So much can happen on one sunny day in Cordova, Alaska. After a straight week of pouring rain, everything, wildlife and humans included, springs to life during an exceptionally beautiful, sunny day. To me, the rain is beautiful, but my body hasn’t completely acclimated to the almost constant gray clouds and cold rain. Living in sunny southern California for the past 10 years has jaded me just a little, but this, as I found out this past Thursday, can change.
This past week, I visited the sites where I will be conducting my shorebird surveys. (P.S. The sites are beautiful.) They won’t start until May, which is when the densities of shorebirds are at their highest, but going to my sites the month before and conducting surveys is just as important as conducting them when the shorebirds are already here. As Susan Bonfield, Executive Director of Environment for the Americas, told my fellow interns and me, “No data is good data.” These preliminary surveys are important for documenting the arrival of shorebirds at our sites, which will help us build a chronological map of shorebird migration along the Pacific Flyway. This is an important aspect of the research we’re conducting because it also helps us determine how migration periods are changing over time.
This past Thursday was absolutely beautiful. The sun was out, the sky was clear, the sun was warm and everybody was outside. It’s days like this that make you truly appreciate the wilderness and being outdoors. Mariah Blackhorse (my coworker here in Cordova, on detail) and I went out and explored the Copper River Delta to check out some of her possible hydro-ax sites. The weather was just too nice to skip out on a day in the field. On our way to her zones of interest I spotted my first Duskies! Forty of them, to be exact. Dusky Geese are a subspecies of Canada Geese that only breed here in the Delta. In 1964, a major earthquake changed the nesting habitat of the Duskies in such a way that made their nests more susceptible to predation. This summer, I will be participating in the Dusky nest island project that was established in the 90’s and has since revived Dusky nesting success and returned the population to safe levels. After our outing, we were invited to go fishing on the sound by another coworker, Bobby Scribner, the trails coordinator here at the Forest Service. This was such an amazing outing. I saw my first humpback whale ever! It surfaced very near our boat about five times and we caught glimpses of its back and spray from its blowhole. It was magnificent and gigantic and beautiful. I also saw my first shorebirds of the season! Ten Black Oystercatchers! They are so cool looking! First of all, I’ve never seen an animal that looked as funny and weird and awesome as this in real life, and, second of all, this means that shorebirds have arrived! I’m beyond ecstatic.
I can’t wait until my survey sites are swarming with little shorebirds. Their journey is so amazing, and I can’t believe I get to survey them!