Thinking outside the box: Copper River Delta Birds By Hand

Even though the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival took place the first week of May there are still remnants of the celebration. In particular with one local business that was essential during the Shorebird Festival.

The Net Loft is a local arts and crafts store in Cordova.  Upon entering, it feels like you walked into a fairy tale land; a place where you would see Goldielocks eating Baby Bear’s porridge at the dinner table. Imagine your grandmother’s house where you can find all sorts of trinkets, except replace it with neatly stacked art supplies, knickknacks, and knitting supplies. Whenever I enter, I notice that things are hidden and revealed on different days. Something revealed to me was a wonderful project for the Shorebird Festival. The owner, her employees, and volunteers came up with the idea to educate a non-traditional audience about shorebird migration. With the help of a crafting and shorebird expert (she is currently writing her Ph.D. dissertation on shorebirds as we speak) they were able to engage knitters and handcrafters from all over the world to create knitted and hand-crafted birds. Some of the birds were scientifically accurate while others were whimsical and had cute hats or garments.

I thought this was a wonderful project and my co-worker and I were excited to help with it. Unfortunately, we don’t know how to knit or crotchet but are artistically inclined. We decided to help out with the exhibit itself. The grand opening was on Thursday May 3rd and it is ongoing for the rest of the year. The Net Loft staff and volunteers wanted to have a tree as the main aspect of the exhibit with knitted birds hanging and standing next to their nests. Of course artistic liberties were taken, shorebirds do not roost on trees and their eggs are not royal blue with hints of purple. Nevertheless, it was still fun to make the felt eggs and nests from materials that we had gathered outside.

One thing I did notice about the exhibit was that each bird was going to have a colored tag on their leg. This represents the country from where the knitted bird was sent. This is scientifically accurate to tracking migrating shorebirds! I know auxiliary markers (bird bands) are important for scientists to keep track of a bird species, but I did not know that certain colored flags placed on birds indicated what country they are from. For example, shorebirds banded in the United States have dark or light green flags while shorebirds banded in Chile have a red flag on their foot. This is so we can identify individuals (shorebirds) and facilitate their identification and origin. Through a pair of binoculars you are more likely to see a bright flag than a metallic grey band. Colored bands are placed on all sorts of species. Given that the knitted birds came from all parts of the world (as far as Norway) to Alaska, the Net Loft placed a map of where all the knitted birds came from with information on who created it.

I am glad that I was able to participate in this type of project implemented during the Shorebird Festival (and beyond) because it was outside of the box. It carried the same celebratory message as well as promoted international awareness of this important natural occurrence, but through the arts. It goes to show you how important interdisciplinary outreach can be –it reaches non-traditional audiences. People that may not have been interested in shorebirds before now cannot help but knit them up. As a fellow birder, this event has peaked my interest to try knitting or crocheting for conservation!

 

The Shorebird Tree was the central part of the Birds by Hand exhibit where knitted birds were hung.

 

Examples of cute knitted shorebirds

Some eggs and nest were placed around the knitted birds

Hillary Chavez
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