240

This is my first reported estimate of shorebirds.

Of course, I’ve counted before; take a finger and number off how many individual Whimbrels are picking through the mud, take note of the two Yellowlegs just hanging out in between the flock, and you’re good. But estimates? That’s a different ball game.

For all of my fellow biologists in training, to estimate the number of shorebirds in a flock of hundreds to thousands of birds is like trying to figure out how many jelly beans are in the jar at the county fair. Except imagine that these jelly beans are injected with AAA Energizer batteries and pixie stix sugar. Peeps are incredibly energetic, they use their speed to jump on and snap up invertebrates in the top layers of the mud. Another challenge: these jelly beans don’t have many conspicuous differences in color; it can be extremely difficult to tell what “flavor” one bean is from another. Furthermore, it’s as though the bird knows that you’re desperately searching that field mark, teases you by staying still long enough for you to set up the scope, zoom in on it, and as soon as your finger brushes the focus, the sucker moves. At first, I laughed, recognizing the need to be quicker, but the game soon proves tiresome. I’m going to need an energy bar to keep up, because these peeps just keep going, and going, and going…

Nature can be a great source of energy, though. During this count, I may have redone my estimate about six times, a process that consisted of sitting on a wet rock for an hour while the cold rain and wind consistently slapped me in the face. Yes, this sounds miserable, but to be honest, these are details I’m only remembering now that I’m writing about it. While I was out there, I didn’t even notice the crummy weather; I was so excited to FINALLY be estimating shorebirds, the 102-yr earthquake and tsunami 2-punch combo expected to hit the Oregon coast could have KO’d me and chances are I’d still be trying to estimate what I saw.

I suppose this is the same elusive fountain of stamina that fueled the kids I worked with yesterday. As part of my work with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, I get to assist in education programs about shorebirds. This week are their yearly field trips, a two-hour window where school buses unleash swaths of eager children upon the mudflats of Hatfield. I love working with these kids; because they’ve been learning about shorebirds all semester, by the time they come visit us in the field they’re incredibly anxious to see these birds out in the open. This heartiness speaks to my own ball of frustration and zeal for finding the shorebirds on my surveys, so seeing it in the children makes me smile. They truly are biologists, curious about the world and excited to discover it.

Yesterday, however, bless these children’s hearts: Hatfield got swamped by a torrential rainstorm, with wind gusts as high as 40 mph. Did these kids get let down by it? Not at all! There was no wind or amount of hail that could stop these little guys from running into the mud, digging for invertebrates, and darting along the estuary paths in their mission to see shorebirds. In fact, one kid, shivering under a shelter, looked up at me with a big toothy smile, and proudly exclaimed, “Lu, you know normally I’m an indoors person, but I could stay out here for hours! I might need a tent, though, but anyways–I could be here all day long!”

Simply, adorable.

Well, that’s all, folks! For now.

Bird on.

Earth Day & International Migratory Bird Day

How are you celebrating Earth Day?  Millions of people around the country and world today are celebrating our planet by simply appreciating nature by going outside or recycling.  We here in the Environment for the Americas office (along with all the interns across the country), celebrate Earth Day by our continued efforts to increase bird conservation and awareness….International Migratory Bird Day is officially less than a month away (however, just like Earth Day, Bird Day can be celebrated every day)!

INMD Steel Drum Poster 18X24 R5INMD Steel Drum Poster 18X24 R5

I feel the 2014 International Migratory Bird Day theme of “Why Birds Matter” is very important to the overall idea of Earth Day: by appreciating and conserving birds, the environment is in turn conserved.  The featured species of International Migratory Bird Day 2014 highlight all the amazing and crucial roles that birds play in our world.  Can you imagine our world without birds!?  They are pollinators, scavengers, small mammal predators, seed dispersers, insect controllers, environmental indicators, and inspiration for the arts.

If you haven’t gotten to know the 2014 featured species, go to:

http://www.birdday.org/birdday/themes/2014-role-of-birds/featured-species

Click here for 20 ways to help conserve birds:

http://www.birdday.org/2012materials/20WaystoConserveBirds.pdf

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children -Native American Proverb

 

Spring in Alaska

I have never lived in a place that allowed me to experience seasons like I am in Alaska. My environment is constantly changing. I witnessed winter, and now it really feels like spring is here! The grass and flowers are beginning to emerge; everything is slowly becoming green as the white snow melts in Cordova. The change in season makes it official; THE SHOREBIRDS WILL BE ARRIVING SOON!

I’m looking forward to the shorebird festival and all the amazing activities and surveys that coincide with the arrival of my shorebird friends. This week I networked with an artist from Argentina who was kind enough to create an illustration for the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival. Aleteos is her trademark, she is also involved in Argentina’s shorebird festival and their international illustration contest. Here in Cordova, I am working on finding a place to display 25 of the illustrations that were displayed in Argentina’s festival. Collaborating with Rocio and Festival de Bahía San Antonio in Argentina makes this year’s illustration contest theme really relevant – this year’s theme was: “Inspiring Flights. Connecting Skies.” It’s amazing the way shorebirds inspire us by their resilience, traveling far distances throughout the various flyways, and the way they connects people around the world.

Soon after the shorebird festival, the field seasons will begin here in the Cordova Ranger District. In the wildlife department of the Forest Service we are continuing to prepare for the field season. We are taking inventory of our gear- knowing what we have and what needs to be repaired or replaced is essential for our safety and success out in the field. We have a lot of big projects lined up, and I am excited to write about them as the dates get closer. Till then, stay tuned for lots of pictures and my wildlife adventures!

Out on the boat with co-workers. We saw humpback whales, herring, bald eagles, steller's sea lions, porpoises, black oystercatchers, harlequin ducks and MORE!

Out on the boat with some of my co-workers (I’m in the bright teal jacket). We saw humpback whales, herring, bald eagles, steller’s sea lions, porpoises, black oystercatchers, harlequin ducks and MORE!

Spring Clean-Up At Elkhorn

This weekend on April 19th I participated in a spring clean-up around the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. While it was not at the reserve itself, it was a community clean-up co-sponsored by the Elkhorn Slough Reserve and the Elkhorn Slough Foundation. Volunteers from both nearby and faraway places showed up for this event.

The morning started with a quick set-up of pamphlets and snacks and beverages. Soon after people starting arriving.  One of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve’s scientific aides, Alina, and myself were helping volunteers with signing in and other general questions they had. After signing-in the volunteers were free to grab brightly colored safety vests, plenty of trash bags, and gloves.

After an introductory safety talk the volunteers were free to go to the surrounding neighborhood site that they desired. The first site I began to clean-up was the road that the reserve lies on, Elkhorn Road. I was surprised by the amount of trash located at the site since from a car’s view it looks almost spotless. Because of the recent rain we’ve had here in the Monterey Bay area, the vegetation along the road has grown quite a bit, so it was hard sifting through the tall grass in order to find pieces of trash.

The trash objects I most frequently encountered were 40 oz beer bottles and cigarette boxes. It was pretty scary finding out that people drink while driving down the roads surrounding Elkhorn Road because they are very twisty and windy.

I tried picking up as many small pieces of trash as I could in order to prevent any of the birds that are migrating through the area from confusing the trash for food. While I was out on the roads I also tried to look out for any birds to sharpen my identification skills!  I hope that this clean-up made a difference, and I’m sure it did considering the large numbers of bags of trash and recyclables that we were able to fill up.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shorebird Migration In full Swing

More and more shorebirds are arriving by large numbers to the Elkhorn Slough Reserve and to a couple other of our survey locations. Jerry Road is one of my favorites because its where we are able to see a bigger diversity of shorebirds from Black-bellied Plovers to Whimbrels. This week my fellow survey partner and I had a special opportunity to meet with Carleton–he is an avian ecologist with Point Blue Conservation Science. We had the chance to survey Snowy Plover nests and Karina was able to locate one all by herself as we were walking on a gravel path. Snowy Plovers like to nest on gravel paths because their eggs resemble that of a Snowy Plovers egg which helps it camouflage from predators. Also this last Wednesday Karina and I attended a community outreach event that took place at my local gym in Salinas, CA called ‘In’Shape’.  We took this opportunity to reach out to the public about the Elkhorn Slough Reserve and briefly discussed what Environment For The Americas is. Some of the people didn’t even have an idea that the Elkhorn Slough Reserve existed so it was a really good feeling to see people exited about going to meet a new location where they can take their families to and enjoy a educational walk through the reserve.