How Birds Dance
Cordova’s Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival is almost a month away, but preparations and plans are well underway. I’m excited for the festival. Even though I know I’ll be busy with the Pacific Flyway project by then, I still hold out hope that I’ll have some time to assist with festival activities. Fortunately, there are a couple things to do before the festival and the shorebirds arrive.
Danielle told me that Current Rhythms, a dance group in town, was looking for wildlife biologists to come into their dance classes to teach their students about how different animals move and behave. Current Rhythms is preparing for the Wetlands Ballet, a performance that will combine the classical movements of ballet and the interpretive dances of modern art and exhibit a series of dances. Each dance will be an interpretation of the different wildlife that live in and around Cordova, such as swans, bears, fish, even wildflowers! And of course, the shorebirds.
As my first task, Danielle asked me to help recruit some of the wildlife biologists to attend a dance class. We went around the ranger station asking people if they’d like to volunteer. Some were taken aback by the mention that it’s a dance class. “Do we have to dance?” To which we assured them, no they do not have to dance. “They just want someone to come in and talk about how these different wildlife move.” Some, like Robert Skorkowsky, Milo Burcham, Sean Meade and Bobby Scribner, were brave. Some weren’t so sure, certain that this might be a scheme to rope them into dancing, which was fortunate for Danielle, Melissa and I because it meant we got to go to some of the dance classes.
One of the classes we got to go to was the shorebird class. Before attending we spent some time watching videos of the shorebirds, for instructional purposes, of course, but also because shorebirds are
kind of funny to watch. Each bird’s behavior is so different. Sanderlings scuttle away really fast, back and forth along the shoreline, to escape the waves. Turnstones actually do use their beaks to flip pebbles and seaweed up, while looking for food.
When we met the dancers, we introduced ourselves and what we do at the Forest Service. The dancers were kids, maybe 8-10 years old, and so had lots of fun learning about the goofy things shorebirds would do. For example, Melissa showed the kids how when shorebirds land on the ground, they keep their wings up as if saying touchdown! before slowly tucking in. Melissa and Danielle also showed the dancers how the birds stand on one leg and snuggle their head under their wing to rest. The kids had lots of fun trying to keep their balance.
The Wetlands Ballet Show looks like it’s going to be a wonderful performance. The music, the dance routines, the sets look amazing. I’m really excited to see the final performance! To learn more about the upcoming festival, visit the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival.