The Nature Conservancy of Canada received a gift of two parcels of land for conservation along the Pugwash Estuary. The land is located on the eastern arm of the estuary, at Docherty’s Brook. Mike Dembeck photo

More land in Pugwash has been added to the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s pool.

The organization was gifted two properties totalling 49 hectares, or 122 acres, from Matthew Currie, an American living in Vermont.

“This is another achievement in the vision of acquisition and protection,” said Craig Smith, the NCC’s Nova Scotia program director.

The land is located on the eastern arm of the Pugwash Estuary, at Docherty’s Brook.

“It’s home to saltmarshes and intertidal mud flats, which make for good habitat for shorebirds,” Smith said.

With the donation, the Pugwash Estuary Nature Reserve has been expanded to 504 hectares (1,245 acres), which is one of the largest in Nova Scotia and one of the few remaining undeveloped river estuaries on the North Shore.

Because the land owner lives in the U.S., Smith said the donation was a few years in the making. It was originally donated to the American Friends of Canadian Nature, which in turn gifted it to the NCC.

“There is still some land in that area we’re hoping to add to our conservation efforts,” said Smith. “There are about six to 12 land parcels we would still like to acquire.”

Smith said the focus of the organization is conservation of land, and they are quite active in that aspect.

“We’ve had some particularly good couple of years up here,” he said, referring to other recent donations, including more than 900 hectares in the Cobequid Highlands.

“Land acquisition is one major piece for us, and other is then taking care of the land,” said Smith, adding there’s planning involved with the land, including science and determining areas of importance.

In the Pugwash area, the NCC has a well-working relationship with the Friends of the Pugwash Estuary, as well as other individuals.

“We’ve collaborated with the Friends of the Pugwash Estuary for years and we know they will be our eyes and ears on the land,” said Smith.

There is also a couple from Halifax that has participated in the NCC’s steward program, and they are also relied upon for upkeep in the area.

The NCC staff also does formal monitoring on an annual basis and keeps a management plan looking at the state of the properties, and monitoring land use, among other things.

Along with shorebirds, the newly acquired property provides habitat to black bear, deer, porcupine, snowshoe hare, skunk, fox, and coyote, as well as other species of birds.

The Pugwash Estuary is a critical stopover site for more than two dozen species of migratory shorebirds such as greater yellowlegs, spotted sandpiper, and willet. Its extensive salt marshes, beaches and mudflats provide habitat for American black duck, green-winged teal, and Canada goose and Great blue heron. Eastern wood-pewee, a species listed as special concern under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, is also found in the area.

Breeding songbirds are also found in the area, such as common yellowthroat, chestnut-sided warbler, American redstart, rose-breasted grosbeak, ruffed grouse, yellow-bellied sapsucker, yellow-rumped warbler, black and white warbler, oven bird, red-breasted nuthatch, ruby-crowned kinglet, and pileated woodpecker.

The reserve is a popular destination for nature lovers and birders. Hiking trails are maintained in cooperation with the Friends of the Pugwash Estuary.

For more information on the Pugwash Estuary, visit http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/nova-scotia/featured-projects/pugwash_estuary.html.