Shepody Bay is a large tidal embayment at the western head of the Bay of Fundy. It, along with the rest of the Bay of Fundy, has the highest tides in the world (up to 16 m). It contains vast areas of intertidal mud flats such as Daniels Flats, which extend up to 4 km seaward. A narrow band of salt marsh, which was drained and is now used for haying, lies adjacent to the flats. Sand and gravel beaches stretch for 107 ha to the north of Marys Point, a finger of land that separates Shepody Bay and Chignecto Bay further south. To the south of Marys Point are 940 ha of intertidal mud flats, called the New Horton flats. The Shepody Bay National Wildlife Area (which includes a freshwater marsh), Daniels Flats, Marys Point and the New Horton flats are all included in this site, along with Grindstone Island, and Cape Enragé, a major headland to the south, which juts into Chignecto Bay.
The mudflats and tidal marshes at the head of the Bay of Fundy are considered one of the most important stopover sites for shorebirds in eastern North America. The availability of high densities of the birds main prey, the mud shrimp (Corophium volutator) is thought to attract between 50 to 95% of the world total of Semipalmated Sandpipers, along with many other species of shorebirds, to the Bay of Fundy as a whole (this IBA and several others).
In the Shepody Bay west section of the bay, over the six week fall migratory period, a total of 269,445 Semipalmated Sandpipers have been estimated to stopover in the area prior to completing the final leg of migration over the Atlantic Ocean to reach wintering areas in South America. This figure accounts for at least 7.7% of the total population, and is based on data from 1974 to 1983 using an improved estimation method that was reported in Canadian Field Naturalist (1993).
Numerous other species of shorebirds migrate through the Bay of Fundy, foraging on the flats. Some of the most significant species are Semipalmated Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Red Knot, Sanderling, and Least Sandpiper. Possibly 2% of the North American population of Semipalmated Plovers are seen in the Shepody Bay West section. Many White-rumped Sandpipers and Dunlin are also present. A count of 1,208 Black-bellied Plovers approaches global significance.
On Grindstone Island, there are colonies of breeding Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and a few Common Eiders. Cape Enrage is becoming known as an excellent site to view migrating raptors and seabirds. A pair of Peregrine Falcons (most likely of the nationally threatened ssp. anatum) were recorded breeding on the coastal cliffs in the 1990s.
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
The Shepody Bay and Marys Point area was the first site in Canada to be declared a Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve, under the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) in 1987. These areas were separately designated as Ramsar sites and Wetlands of International Importance in 1987 and 1982, respectively. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is securing land at New Horton and has already protected 69 acres.
Approximately 107 ha of Marys Point has been designated part of the Shepody National Wildlife Area, This part is under a management plan, which includes a no-hunting regulation. Interpretation focussed on the staging shorebirds at Marys Point has been ongoing since 1980. However, if the growing number of visitors viewing the roosting flocks are left uncontrolled, significant disturbance to the staging shorebirds could occur.
The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife
International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Bird Studies Canada and Nature Canada.