The 2018 Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival (May 3rd to 6th) arrived and left -just like the celebrated shorebirds. Shorebirds can be still be seen, however, the largest number of shorebirds that arrived occurred during the festival. At one survey site shorebird numbers peaked to roughly 11,000! There were so many Western and Least Sandpipers that from afar they looked like ants running around mudflats and salt marshes. There were so many shorebirds because during harsh weather shorebirds are forced to remain at their stopover sites for a longer period of time. In this case, we had wind speeds that reached 25 mph with torrential rains (still did the surveys though!). The shorebirds also take advantage of this break to fill up on the macroinvertebrates (such as insects and mollusks) and fuel up before continuing on their journey to parts of northern Alaska and the Arctic Circle. Given that there were 11,000 birds in one location, I was fortunate enough to experience the shorebird aurora. Imagine this predator and prey interaction, a Peregrine falcon shooting across the marsh towards a flock of shorebirds that immediately fly into the air and undulate in waves to cause confusion and avoid being eaten. It is absolutely spectacular!
Besides the feathered visitors Cordova attracts, we also had a record number of people attend the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival. In fact, this year there were 220 fully registered attendees! That is a record from last year when they had David Sibley as the keynote speaker. David Sibley is an ornithologist who is well known for creating accessible birding identification guides (if you find yourself in the nature section of a library, you will see his book in the birding section). People from all over Alaska and the world visit Cordova to attend the festival and so the Shorebird Festival Planning Committee created “Birder’s Bucks”. The Chamber of Commerce provides local businesses with currency in the form of a “Birder’s Buck.” Whenever someone with a Shorebird Festival registration band purchases something from the store they receive a “Birder’s Buck.” The attendee then can redeem the buck as a raffle ticket to receive a pair of binoculars. Afterwards the businesses can provide the Chamber of Commerce with the number of festival attendees that visited their business. The Chamber of Commerce can then provide this information to the city to show how much economic revenue the Shorebird Festival brings in to this rural fishing town.
Besides being able to observe the fabulous wildlife interactions, I was able to participate and volunteer for the shorebird festival. Although I could not mention all the activities because you would be here all day or night, I do want to give a shout out to all the people and the local organizations involved in order to make this festival possible: the Cordova Chamber of Commerce, US Forest Service, and Prince William Sound Science Center. All in all, it is safe to say that the 2018 Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival was a huge success! We did exactly what we intended to do, that is we celebrated birds and shared with people the wonder that these small visitors bring to Cordova. I am also glad that I witnessed the shorebird aurora and participated in the shorebird surveys, which ended on the 16th.
Note: Featured Image of shorebird flock is brought to you by the US Forest Service Cordova Ranger District Wildlife Department.