12 Days Of Shorebird Surveys


It has been an unforgettable experience conducting surveys everyday since May 1st. The first day I  surveyed I only saw a handful of shorebirds, but by the 5th day I saw shorebirds by the thousands! It was stunning.



Estimating large flocks was not easy, especially when the flocks moved from one side to the other when I was halfway into estimating the flocks. I had to be really cautious not to recount flocks, and often I had to start estimating my flocks all over again when I was halfway into my estimation. Although it was frustrating when they moved so much, the sound, the shape, the colors they made when they flew in unison was hypnotizing. Often the large flocks were composed of Western Sandpipers and Dunlin, when they flew together the sound of their wings resonated as they constantly changed their angle. When they changed their angle in flight, there are flashes of white from their bellies and suddenly it is dark brown with orange from their backs or when their perpendicular to the horizon for a slight instant they disappear. (Check out this video of the flocks! https://www.facebook.com/CopperRiverDeltaShorebirdFestival#!/photo.php?v=637458752997669&set=vb.292878567455691&type=2&theater)

Not only was it amazing to see so many shorebirds, but this weekend was our Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival (May8-11th), and I saw many of shorebirders as well! During the festival I hosted a children’s activity Friday night, and helped Susan with her kid’s activity the following day. I had a lot of fun during the festival and these events. For my Friday night activity, I created data sheets and a field guide to some of the common shorebirds in our area so that kids could learn about shorebird surveys. During the activity I had shorebird cut outs posted throughout the room where they had to search and identify each shorebird they found. The children that participated had lots of fun, and soon enough some of the kids were identifying birds without referring to their shorebird guides! They shouted WHIMBREL, DUNLIN, DOWTICHER, and WESTERN SANDPIPER with excitement when they spotted them. Using the data sheets I created each child tallied their sightings, recording the species and abundance of each shorebird.

The following day Susan made a presentation describing what makes a shorebird a shorebird. The children who participated were are 1-8 years old, and were very energetic. Susan described how shorebirds vary in size, color, and shape, but they all live near the shore. After the presentation the kids made their shorebird masks, one child named Robert (in the orange T-shirt) even made a giant red worm to go with his mask! We had a blast!


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.

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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.


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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.