Shorebird festival has been one of the highlights of my time here so far. The town just came alive with visitors from all over and it was a steady flow of new faces. I was excited to see more people out at my survey sites and many of them were coming up to me to ask what I had seen that day. These aren’t your everyday birders either, we’re talking people who came out of their way to little Cordova to see the migratory birds that fly through here! There were all kinds of photographers, from professionals in vans filled with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment, to the person who just snapped a couple of pictures on their phone, and everything in between. These people knew their stuff and made the long trip specifically for the birds. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a sandpiper and a plover a couple of months ago and here I was, working with the Forest Service to do the shorebird surveys! It was a bit nerve-wracking at first when everyone came up to me as if I was the expert, but I learned to keep cool and act as if I knew what I was doing. If only they knew…

One of the first shorebirds I spotted: The elusive yellowlegs!

We had a couple of visitors come to the forest service that were here to learn from the shorebird festival and hopefully develop similar programs in their towns. Some were here from the lower 48 and there were also guests from Mexico. The international guest did speak English, but as any second language, they were more comfortable speaking Spanish and I was more than glad to show them around town and talk about the festival and the birds. I was actually speaking Spanish to a couple of people who had come to the event and practiced it whenever I could. I was even able to bring out my Spanish bird guide a couple of times. One interesting thing that I learned from using the guide is that the given name is not always the one used. For example, the Black-necked Stilt, which we all saw in San Diego, is named the “Candelero Americano” in the book but the visitors knew the bird by “Monjita.” The name is due to the appearance of the bird, which looks like a “little nun.” I ran into this conundrum a couple of times, but the one sure way to get everyone on the same page is to literally flip to the same page. Obviously. Or just use the scientific name like a true scientist! I’m going to have to brush up on those since I haven’t studied them.
It also helped that we had a guest from the international program to bridge the shorebird work being done by us, to the countries down south. All the interns should remember him from the San Diego training: Jim Chu! He was here for the weekend and I picked him up at the airport when he arrived. We shared stories of what we had done since that first week of March and I was surprised that he had heard about my adventures here in Cordova! Word travels swiftly within the Forest Service, apparently. We were able to take the Forest Service guests around Cordova and out of town for a little wildlife viewing. All in all, it was a great time exploring the town and showing people around to what we had in store for shorebird festival.

Can you spot the birders?

The weekend was jam packed with events and people were all over town. Being that the birds were the center of attention, there were plenty of trips out to the Copper River Delta and around town for people to go birding. A big surprise was that David Sibley was here! He was asked to be the keynote speaker for the festival, but he was also around to participate in the events. I would see him out at Hartney Bay or during our events and it was great to spend some time with such a knowledgeable birder. His ability to spot birds was second to none and I made sure to double/triple check my species to make sure I was getting them right whenever he asked about my surveys. I was also able to have lunch with him and his wife, which is an experience I never imagined happening to me up here through this internship. I was gifted a Sibley Bird Guide by one of my survey volunteers (THANK YOU Pat!) and he signed the book and even drew me a picture of a Northwestern Crow! We had a long discussion about crows, so it wasn’t a completely random bird that he drew… He revealed a fun fact after he finished the drawing: There is no Northwestern Crow drawing in his guide! The illustration is actually just the American Crow drawing shrunken down 20%. This makes my book the only complete guide!!!

Categories: 2017 Interns

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