On Oct. 29, local birder Andrew Cremata captured this photo of a Rock Sandpiper near the mouth of the Skagway River. Unfamiliar to local birders, the alert shorebird in the photo was eventually identified by an expert Juneau birder as a Rock Sandpiper, a species not previously documented in Skagway and one of the few shorebirds to winter in Alaska. Rock Sandpipers belong to a group of birds referred to commonly as peeps or sandpipers which are notoriously hard to tell apart because they look so much alike, travel in mixed flocks and scurry about rapidly when feeding. Shorebirds are a rare treat for Skagway birders. A few solitary species such as semipalmated plover, spotted sandpiper, common snipe, and wandering tattler breed here in summer, but the main flyway and staging areas for large flocks of migrating shorebirds are found along the Outer Coast. Rock Sandpiper has a very limited summer breeding range in North America, restricted to the west coast of Alaska, the Aleutians, and the Pribilofs where it breeds on relatively dry, open tundra. In winter, this species is found along the rocky shores of the Pacific Coast of North America from the southern coast of Alaska to northern California where it feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, and insects. Rock Sandpiper is considered a species-at-risk due to its limited breeding range, dependence on rocky coastal habitats and documented declines in the number of wintering birds along the Pacific Coast since the 1970s. MH
CBC: Skagways newest holiday tradition
By MEG HAHR, Skagway Bird Club
The Skagway Bird Club is gearing up for its main annual event, the Christmas Bird Count, which will be held this year on Saturday December 17. Audubons Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is one of the longest-running citizen-science monitoring programs in the world. More than 50,000 observers participate each year in this all-day census of early-winter bird populations. The results of their efforts are compiled into the longest running database in ornithology, representing over a century of unbroken data on trends of early-winter bird populations throughout the Western Hemisphere. The Skagway CBC was established only recently (2003), but it has quickly become a holiday tradition among local birders and outdoor enthusiasts. On a selected day each December, skilled and amateur birders join forces to scour the Skagway area from White Pass to Dyea and do their best to count all of the birds they see. After an exciting day of birding with family and friends, everyone reconvenes that evening for a potluck dinner to share stories and tally the results.
If you would like to learn more about Skagways amazingly hardy winter birds by participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count, please attend the next meeting of the Skagway Bird Club on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 5:30 p.m., at the Skagway Library. To learn more about the CBC and view past count results for Skagway visit: www.audubon.org/bird/cbc