Saying Good Bye to Dusky Camp

Saying Goodbye to Dusky Camp was not easy!

During Monitoring and Maintenance for Dusky Canada Geese Nest Islands,

we often camped for 4-6 days in the Copper River Delta.

This was Dusky Camp!


These are the weather ports and tents we called home while working in the field. I think I had some of the best sleep while at camp! I’m not sure if it was a result from the hard work during the day, or because of the rain hitting the roof of the weather port at night. Maybe a combination of both!



On our last week at camp we had a few little visitors, red-backed voles! Dan (in the photo below) was surprised to find our furry friend in his snack bag where the vole enjoyed Dan’s M&Ms and other goodies. 


I really enjoyed Dusky Camp. We worked long days, but the work was rewarding, and the Delta was beautiful! After work each day at camp we got together for dinner. During that time we discussed our wild encounters from the Delta (if we had any), including lifers!

It is hard to believe that my summer at Dusky Camp has come to an end. It was an amazing summer with an awesome group of Wildlifers!

photo by Julia Reihs

photo by Julia Reihs

I will always remember the scenic views, my co-workers, and my first time :

  •  on an airboat
  • seeing leeches and taking them off my hands as they sucked my blood
  • slipping, sliding, and sinking in the Delta mud
  • being attacked by horse flies, no-see-ums, artic terns, and mew gulls
  • navigating through the Delta in search for Nest Islands!
  • spotting a beaver as he/she slapped it’s tail to scare me away
  • seeing a moose and calf (a very scary encounter)
  • being surrounded by cotton grass and Equisetum!



“BIRDS FIRST!” – James Benson

Dusky Canada Goose- Nest Island Monitoring


Last week and part of this week I was working on nest island monitoring for the Dusky, a sub-species of the Canada Goose. The Dusky Canada Goose primarily breeds on the Copper River Delta in south central Alaska, the species was negatively affected by the 1964 earthquake that drastically changed the topography of the Delta through uplifting and caused the dramatic population decline. By installing artificial nest islands the Dusky’s can use them for building their nest, giving them extra protection from predators that hunt on the land, like bears.2014-06-18 12.59.522014-06-18 13.53.34

During monitoring we camped for 6 days on the Copper River Delta, and worked long days to insure we monitored all 373 nest islands. We were given maps of the ponds where the islands were located, and we were dropped off via airboat or jet boat where we then traveled by kayak. My first day I struggled with navigating through the numerous sloughs and ponds, but luckily we worked in teams, and my partner on my first day was very familiar with the area. I learned helpful tips on how to navigate such as how on the map you can see dense or thin tree lines and how it is easier to plan our routes to travel through less trees since we had to pull our kayaks to reach our ponds. I also learned how we had to be very cautious about the shapes of the ponds and sloughs to prevent us from getting lost and wondering aimlessly searching for an island that is not there. It was like a scavenger hunt for the nest islands!

2014-06-22 09.28.33By the following day I began to become more comfortable navigating through the ponds and sloughs.

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We used radios to check-in with each other, letting each other know our locations as well as our progress along our routes.

2014-06-21 13.04.53Once we found our assigned nest islands we had to check on the condition of the island. Whether it was in good condition or in need of maintenance. Each nest has to have anchors, shrub cover, and sod to be suitable for the geese to use. We also made sure to note if there were signs of Duskys using the island either by the presence of feces or nest. Most of the nest we encounters showed positive signs of nesting success, and we even encountered other species using the islands for their nests as well! On two different sites, we were being dive bombed by mew gulls and Arctic terns! It was pretty amusing, and scary at the same time. (The nest below shows two Arctic tern eggs found on one of the islands!)

2014-06-21 14.48.17It was really satisfying when we finished monitoring, and now the wildlife crew is uploading all of the data we collected and will be going out on Monday for nest island maintenance. We will be replacing broken anchors and/or  landscaping island to ensure the geese have enough cover to hide their nests from predators.


It was an amazing experience!


I even got to see a shorebird while searching for nest islands (Red-necked phalarope)!

IMG_7154And a pair of horned grebes with their chicks!

IMG_7172IMG_7190Stay tuned for my next adventure out in the Delta for nest island maintenance!





Welcoming Our Shorebirds

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

– Albert Einstein



Eyak Lake-Spring

The both of the above pictures are of Eyak lake, the top most picture was when the lake was frozen and covered in snow in March-Early April. Today, the lake is full of life (the picture below it). I commonly see buffleheads, bald eagles, and barrow’s goldeneyes out on the lake. During an owl survey along this lake we also heard a Wilson’s snipe!

Last week and this week have been very busy here in Cordova, AK. Preparing for the shorebird festival and my shorebird surveys have got me running all over the office and in town! I finally was able to start driving the federal vehicle and visited my study sites during the last week of April before starting my surveys.

IMG_1359 IMG_1335




These are two of my study sites. On the top is 3 Mile Bay and below is Hartney Bay. I visited my sites to get familiar with the area and the tidal changes before I started my surveys.



When I was not in the field I was in the office planning and prepping for the  shorebird window murals I was helping the Girl Scouts paint in the library. Here are some pictures of the shorebirds we painted to Welcome incoming flocks as we prepare for the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival. The girls got very creative and requested pink and purple to express their love for shorebirds! There were 11 Girl Scouts, and since it was after school a few girls that were in the library at the time joined us too! We had lots of fun.


 dunlin girlscouts girlscouts2 yellowlegs


April = Madness

It is hard for me to believe that a month has already passed by since my initial arrival to Alaska! Time is flying by fast! Our shorebird Festival here in Cordova is less than a month away (May 8-11th), which means finalizing program descriptions, networking with people and organizations, and recruiting volunteers!

I’m currently working on organizing a community shorebird window mural at the local library with the local Girl Scout troop. As well as recruiting a few high school students to help me paint shorebirds on windows around town. So my first step in this project is going to the local shops to see if they would be interested in having temporary shorebirds painted on their windows for the Copper River Shorebird Festival. This isn’t something new, because some shops still have a remnant of last year’s shorebirds that were never taken down! After gaining approval for the project, I will be recruiting a few volunteers from the only high school in town (yes, this town is small) to find interested young artists to paint with me to get the town in the shorebird spirit! 🙂

I am also busy planning a Friday night children’s activity that will take place during the Festival. I’m anticipating a range of ages groups within the kids participating, so I have to be creative and ready for the unexpected to engage with my young audience! Jillian, an AmeriCorps representative also working with the Forest Service, will be helping me during the event. We are planning arts & crafts activities along with games to teach kids all about shorebirds!

As you can imagine, I have a lot on my plate. Not only am I helping organize the Festival, but I am also preparing for my shorebird surveys that will also occur before and during the festival! This week I was working on writing up a protocol for my survey sites in Hartney Bay, Odiak slough, and 3 mile. It’s normal to get a little overwhelmed, right?

In the next few weeks I’ll begin visiting my study sites daily, monitoring for shorebirds to optimize my surveying technique before I initiate my surveys in May. I’m BEYOND excited to start surveying, as well as participating in the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival! I have a lot of work to do, but I am happy to be able to gain this valuable experience.

Preparing for the Alaska Field Season

I was initially really nervous about how cold it would be here in Alaska, but I have been surprised how fast I have been adjusting to the weather change.  Since I arrived to Cordova, Alaska two weeks ago, I have witnessed snow storms, wind storms, and sunny days too!  I have never lived in an environment like Alaska, but I have realized that I LOVE SNOW, and small town Cordova! 

The past few days working with the USDA Forest Service have been intense!  My days consisted of completing online training courses (getting certified to drive a federal vehicle, traveling on planes and air boats, and being prepared for the outdoors) and helping my supervisor Melissa, a wildlife biologist, organize for the field season.  As I complete my training requirements and help prepare, my excitement grows for the months to come!

I have also been busy working on preparing and promoting our annual Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival that will take place May 8-11, 2014!  The Copper River Delta is the LARGEST contiguous wetland on the Pacific coast in North America.  As a key coastal wetland and critical habitat in Alaska, it is visited by up to 5-million shorebirds that stop to rest and feed during their annual spring migration!  I invite you all to visit, or add this festival to your bucket list!

Here are some fliers I made for the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival:

Copper River Delta

 For Information and Updates visit our Facebook page!

keynote speaker

Our keynote speaker, internationally acclaimed wildlife artist Lars Jonsson!  He will also be hosting a field painting workshop during the Festival!

CALLING ALL ARTISTSDuring the Festival, shorebird and wildlife art is featured in the Festival’s brochure, I am inspired to create something to submit after visiting the Copper River Delta! 🙂