Miscou Island is located off the tip of northeastern New Brunswick, between the Baie des Chaleurs (to west) and the Gulf of St. Lawrence (to east). The island is approximately 18 by 7 km in dimension, with the coastline being characterized by a series of sandy coastal beaches and enclosed lagoons. The main beaches include: Grande Plaine, Lac Frye, Miscou Beach, Middle Miscou Beach, Wilson Point Beach North, Wilson Point Beach South and the Pigeon Hill Sandspit. Most of the islands interior is comprised of raised peat bogs and stunted forests. Three small settlements are located on the island.
On the Miscou Island Beaches, 17 Piping Plovers were recorded in 1991, representing 3.3% of the Atlantic Canada population (509 birds). In 1996, the Atlantic Canada Piping Plover population was estimated to be 422, of which 22 (5.2%) were recorded on the beaches of Miscou Island. Over the last ten years, the main Piping Plover nesting areas on the Island have been Grande Plaine, Lac Frye and Wilson Point North. Nesting also occurs on the islands other beaches, and given the proximity of these beaches and the tendency for Piping Plovers to shift nesting areas depending on local conditions, all should be considered significant.
Relatively large numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl also use the beaches and lagoons on Miscou Island during the fall migration. About 1% of the Atlantic Flyway population of American Black Ducks has been recorded in the lagoons, and at least five species of shorebirds have been recorded in large numbers: Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Red Knot, Least Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper. Northern Gannets are also known to feed off the northern regions of the island in large numbers (up to 1000).
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
Miscou Island was recently (1995) connected by bridge to Lameque Island (which is linked to the mainland). In addition to opening up the island for potential peat moss extraction, the increased accessibility of the island has created the potential for higher levels of recreational beach use. In particular, the usage of all-terrain vehicles on the beaches has increased in recent years. All-terrain vehicles have the potential to disturb nesting Piping Plovers, which may lead to nest abandonment and lower productivity. Regulations prohibiting off-road vehicles on the beaches are rarely enforced. Camping, is extensive on Miscou Island and it negatively effects Piping Plover habitat and nests. Many nests have been inadvertently destroyed by the efforts of some to clean the beaches of washed up vegetative matter and other debris so that campers and tourists can enjoy smooth sandy beaches.
The Piper Project is a special project of the New Brunswick Federation of Naturalists. Its objectives are to protect and educate the public about coastal ecosystems, especially Piping Plover habitat. For over a decade, Project Piper has been completing annual Piping Plover surveys at this site. These surveys have led to the identification of Grande Plaine as a Core Site in the New Brunswick Piping Plover Atlas. Core Sites are those areas that must be protected to ensure the survival and recovery of the Piping Plover in New Brunswick.