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

Another adventure! Building habitat for wildlife.


During the course of this summer over 300 nest islands were monitored, installed, and maintained. As the field season winds down and my internship comes to an end, we conducted maintenance on our last islands for the year.

Nest islands allow Dusky Canada Geese nesting habitat. Early in the season we monitored all of the nest islands and when we visited islands we made sure to note which islands needed landscaping maintenance.



The primary way we get to our islands is with the air boat and poke boats. IMG_7645

Once we found our island that needed landscaping we dug up holes on the island or covered bare areas with sod and/or sweet gale (Myrica gale). Sweet gale provides cover for nesting geese and we try to make sure there is at least 30% sweet gale on the island.IMG_1968

Working in the Copper River Delta was hard work but also very rewarding and fun! I really enjoyed kayaking through the Delta and sliding on the Delta mud. I often used Delta mud to cover my skin to prevent the bugs from biting me.



It was an amazing field season working in the Copper River Delta! Seeing Dusky Canada Geese, moose cows and calves, coyotes, shorebirds, and a BEAVER made being out in the Delta all that more adventurous!


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.

2014-06-24 11.14.50

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!





Your birds, my birds, our birds

At the sake of being redundant from my last Oregon update, I’d like to make a quick statement to kick off my comeback to the world of WordPress:

My favorite thing about birds is that they are everywhere.

Through EFTA, I’ve had the extreme privilege of virtually meeting Nury of the Eduardo Umaña Mendoza School outside of Bogotá, Colombia. To say the woman is an inspiration is an understatement: her energy and drive to motivate children to be passionate about nature via the study of birds is unmatched by few. In fact, the entire school is possessed by bird fever. The teachers take every opportunity to integrate birds into their curriculum. Students do math equations by multiplying the number of birds in a flocks, use birds as subject matter for art projects, and conduct plays on migratory birds for a month-long celebration of International Migratory Bird Day. These initiatives are coupled by monthly visits from university students coming from downtown Bogotá, a trip that takes about an hour and is only possible by car. Each month these up-and-coming biologists volunteer their own time and money to travel to the outskirts of Bogota and take the elementary students out on bird walks through their school garden. It is refreshingly mind-boggling to witness institutions with so little financial resources accomplish so much. Nury and her team are a testament to the fact that big things are achievable, as long as you put your mind to it. Natasha, our Program Coordinator, had the chance to visit the school last September and was really impressed with their creativity and enthusiasm for environmental education. I hope someday to be able to share that experience!

For now, here is a flavor of a day in the life of a Eduardo Umaña Mendoza School student. This video was prepared by Nury for an exchange with an elementary school in Oregon. I’ll be going to the school on Wednesday to present the video, make toilet-paper-tube birds with the children, and film their response.

Back to my point about birds: the cool thing is that the birds seen by our Colombian friends are also seen by our Oregon students. The Shorebird Sister Schools Program illustrates this by pointing out Latin American countries that host shorebirds winter habitat. Hopefully, this video exchange will bring this concept to life by drawing on the cultural connections inherent in the movement of migratory birds.

This is the theme of Eduardo Umaña Mendoza’s blog, “”

I’m excited to see how my fellow Oregonians react, and send their greetings to our Colombian friends!

Until next time, bird on!

Working On An Island For 6 Days in Alaska

Wow, the past 6 days were unbelievable!  We were originally scheduled to leave Monday morning but the weather did not clear up in time for the helicopter to fly us out to our work site. Luckily the following day had clear blue skies in the forecast.

IMG_6880 We packed all of our equipment into large bulk lift bags that were carried by the helicopter to our work and camp site.

IMG_6893After the helicopter made several hauling our equipment we set up camp. We placed tarps above and below our tents to keep dry. Our camp site was located on a muskeg which meant the floor was always wet!

Once our camp was set up we went straight to work. We hiked down to our canyon site, hiking down a muddy trail and crossing the river. Our first task was to fill sand bags to prevent water from entering the area we were working in. We all took turns shoveling gravel and carrying sand bags!

Once we re-directed the water from our site we were ready to start maintenance on the fish pass. The fish pass allows salmon to swim up the stream from the ocean to the lake where they historically were unable to do so allowing them to spawn in a new area.

We all worked really hard and took turns doing different jobs such as:

  • shoveling gravel out of pools
  • removing wood and rocks from the passage
  • drilling holes in rocks that needed to be broken down to extend the fish pass entrance
  • hammering rocks
  • carrying cement bags
  • mixing cement
  • dumping cement
  • cutting plywood
  • drilling plywood together to make new covers for the pools
  • drilling plywood to make forms for the cement to set in

IMG_6916 IMG_6930 IMG_6933

When all our work was complete we had some time to have fun too!


I tried shooting an arrow from a recurved bow for the first time.. I definitely need more practice! I forgot to mention the BUGS! We all had to wear bug nets during our trip. We had mosquitos, black flies/white socks, and no-see-ums/midges all around us 24.7! The mosquitos were not as bad as the black flies and noseeums. Noseeumes were so tiny but they had quite a painful bite. Thankfully our clothes and head nets kept us safe most of them time!IMG_6995

After dinner we played with my shorebird cards with gold fish as tokens.


We also went exploring! 

Austen a fish biology technician carried a shot gun just in case we encountered a grumpy bear, while Ben (SCA-wildlife technician) and I searched for birds.IMG_6952


I really enjoyed exploring the forest, searching for birds, and plants! For my birthday my roommate gave me a wildflower field guide from the Alaska region which I take with me everywhere I go! IDing and learning different uses for plants is something I see myself continuing to do throughout my life. I’m also enthusiastically anticipating the berry season! There are so many wild strawberries, nagoonberries, and salmonberry flowers blooming that I’ve identified and should be ready for berry picking late June-early July! Of course, its always good to go with an experienced berry-picker just to be safe!

IMG_6959 IMG_6970The image above is an english sundew (Drosera anglica)! It grows in wet meadows and is a parasitic plant that feeds on those oh so abundant bugs. My first encounter with a wild parasitic plant (I was pretty excited about it)!

On the right is a shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum). They were everywhere around camp and in the meadows.


On our last day at camp we packed up all of our gear and carried everything to Fish Lake where we were being picked up by a float plane!


We loaded the plane with our gear and boarded the plane. I was pretty excited for my first float plane experience!IMG_7011

The view was amazing of the island we called home for 6 days!IMG_7025 IMG_7034 I was pretty excited to have a bird’s eye view flying back to Cordova! We flew over my old study sites where I surveys shorebirds. This is one of the three sites I surveyed called 3 Mile Bay!


Over all my field camp experience was incredible. It was a lot of hard work, but there was a lot of great support from the crew I was working with. We all took care of each other. Whether it meant swatting mosquitoes and bugs away from each other or making sure we all took breaks. My next field experience will be in a week with the wildlife crew out on the Copper River Delta! We will be working on nest island maintenance for Dusky Canada geese!