The survey spots for my site all lie southwest of town and getting to them is quite the scenic trip. A long winding path down Whitshed road offers some great views on the way out to the famous Hartney Bay. The main staging site in Cordova for the shorebird migration, people come from all over to see the millions of birds that pass through there. Some birds are coming from all the way down in Peru, South America to head to the breeding grounds. This long migration sounds like an amazing journey and all, but I have yet to see a single shorebird… I hear that a greater yellowlegs has been spotted but anytime I go out to look, the bird isn’t there! What gives!? I’d expect to be able to catch a glimpse of at least ONE shorebird by now, but it seems they aren’t around. If it weren’t for the fact that it was an expert birder that spotted it, I would have my doubts. Usually after work, I head down to Odiak Slough (one of the survey sites, seen below) and do a quick scan of the area. It’s only gulls and ducks that cover the mudflats, with crows sprinkled here and there. Well at least all my walking around isn’t in vain. I get some counting practice in.
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I was making a run through my survey sites this past week and I took everything I needed to hopefully catch a glimpse of something new. Comfy gear, fancy spotting scope, good binoculars, field guide, snacks – I was prepared to go out there when the tide was right! I got in one of the Forest Service rigs that had just been brought out of winter storage and headed out on my own. Instead of going out to Hartney bay where I heard the yellowlegs had been spotted, I (luckily) decided to go to the first site closest to town. I counted a whopping grand total of zero shorebirds! Alright. Nothing new. Mallards, buffleheads, mew gulls, glaucous-winged gulls… but no shorebirds. The San Diego training seems so long ago now, I wonder if the shorebirds decided to stay down south. They probably got tired of all that flying and decided to work out their feet for a change, so they’re taking their time. ‘Never skip leg day’ they must be saying to themselves. Ha!.. Maybe.
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Anyways, after visiting my first site I headed out to the second location but before I got there I decided to stop alongside the road in a spot that I heard offered a good alternate view of the first site. The pit stop did make for a very nice view of Odiak Slough. After walking back to the truck, I went to turn it on and “click!” – The car battery had no juice. I knew it had just been brought out, but I didn’t expect the battery to die on me! I popped open the hood and looked in the truck for cables or a battery charger but no dice. After letting it sit, I tried to start it a couple of times to no avail. Just as I was getting ready to walk down the road and flag someone down for a jumpstart, Dana Smyke pulls into the parking lot after spotting me, saving the day! I was relieved someone from the Forest Service had been driving down the road. We set up the cables and waited for it to charge, but the truck was unresponsive. After trying several times, we decided to take out the battery and charge it back at the warehouse. It was only until then we realized the battery wasn’t making a proper connection, so it was tightened down and voila! The car was good to go. The battery probably just rattled loose after the truck was driven for the first time. I was a bit uneasy continuing out to Hartney bay. It’s ways out of town and I did not want to get stranded out there, who knows when someone else would be around. I’m not the biggest fan of walking and that’s quite the workout coming back into town through all the hills. That would’ve been horrible.
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Hartney bay. Gulls. Gulls everywhere.

I went out to Hartney bay anyways, since the battery was working just fine. However, it was well into high tide by the time I made it out and I got to see shorebirds! I saw all of them! The yellowlegs looked amazing. Too bad it wasn’t alive. I mean, it wasn’t dead either. I had just pulled up the shorebird drawings in my field guide and imagined what they would look like in the field: They were actually nowhere in sight. A handful of gulls though! Very amazing! Much wow! 10/10! Would strand myself again!
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“If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”
– Dr. Seuss

Categories: 2017 Interns

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