Happy Shorebird Migration!
Shorebird surveys have officially begun! American Golden-Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers, Semipalmated Plovers, Least Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Whimbrels, Dunlins, dowitchers, and Pectoral Sandpipers! Our biggest count so far has been 18,770 Western/Least Sandpipers and Dunlins, and this is just the start of things. The first two days of surveying were grim, not much action out on the mudflats at all. Then, from one day to the next we went from 103 sandpipers to over 18,000! It was magnificent! It has been raining almost every day during my surveys, but concentrating on the shorebirds distracts me and I don’t even pay attention to the rain. The tides have been a bit tricky to figure out. So far, at the start of my surveys the tide has been really low, making identification difficult because the birds are so far away. They tend to follow the tide line, so as it rises they get pushed closer and closer to me, the observer. Once at my last survey site, I had to take a half-mile hike out onto the flats along the shore to start. This is where it gets really tricky, because the tide is rising and if I take too long at the start then the tide gets too high and I have to bust out a quick half-mile hike to get off of the mudflats. The rising tide, once at its peak, can sometimes drive birds off of the flats because the flats become submerged by water. So, timing is crucial. There has to be a happy medium between the tides and timing the count. I’m getting the hang of it, though, with the help of my volunteers who have been birding and following the migration for many years. I am grateful for them and their knowledge. Jimena Cuenca, last year’s Cordova Environment for the Americas intern, came to visit and was also such a huge help to me! It was so great to have her come out and survey with me, and give me some insight based on her experience last year in situ!
Mural sneak peak!
The Copper River Shorebird Festival is also underway. The town is filling up with excited birders anxiously watching and waiting for the masses to fly in. I have begun painting shorebirds in windows around town, and have been gathering materials for Tour de Peeps, a bird watching focused bike/run/walk event that should be a hit. Tomorrow, I will be unveiling my shorebird festival mural/installation that I have been putting together using art created by the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders here at Mt. Eccles Elementary. It is coming together nicely, and I hope the students get excited about art and the festival when they see their work on display. Happy shorebird migration everyone!!!!
They tell me the counts can get into the hundreds of thousands and even into the millions. I can’t even fathom, at this point, what that will feel like…