement. They are the ever-hopefuls, who continue their patient vigil in hopes of reuniting, even for a short flight, with their mates who are now sitting devoutly on clutches of olive green eggs in tree cavities or nest boxes lovingly installed by river stewards.